Why am I suggesting direct outreach now to Catholics who are not joining us regularly for Mass? One reason is because there are Catholics Come Home commercials airing on television virtually every hour of every day now through Easter in northeastern Wisconsin. You’ve no doubt seen these commercials — each of them asks the viewer to take another look at the Catholic Church.
If the commercials are not a good enough reason to invite people to join us for Mass, we have another thing moving in our favor right now: Easter. If people go to Mass only one or two times per year, they will likely be for Christmas and Easter. People who do not go to Mass very often now have commercials and our most significant religious holiday nudging them back to our faith community.
However, for some people, the commercials will not be enough because they are ultimately a generic invitation. And, for some people, seeing Easter on their April calendar will also not be enough. The fact is that some of our inactive brothers and sisters need us to personally reach out to them, talk with them and invite them back.
Here are a few tips to help you do this:
n Don’t worry that you don’t know enough about the Bible or the catechism. What people really want is to know that you care about them and why you care about our Catholic faith.
n Be specific in your invitation. This is the most important tip. Don’t say, “Well, let me know if you ever want to come to Mass,” when you can be so much more effective by saying, “Will you consider coming to Mass with me one time in April, which is our Easter season?”
n Use the commercials to start the conversation. Example: “Hey, you’ve seen the Catholics Come Home commercials, right? What do you think of them?”
n To help you prepare and feel more comfortable initiating a conversation, think about why your faith is important to you. Pray and reflect on these three key questions: Why do I go to Mass? Why am I Catholic? What is my favorite story right now about Jesus? You may not talk about any of these questions, but they will prepare your heart and mind to reach out to someone you know.
n If you see someone on Easter that you know doesn’t normally go to Mass, go up and talk with them before or after Mass. Tell them you are really happy to see them. Ask them if they will come back to Mass another time in April and meet you there. It is awesome when guests join us for Easter Mass, but most will need your friendly face and outreach if they are going to come back again before Christmas.
n Finally, consider the end of that famous passage from Ecclesiastes, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Eccl 3:11).
While I still believe that the next month is a great time to reach out to others, none of us (including this humble columnist) knows the work God is doing in and through our efforts. We reach out to others in faith and love, not knowing the beginning or the end of the journey the other person takes with God.
DeNeve is director of spirituality and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay.