Welcoming Catholics back ‘home’
By James Cavanagh
CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec:
“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”—Lk 15:20
Evangelization isn’t just one task among many, it is the very reason the Church exists. Everything we do—building projects, religious education, sacramental preparation, finance and stewardship, music and liturgy, everything—has as its end the proclamation of the kingdom of God and the redemption of all people.
This was the clear message of Vatican II, a message that was embraced by Pope Paul VI and taken up by his successors. “The task of evangelizing all people,” Paul VI said, “constitutes the essential mission of the Church. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity” (“Evangelii Nuntiandi,” 14).
An unprecedented opportunity for evangelization is coming this Christmas. From Dec. 17 through Jan. 9 “Catholics Come Home” will launch a nationwide television ad campaign aimed at those who have been away from the Church as well as those who might be interested in joining the Catholic Church.
Our participation is vital if this effort is to be fruitful. All of us have a part to play: clergy, staff and parishioners. Vatican II taught that the laity has a unique role in the life and mission of the Church—a role that no one else can play. Baptized into Christ and nourished by his body and blood, the laity are sent forth to share the Gospel with others. “All Christians,” the Council Fathers taught, have “the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world” (Decree on the Laity, 3)
Many Catholics, perhaps you’re one of them, aren’t inclined to evangelize and even if they were, don’t feel equipped. They just can’t see themselves knocking on doors or preaching on street corners. Few of us are called to that kind of evangelization. But all of us are called, in the words of one of the new dismissals to “glorify the Lord by your life.”
The beauty of “Catholics Come Home” is that you don’t have to be an expert in all things Catholic. You don’t even have to be particularly outgoing. All you have to do is visit their website, invite others to Mass when the opportunity presents itself and welcome those who come. But how, you may ask, will I know who’s visiting as a result of the ad campaign and who is simply another parishioner I don’t know? The answer is simple: Be friendly to everyone.