A few months back Church Magazine had an article entitled “Where are those Missing Catholics?” by Peter Feuerherd. For a long time the Church has been talking about evangelization. Simply, this means sharing the message of Jesus in a compelling way. According to the research group CARA, 27 percent of the U.S. population was raised Catholic. Of that group 74 percent are still Catholic. In other words, many Catholics have drifted away and strategies need to be developed to invite them back.
I would like to suggest a few ways here at St. Luke’s for us to be more effective in our outreach. One of the most powerful parts of our Catholic faith is our sacramental life. Every sacramental opportunity is an excellent chance to evangelize. A kind word or an inspired message at key life events, such as marriages and funerals can make an impact. Reaching out to couples bringing their children for baptism is another. Effective parent meetings on the occasion of First Penance and First Eucharist are essential. Developing a RCIA program that can both inform and welcome people inquiring about the faith can also be an effective way to evangelize.
Beyond the sacraments, developing a welcoming environment at the weekend liturgies needs to be examined. So often newcomers say you can walk into church and no one talks to you. Parishioners need to be encouraged to invite people they know to come to church. Personal invitation has proven to be more valuable than other forms of advertising, including newspaper and television ads.
Feuerherd ends his article by saying the following, “Whatever the technique, the sociological experts agree that attracting fallen-away Catholics is not going to happen on its own. They counsel that parishes are content to keep the sacraments and the faith for those who show up at their doors are guaranteed to have lackluster growth of face decline.”
Father Bob Hawkins- October 17 2007