We weren’t quite sure how to begin, but we knew we wanted to do something. RCIA and the Easter Season had ended, summer was pending, and our Holy Father’s words in his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” kept returning:
“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization.”
“While fondly remembering those who had just entered the church, we wondered who may have been overlooked. Thus began the process of creating and hosting a short summer program for those we tend to call “fallen-away Catholics.” Except we didn’t want to call our program that; it seemed to communicate negative undertones.
We instead chose “While You Were Gone..,” a message conveying that our fellow Catholics had not left; they had just stepped out for a moment.
We advertised in June with sessions scheduled for twice per week throughout July. The weekend prior to our first gathering, we had one registrant; and then, remarkably, there were two. Many might view this as a failure, but our team viewed it as an opportunity to plant seeds.
And what exactly did we do? While an agenda was prepared, starting with prayer and Scripture, the conversation flowed as our guests needed and as the Holy Spirit guided.
We read from Genesis to recall that God created all things good and that he had a plan for our salvation. We provided articles on Mary, the Incarnation and Jesus as well as the sacraments, prayers and sacramentals to not only recall our Catholic heritage but to awaken and affirm our catholic faith.
And we reflected on the book of Job to explore the meaning of suffering as we shared life’s experiences. In the process, our sister and brother were surprised to learn there are two creation stories; four mysteries of the rosary; and that reconciliation (reconciling our relationship with God) used to be called penance. But more importantly, they learned that they could have returned to the church years ago and they would have if they’d only known.
Toward the end, we transitioned from reading and talking about our faith to witnessing and practicing our faith. We prayed the rosary; specifically, the Luminous Mysteries; we spent time with our Lord in adoration; we prayed the Stations of the Cross; and we concluded with a dinner of thanksgiving.
We gave thanks to God for the opportunity to serve him and others in this special way. And we gave thanks to God for bringing us these two precious souls who were so happy to be “home.”
In a homily two summers ago, Pope Francis reminded not only his seminarian audience but, in essence, the entire faithful community:
“The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons or by the prestige of the institution or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s cross.”
Upon reflection, our team did precisely this. We each wrapped ourselves around the cross to bear our souls in the witness of our faith. In the process, we showed our immense love of Christ as we allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us. And then, remarkably, there were two.
It was Jesus who said, “Now, go tell the others.” We did, and we’re fairly confident that they will, too.
Tammy Flippo is the pastoral associate of St. Gabriel Church.