Continuing from last week, in the first section of Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization, a new document by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we read,
many of our brothers and sisters have simply drifted away from the Church. This is due in part to the busyness of modern life and to a changing culture. There are also Catholics who attend Mass on a regular basis but who feel unconnected to the parish community.
Then, a bit later,
In addition, there is an unsettling ignorance of the Eucharist as well as an erosion of Sunday as the Lord’s Day dedicated to prayer and rest. The reasons that Catholics cite for missing Mass can be met and overcome by parishes that foster a welcoming environment for adolescents, young adults, singles, married couples, parents, families, the sick or disabled, and anyone who is no longer active in the faith. The means for fostering a welcoming environment is the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization places a special emphasis on welcoming back to the Lord’s Table all those who are absent, because they are greatly missed and needed to build up the Body of Christ.
How often, in our discussions about evangelization, do we find ourselves discussing “those people”? The bishops are reminding us here that “those people” are our friends and in fact our brothers and sisters.
They’re family in a way that’s real and tangible, sealed with a sacrament.
Our focus, so often, is on converting the heathens, so to speak, as opposed to winning back the fallen away. We spend a lot of energy trying to convince someone, but do we focus on how we’re living our lives and, as the bishops point out here, making our parishes welcoming?
What does welcoming look like? To a family with small children, it means family-friendly. To single young adults–or single older adults, for that matter–it means introductions and inclusion. To everyone, it means parish being family in a way that’s very “come on in” and “join us” and “we want you here.”
How it looks within your community, specifically, is something you should consider, discern, and discuss. Approach your pastor. Talk to your catechists. Turn to your neighbor in the pew.
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Copyright © 2012, Sarah Reinhard