Outreach to inactive Catholics planned

CatholicConnection-12-3-15-wBy Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Pope Francis has called on dioceses throughout the world to observe the extraordinary Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy, which is set to begin Dec. 8. One way the Archdiocese of Louisville plans to take part in the jubilee year is through the Catholic Connection — an outreach ministry to inactive Catholics.

Catholic Connection aims to reach out to those Catholics who have drifted away from the church and invite them to reconnect, said Sal Della Bella, director of evangelization for the archdiocese.

Della Bella describes inactive Catholics as baptized Catholics who are not involved in any part of worship, educational or social life of a parish or school. This is outreach not intended for people who simply attend Mass infrequently or those who have joined another faith tradition, he noted.

“The intent of Catholic Connection is to reach out to those who have been away from the church for a variety of reasons,” said Della Bella in an interview at the Chancery last week.

Some reasons, he said, may include: marriage difficulties, a hurtful experience with someone representing the church or an overwhelming circumstance in life.

The Catholic Connection initiative, Della Bella said, is a way to show “mutual mercy.”

“I think it’s an opportunity to extend God’s mercy; it’s an opportunity to practice mercy; and it’s an opportunity to ask for mercy,” he said. “This is an opportunity to bring clarity to a situation, to offer a solution and to accompany these people as they reconnect with the church.”

The Catholic Connection process was first conducted in the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2001. During that effort, more than 5,000 names were submitted to the archdiocese and hundreds of people attended information sessions, Della Bella noted.

The program involves four phases: invitation, communication, listening and follow-up.

Invitation

Individuals are invited to submit the names of family members or friends who are inactive and may be open to reconnecting with a faith community, Della Bella said.

Parishioners can submit these names by completing informational postcards, which will be available at parishes. They may return them in the collection basket or drop the postage-paid cards in the mail.

Online forms are also available and can be found at www.archlou.org/WelcomeBack.

Inactive Catholics, themselves, may also reach out and submit their own information.

There will be a number of radio advertisements during the month of December geared toward Catholics who have drifted away but have thought about reconnecting to the church, Della Bella said. All names must be submitted to the archdiocese by Jan. 11.

Communication

Each individual who contacted the archdiocese directly or whose name was submitted will receive a letter from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. In the letter, the archbishop will inform the individual that their name was received and invite them to reconnect to the church and attend one of several “listening sessions” the archdiocese has planned in February.

Listening

Individuals will be invited to attend a listening session, where they will be able to share their stories, ask questions and express their concerns.

“The listening sessions will be an opportunity to provide clarity and resources and just be the listening ears of the church in case they haven’t had the opportunity to express what their experience was,” Della Bella said.

There will be nine listening sessions, including one in Spanish, in February. These will be offered at various locations around the archdiocese. There will be a number of archdiocesan representatives at the two-hour sessions, including a pastor or parish staff member, a representative of the Tribunal (which handles annulments) and various archdiocesan agency directors.

The listening sessions will be:

Feb. 1 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., Flaget Center, 1935 Lewiston Drive.

Feb. 3 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., Maloney
Center, 1200 S. Shelby St.

Feb. 11 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Feb. 13 — 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,
Catholic Enrichment Center, 3146 W. Broadway.

Feb. 15 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., St. Albert the Great Church,
1395 Girard Drive.

Feb. 21 — 2 p.m.
to 4 p.m., Basilica of
St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral
in Bardstown, Ky.
Feb. 23 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., Our Mother
of Sorrows Church,
747 Harrison Avenue.

Feb. 24 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., St. Rita Church, 8709 Preston Highway
(in Spanish).

Feb. 25 — 7 p.m.
to 9 p.m., St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky.

Follow-up

The final — and an important component — of the Catholic Connection program is the follow-up process, Della Bella said. People who attend listening sessions will receive information related to their questions or concerns.

“Sometimes, for them, it’s just about being listened to,” said Della Bella.

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