Our October attempt to draw fallen-away Catholics back to our parish was successful. We said we would call it a success if even one person attended, and that is what we got. He made his first confession in about fifty years, and that definitely made the effort worthwhile. Now, it is time for step two.
With Christmas approaching, we are going to schedule another gathering during Advent. This time, we will send Christmas cards with an invitation to spend an evening with us hoping that the spirit of the season will draw a bigger response. The theme will be Christ’s Mass. What better way to celebrate Christmas than at Christ’s Mass.
At the first gathering, we had numerous fliers and other materials available for the taking. We still have them! This time, we will try sending some of them with the invitation. All of the apologetic literature in the world will do no good if not in the hands of those who need it.
Persistence may be the key, persistence without annoyance. We want people to know the door is still open without nagging them. Arm-twisting does not work, but we also want fallen-away Catholics to know we have not forgotten them, we are praying for them, and the ceiling is not going to cave in should they decide to reenter the church.
I can only imagine the anxiety one might feel walking into a church for the first time in thirty to fifty years. What will people think? Will I know what to do? Will I have to go to confession? Do I have to tell the priest everything I have ever done? If I don’t go to communion, will everyone stare at me? I sense that some people may have the desire to reconnect with their Catholic Faith, but they are afraid. We want our gatherings to dispel that fear.
A very spiritual woman I know recently expressed indignation at some advice a good priest once gave her. When someone is looking for affirmation, correction is not always accepted gracefully. People who have left the church occasionally bring up something a priest said to them years ago as their reason for leaving. The priest may find himself in the crosshairs after trying to adjust a parishioner’s moral compass. At some point, they must ask themselves whether they had just cause, or just an excuse. Perhaps they did not understand the Church’s position. Those are ones we hope to bring back with a kind word and gentle explanation.