Diocese introduces St. Monica Sodality

By | May 7, 2009

The St. Monica Prayer Sodality – a group named after the saint whose steadfast prayers for her own son, St. Augustine, helped him return to the Catholic faith – was started in 1995 by Fr. Frank Phillips. The April event was the first public involvement since the Green Bay Diocese became a part of the national collaboration of St. Monica Prayer Sodality.

“This talk is a one-night event,” said Dr. Helen Scieszka, the Family and Married Life Office director, as the presentation began. “Not everyone who wanted to be here is, while some may not have even known about the event. We need to prayerfully discern, ‘Are you the one whom God is calling to take this information back to your parish?'”

Scieszka knows too well the journey of renewed faith in the Catholic Church.

“I drifted away from the Catholic Church and it was going to take a lot more than oars to get back,” Scieszka said as she described hers and her family’s absence from the Catholic faith. “I have come to know, I love being Catholic and think everyone should be Catholic.”

While Scieszka made her way back, she was unsure what to do or who to talk to about helping her other family members to return. This made the idea of group of some kind to help Catholics, just like her, have an outlet, a resource to help them on their mission to bring their loved ones back to the Catholic faith, even more of a priority.

“Our goal, our dream, is to have a St. Monica Sodality chapter in every parish in the Green Bay Diocese,” she said.

Lorene Hanley Duquin, a nationally known speaker, author and the coordinator of “Come and See,” an evangelization ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., was the keynote speaker. She began her discussion with a quiz on the common misconceptions – annulments, divorces, marriage, baptism, suicide – that keep people away from the Catholic Church. Crowd reaction after the answers were given confirmed that those in attendance were also aware of these misconceptions.

Duquin categorized those not active members of the Catholic Church into three main groups: Inactive Catholics, those who are registered, but just don’t go or only attend on special occasions also known as C & E (Christmas and Easter); the alienated Catholics, those who aren’t registered or are former Catholics who may or may not attend; and finally the unchurched Catholics, those who are very often children of fallen-away Catholics.

“One Christmas, my daughter brought home a young man, an unchurched Catholic, for Christmas. We had great discussions about the meaning of life and dying. Let’s just say it was an unforgettable Christmas,” Duquin said. “A few weeks later the young man has a seizure and discovered he had stage 4 melanoma. Here this 26-year-old was dying and had no foundation. I felt like God put us together for a reason.”

According to Duquin, Catholics have lost more people to other religions than any other. The problem, she said, is the post-modern culture. Duquin gave the explanation she said made the most sense to her.

While acknowledging the numerous challenges, Duquin spoke on how to draw back those who have left the church, pointing out main reasons for returning to the church, including a crisis in their life (loss of job, death, illness) and the influence of family and friends.

“When people see you are peace, they want what you have,” Duquin said.

They are searching for a meaning or purpose in life, especially now during a recession, Duquin noted.

Good liturgy, preaching and a friendly community are important, she said.

“Do you move in or at least stand up to let someone into the pew?” Duquin asked. “If you see someone crying during Mass, ask them if they are OK. They will be embarrassed, but you can say it is alright, that church is a safe place to cry. If you don’t take your time to reach out, they will go someplace else where they will.”

Offer coffee and doughnut get-togethers after Mass and at adult education and special events. Do your best to say hello to strangers, she said, and make them feel welcome.

Parishes should also offer active ministry to children and teens. If they don’t, young people will go someplace else where it is offered.

The main purpose of The St. Monica Sodality is to provide support, information, prayer and healing in a safe environment, Duquin explained. It is hoped that by coming together through the sodality, parishioners can share concerns and ideas on how to help bring back those estranged from the Catholic Church.

Free kits with everything needed to start a group – including tips on approaching your priest, bulletin information, ideas and discussion topics – were made available following the lecture.

To learn more about starting a St. Monica Prayer Sodality parish chapter, contact the Department of Evangelization and Worship, (920) 272-8310.

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