Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - For the 10th year, Blessed Sacrament parish in Lincoln is welcoming non-practicing Catholics from all over the area to a three-session “Catholics Come Home” program.
The sessions are designed to answer their questions and allay any misgivings about returning to the Church in a friendly, confidential setting.
This year, the sessions will begin Sunday, March 23 and continue for the next two weeks. The group will meet at Blessed Sacrament School (17th and Lake streets) from 2 to 4:30 p.m. No registration or RSVP is necessary.
According to the CARA Catholic Poll, only 24 percent of U.S. adult Catholics attend Mass on a weekly basis. That number may be a bit higher in the Diocese of Lincoln, but it is a sobering reality that there are many Catholics who are not receiving the sacraments.
Blessed Sacrament Parish’s friendly, no-pressure program is a way for those people to rediscover their faith.
“No matter where they are in their journey, and no matter what took them away from the Church, Christ is still loving them and wants to draw closer to them,” said Kathy Beran, who has been serving on the team since the program’s inception.
“I have family members who have left the Catholic Church, and it’s something that’s dear to my heart,” she said.
There are a wide variety of reasons why people stop practicing their faith. Some people leave because they are angry with their pastor or with the Church in regards to a particular policy.
Some people leave after their marriage fails, or after a loved one dies. Sometimes, people move and never feel comfortable in their new parish. Others might allow a busy lifestyle to get in the way of going to Mass. Whatever the reason, non-practicing Catholics will always find themselves welcomed at Blessed Sacrament’s Catholics Come Home meetings.
“We try to be very non-judgemental and caring,” said Mrs. Beran. “We’re there to be Christ’s hands and feet, to welcome them back into the Church.”
Each year, between five and 10 people come to Blessed Sacrament’s program, which is hosted in the parish school across the street.
“We never know until we start that first afternoon who is going to come,” Mrs. Beran said. “We just pray the Holy Spirit will direct people through the door.”
She said some people come to one session, or two, or all three. There is no pressure or obligation to come every week. The session themes are designed as “stand-alone” talks, each with a different theme.
During the first week, guests hear about returning to the Church. This year, they will hear the story of one of Blessed Sacrament’s first Catholics Come Home participants, who attended the program 10 years ago and has since become quite active in the parish.
The second week is about forgiveness, an apt theme since people who have stopped practicing the Catholic faith will be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation when they return to the Church.
The final week is about deepening one’s spiritual life.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Mrs. Beran explained.
Guests have ample opportunity to ask questions one-on-one with a member of the team or with the parish’s pastor, Father John Sullivan. The goal is to make sure that personal concerns are addressed, in order to make it easier for the guests to return to their faith.
When the sessions are over, the guests are invited to a casual dinner at the home of one of the team members. All the team members and Father Sullivan attend as well. This gives them a friendly, social environment where they can make personal connections and possibly ask a few more questions.
When a Catholics Come Home guest is ready to return, Blessed Sacrament Parish is ready to welcome them if they feel intimidated by the prospects of attending Mass in the parish where they live.
Mrs. Beran said that people who have gone through the program have become very active parishioners.
While Blessed Sacrament’s program is open to anybody in the area who chooses to attend, Mrs. Beran said that other parishes can start the program, too.
“It’s not that tough to move forward,” she said. “You need a few dedicated people…. It can be whatever program they think they needed.”
She added, “I think some people are just waiting for somebody to reach out.”
All are welcome to think of the non-practicing Catholics they know and to invite them to attend Catholics Come Home at Blessed Sacrament Parish. For more information, visit the parish website at www.blessedsacramentlincoln.com or call (402) 474-4249.