(SNR) - Returning to the Church after not practicing for some time is an intimidating prospect for many people. A group of laypersons at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lincoln have joined with Father Brendan Kelly to ease this process of returning to the Church with a program called "Catholics Come Home."
There are many issues that people cite as the reason they have stopped practicing their Catholic faith. An invalid marriage could be a factor for one person. Misgivings about the Church’s teachings in regards to lifestyle choices could be another.
Some people are simply suffering from hurt feelings caused by a miscommunication with a priest or fellow parishioner. Others know they need the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but they don’t have the courage to receive it. Some stay away simply because they’ve never felt welcome.
The "Catholics Come Home" program seeks to address these and other issues with kindness and compassion so that inactive Catholics can return to the Church and her Sacraments. In three Sunday-afternoon sessions, Father Kelly and his team of volunteers do their best to lay as many issues to rest as they can.
"Ultimately, our goal would be to help remove whatever roadblocks they think they have that’s keeping them from full communion with the Church," said Jill Muff, one of the volunteers who helps facilitate the program.
"Nobody’s judging anybody," she added. "We’re there to help them resolve whatever is making them hesitate."
Above all, this program gives people a chance to voice their concerns. Father Kelly and the team want people to know that they will be heard with compassion and respect.
The first session, which will be held April 3, addresses some general issues. Speakers include those who left the Church and then returned. They share their own experiences to help pave the way for others to resume practicing the Catholic faith. After a break and refreshments, the session concludes with Father Kelly’s talk and a question and answer session.
On April 25, the second session will focus on forgiveness. Laypersons will discuss their need to forgive other people, forgive themselves and receive forgiveness. The team also reviews the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Father Kelly makes himself available to hear confessions.
During the third session on April 17, the theme is "The Church Today." Team members describe parish life, various activities and organizations, and so on. There is a "refresher course" on participating in Mass, and the session ends with the whole group attending Mass together.
After the third session, the group will also host a dinner for the participants at a later date.
Anyone in the diocese is welcome to attend Catholics Come Home. There is no obligation – a person can attend one, two or all sessions. Each gathering is held from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament School, across the street from the parish at 17th and Lake streets in Lincoln.
Practicing Catholics who would like family members or friends to receive a special invitation to attend ‘Catholics Come Home’ can contact Father Kelly at 402-474-4249.
For more information about the program, visit www.blessedsacramentlincoln.com.
"It’s a beautiful thing when somebody comes back to the Church," Mrs. Muff said. "It’s wonderful."