This week I have asked David Thorp to share some thoughts with you about the Catholics Come Home program, which invites inactive Catholics to once again return to the faith.
David will be heading this important initiative that we will be beginning in the archdiocese in the coming months:
(...) We have some good news to share. When we share this good news, when we are messengers of the Good News, we are evangelists. This might not be a word that we apply to ourselves. We may even protest, because of preconceived notions of what an evangelist is, "I don't want to be one of those!"
But, evangelist and evangelization are not words that Catholics can escape or throw away.
(...) One new way that the Archdiocese of Boston is responding to God's call to share the Good News is Catholics Come Home. In conjunction with CatholicsComeHome.org, a national Catholic lay apostolate, we will ask people to take another look at the wonder of God's life for them, at the immeasurable love of God for them. We will invite them to discover -- or re-discover -- God's feast for them in the Eucharist and, indeed, in all the dimensions of the Catholic life.
Wanting to reach as many people as possible, three commercials will be aired. These inviting and positive messages were developed by CatholicsComeHome.org and have already been seen in Seattle and Sacramento, Chicago and Corpus Christi, Phoenix and Providence, Green Bay and Omaha.
These television commercials -- which will be aired next Lent -- will enable our invitation to reach people in their own homes. We will extend a message of hope and welcome to many people whom we might not otherwise be able to reach. The response in other parts of the country has been exciting. People made phone calls to parishes and to diocesan offices. They visited web sites -- parish websites, diocesan websites, CatholicsComeHome.org. They sent emails with questions that had been troubling them. Their faith was renewed. They received God's love afresh as they returned to Mass, participated in special "welcome" programs, went to confession after many years away.
Aware that commercials alone are not enough, parishioners in other parts of the country where the spots aired also reached out with more personal invitations. The commercials provided an opportunity to start a dialogue with others. Even as people shared how being a Catholic had brought meaning and peace in their lives they spoke about everything you could imagine -- people's longing for God, questions about marriage and divorce, prayer, desire for community, sexuality, the stress of unemployment, suffering, the meaning of life. The deep grief and broken trust that people experienced related to clergy sexual abuse were also part of these conversations. People reflected together on their experiences as Catholics, both positive and not-so-positive, seeking the presence of God in the complexities of life.
Boston isn't any different. The involvement of priests and parishioners will be vital. Ads, as good as these are, come on a flat screen; the message flows in one direction. You and I can offer 3-D, live words of invitation and welcome; the message becomes very interactive.
Catholics Come Home is one more new way that Catholics in the Archdiocese are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. ARISE Together in Christ, now into its third year of bringing Catholics together to share faith and pray with each other in small groups, has added so much to the lives of thousands of people in more than 180 parishes. Through The Light Is On For You people are experiencing the depth of God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This healing ministry has helped many to remember that God is always offering a new beginning.
Evangelizing -- sharing faith with others -- is what I can do. Making hearts new, changing hearts is what God does. He does this by pouring out his love and grace. I am praying that hearts are ready to receive all that God offers every day. All of us know people who are distant from the life of the Catholic community. They are our children and grandchildren, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. I've written names of people I know in a book. Co-workers at the Pastoral Center have added the first names of others. It's getting to be a long list. These people are loved and they are a gift. We miss their active presence in the community of faith. I pray for these people. I carry the book with me to Mass so that I can especially offer them to the Lord and his love.
I am also paying attention to the words of St. Peter: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." [1 Peter 3:15]. Most of us won't be able to broadcast to 30+ states as does Steve LeVeille. But each of us can speak to another person about the hope and faith and peace that we know because of God. I am thinking about who Jesus is in my life and why I follow Christ. I am thinking about the reasons why I am a Catholic, why I participate in Mass. I want to be ready to share with others.
Let's look and listen -- even now -- for a chance to tell hungry people where we have found the bread.