December 21, 2007

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

New outreach to inactive Catholics

Most of us do not have to look very far to find “non-practicing Catholics” in our circle of family and friends.

Many of us are concerned about these loved ones, but we don’t know how to help them.

Obviously, most of them are searching, but how can we help them find their way home?

St. Michael Parish in Greenfield wants to welcome home those who have been away, and will be presenting a new ministry program for those who wish to return.

If there is a message or “catch phrase” to the parish’s efforts, it is simply, “We miss you,” said Judy Davis-Fuller, a member of St. Michael Parish who also serves on the Archdiocesan Evangelization Outreach Committee.

“As baptized, practicing Catholics, we have a precious gift of faith and love from the Lord that needs to be shared with our non-practicing brothers and sisters,” she said.

Most non-practicing Catholics are waiting for an invitation to return. Many mistakenly think they are excommunicated and are not welcome to return for a variety of reasons.

Davis-Fuller said that “the first thing we need to do is to pray for them.

“Secondly, we need to extend a personal invitation to come home to the Catholic Church.”

Sometimes, we fall. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by the ordinary. And sometimes, we are more sinner than saint.

Davis-Fuller explained how important it is to know that “the Church does not leave us!” The Spirit is truly present in the Church Jesus gave us, she said, and “we are never alone.”

“Jesus Christ loves you!” she added.

He is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep and searches for the one who is lost. When Christ finds the lost one, he places him or her on his shoulders and carries him or her home.

Davis-Fuller has prepared a new “Catholics Returning Home Guideline for Team Members” for the archdiocesan committee. The

guidelines suggest a process using four well-developed programs and discusses: “Recognizing the Need, How To Begin,” “Developing An Effective Approach,” “Listening Skills,” “Prayer,” “Need For Ritual and Reconciliation,” and a “Suggested Topical Outline”.

An evangelization outreach Web site has been set up and offers the “Catholics Returning Home Guide” online as well as a parish PowerPoint presentation, and a “Home For Christmas” video.

“There may be many reasons why people no longer worship the Lord on the Lord’s day,” Davis-Fuller said. “Whatever the reasons or excuses, they melt away in the presence of God’s love.”

Being ready to be family with the Church is good preparation for the rest of our lives. Davis-Fuller added, “There will be rocky times, but it is better to know how to ride out the waves than to expect to be able to avoid all of them.

“Whatever the reason, you’ve been away—whether for a few years or a lifetime—you can always reclaim your Catholic faith,” she said. “No matter what your situation or what your reasons are, with the help of our Lord, we can help you through it.”

Evangelization outreach resources can be found at:

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

Local site Links: