Thursday, December 09, 2010

Archdiocese of Atlanta and Diocese of Savannah Undertake New Initiative

The Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah are partnering in a new undertaking called "Catholics Come Home". The campaign which will run from December 16 through January 29 will be using television commercials, the Internet, and social media among other efforts to bring the once-faithful back into the fold. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story on this effort available online which you can read by clicking here.

One item in the story gives this information : "According to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic church by a nearly 4-1 margin" ( source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

So here are some experiences, statements, and opinion from yours truly in regard to this effort (an effort which falls in line with  Pope John Paul II's call for a new evangelization). An effort in which I hope and pray for great success.

I think this effort by the Archdiocese of Atlanta is a great idea, and one that is long overdue. Some of those fallen away Catholics sadly enough are "new" converts.

As a convert myself, I know that some of the folks whom I went to RCIA with are no longer seen at Mass. A good friend of mine, who converted several years before I did noticed the same thing. She decided to go see one couple whom she knew that had converted and then stopped going to Mass, and ask them why.

The husband told her that when they were in RCIA, attending Mass regularly, and participating in the rites, people were "making a fuss" over them, always offering suggestions and encouragement. Then after coming into full communion with the Church, all the friendliness, suggestions, and encouragement stopped. People would gather in their own little groups (as happens at all parishes, and I am sure without any intent to slight anyone), and this couple was not included. The priest and the parish seemed to have little time for them after they entered into the Church. The husband even said, "they seemed to forget all about us once we entered the Church. Since we stopped going to Mass, we haven't heard anything from them, except the letters we get that ask for donations for various reasons. When they want or need money, they always remember us then."

I have to admit, that I also stopped going to Mass for quite awhile myself. And it wasn't because I became "just another face" in a pew. I ended up being very disappointed in the whole parish.

Just shortly before my 51st birthday, I had a heart attack. I was fortunate that it wasn't a "major" heart attack, but was what the doctors call a "light" (they call it light because they weren't the one who had it) heart attack. Upon my first day in a regular hospital room, I called the parish to inform them myself of my situation. I was there in the hospital for 4 days, and then was recuperating at home for the next 6 weeks.

In that whole time, I never saw or heard from anyone at the parish. Now granted, our priest had been chosen by the bishop to head the planning for the Eucharistic Congress that was taking place in Asheville at the time, but I was never contacted by anyone. Even my doctor (who is Catholic) couldn't understand why no one came by or called.

For a long time after I didn't attend Mass. Then I realized I was only hurting myself by not going to Mass. So, I began going again when I could. I don't get to go every Sunday, usually just one Sunday a month because of the job I have (in retail), and I really would like to find employment that would allow me to go every Sunday. That is a problem though. When you only have a high school education those Monday through Friday jobs are hard to come by.

I will say this, and it pains me to say it.

There is one area where Protestant churches have "one up" on the Catholic parishes. If one goes to a Protestant church, and then doesn't go as much, or stops going altogether, the Protestant churches will come knocking on your door. They want to know why you aren't in church. They come to encourage you to return to church, and to let you know that you are wanted, and are missed. They will come to your home.... whether it is the minister, a deacon, or someone from the membership of that church... they will come.

I think that the Catholic parishes tend to think, that once one has converted, been confirmed, and/or baptised, that is that, and it all ends. Not so. One must never forget, that conversion is not a one time event. One's conversion, like all of one's salvation, is a lifetime process that never ends until we draw our last breath. We must always be learning, always be converting, always be working out our salvation "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2,12) as Saint Paul said.

We must be ever vigilant and mindful of our souls and our salvation, and not just our salvation and our souls, but we must also be vigilant and mindful of the souls and the salvation of all of our brothers and sisters. We must all help to feed and nourish those hungry souls with caring, with encouragement, and with love. Caring, encouragement and love not for just a day, but for all days.

© Copyright 2010 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.


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