Focus On The Family – Catholics in Our Midst, A Spiritual Reflection
I was reading a recent post from Father Michael White from the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Md. Nativity is a Catholic parish that, over the past few years, has gained national prominence in achieving tremendous growth in their parish community. This has primarily been accomplished by intentionally and specifically focusing on “fallen-away” and lukewarm Catholics – an endeavor that was originally titled, “The New Evangelization” by St. Pope John Paul II.
We know that, during the Christmas season, the churches will be packed. Visitors will include many parishioners – and non-parishioners – who will be visiting us. Although a source of some frustration and sadness (“Why only Christmas and Easter?”) it is also a source of great hope and opportunity for us to welcome them. Fr. White offers several suggestions below that, I believe, we at St. Monica can utilize in our mission to welcome our St. Monica brothers and sisters “back” to fuller participation with our community:
1. Pray for them. We need to be praying for them during our “15 minutes of daily prayer” this December. We should probably make it a petition in the Universal Prayer at Mass each day and include it in our staff prayer as well.
2. Anticipate them. As we start this season of Advent, take a fresh look at our facility through the eyes of the unchurched. If I am coming back to church for the first time in a long time, or the first time ever, what is that experience like? Will I like it? Is it accessible? Are WE accessible?
3. Invite them. Be on high alert in our neighborhoods for possible invitees. Encourage others to make “St. Monica” a part of their Christmas preparation too. Parents – ask your children to perhaps invite ONE friend (Catholic or non-Catholic) to attend Mass during Advent or Christmas. Become familiar with the parish web site so that you can specifically point people to helpful and specific information should they ask questions about the parish.
4. Welcome them. When the unchurched guy/gal (and their family) do finally show up, make sure we are ready for him/her. We will need fully staffed host teams (greeters, ushers, altar servers, sacristans, Ministers of Communion, Lectors, people who will hand out “gift books” at at all Masses). If you’re scheduled, PLEASE show up. If you’re not sure if you’re scheduled, PLEASE check and make sure. Help us make St. Monica a festive, fun environment too. If our unchurched visitors come to church and we seem not to “get it” ….well – it’s a miss for us.
5. Speak to them. (Here is where I come in) I need to craft a Christmas homily to those in the pews who have not been there in a while. (Here is where you come in) In order for this to be effective, I NEED YOUR PRAYERS. I will also solicit ideas from numerous parishioners for their insights on the Christmas Scripture readings.
Tis the season…let’s make the most of it for our brothers and sisters in Christ.