By the time you read this letter, we will have held our second Diocesan Assembly, “Called by Name.” We had some big names leading us – Deacon Ralph Poyo, Sherry Weddell and Curtis Martin. But the stars of the two days, Oct. 21 and 22, were a couple of thousand dedicated followers of the Lord. They came to be challenged to reach out to all those out there who have some connection to the Catholic Church but still find themselves outside her doors.
There were four major components of the two days we spent with one another. First of all, we have been working to build up prayer groups in our parishes for the past two years to pray for their parishes. Now we gave them and each individual an additional task – to pray specifically for someone we love whom we want the Lord to call back to the Church, or for a group of folks whom we feel need God’s particular grace to see in the Bride of Christ the means of salvation. Second, where, for the past two years, we have been encouraging all our parishes to provide opportunities for encounters with Christ so as to build up our household of faith, now we have urged those same people and our parishes as a whole to be witnesses to Christ. This mission is not an easy one for Catholics to accept. We have had no or little training in this process. Nonetheless, in Jesus we have received a great gift. It is only natural that we want to share him with others.
Third, our parishes have been working at being more welcoming. I presume this is more noticeable in some places than in others. Still, it is from that stance that we now wish to invite. We invite back those who have walked away, and we invite back those who are unchurched but who seek an encounter with the living God. Obviously, it is necessary to have a place to which to invite them and thus we must continue to work at being welcoming.
Finally, we ended our two days together speaking about accompanying those we invite back. We have been working in many of our parishes to build up discipleship groups, to share our faith and to hold ourselves accountable to each other. There is no better way to accompany others than to invite them to join us in small faith groups.
Much of these elements are skills and tasks that we can learn. But at the heart of all this activity is the ongoing conversion of every follower of Jesus, accepting “the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.” (St. John Paul, Redemptoris missio, #46) Ask one of your fellow parishioners who participated to share the experience with you. And, as always, St. Monica, pray for us.