April 20, 2007

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

Outreach to Inactive Catholics

“Pray for those alienated from the Catholic Church.”

With these words, I began my witness talk and mission appeal in the Archdiocese of Boston. This happened to be during the summer when the clergy sex-abuse story was at the height of public outcry.

It was particularly difficult because I was representing the home mission diocese where Cardinal Bernard Law was ordained a priest. No amount of past goodness was going to sway public opinion. I did, however, offer a story about the infamous Boston native, Paul Revere, who was a silversmith by trade.

Some children were watching him one day in his shop, and asked why he had used a furnace.

“To purify the silver,” he replied.

“Can’t you just leave it in there?” they asked.

“Oh, no,” said Revere, “You have to watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn away.”

The children persisted. “How do you know when it’s done?”

Paul Revere replied, “That’s easy! When I can see my reflection in it.”

God will never let his Church be destroyed but, as the story illustrates, we must undergo a purgation guided by a loving hand until we can see the very face of Christ reflected in everything we do.

Many of those who feel excruciated, in pain or are unable to resolve their distrust, feelings of guilt or fear remain separated from our Catholic family. Many truly live in a state of banishment and self-imposed exile.

How can we help alleviate this heaviness of heart? How can we make up for a spiritual life lost or practically nonexistent? How can we be part of the solution? That is the question.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., asked disillusioned Catholics in his diocese to give the Church another try. Bishop Kicanas decided to make alienated Catholics the focus of Lent this past year, asking local parishioners to pray for their fellow Catholics to “come home.”

“People’s alienation from the Church is something that needs to be listened to, but they need an invitation. Different groups out there are angry for personal reasons, moral reasons, people who lapsed and don’t find a priority in participating in the life of the Church,” Bishop Kicanas said. “The Lord invited people one-to-one and called them by name—the more personal the better. You want to invite them home.”

As a parish family, we are responsible to witness our love and concern by fostering an atmosphere of belonging so that no one should feel alienated from the parish community. Through liturgy, catechesis, evangelization and socialization, the spiritual identity we seek to develop will be supported and enriched.

As Catholics, we are dedicated to cultivating the caring spirit of Christ among every age group and every definition of family structure within our parish.

May we assist you in your journey of faith? There are several archdiocesan parishes where Catholics Returning Home programs exist. For more information, contact one of these parishes:

  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help, New Albany, 812-944-1184.
  • St. Barnabas, Indianapolis, 317-882-0724.
  • St. John the Apostle, Bloomington, 812-876-1974.
  • St. Jude, Indianapolis, 317-786-4371.
  • St. Simon the Apostle, Indianapolis, 317-826-6000.
  • St. Gabriel the Archangel, Indianapolis, 317-291-7014.

(John Valenti is the associate director of Evangelization and Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. E-mail him at jvalenti@archindy.org.) †

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