By GLENN RUTHERFORD
Bruce Jacobs is faith formation director at St. Paul Church on Dixie Highway and he’s watched over the years as some Catholics have drifted away from their faith.
Now he hopes to bring them back.
Jacobs and St. Paul Church are launching a new program this month called “Catholics Returning Home,” and the program’s title describes it perfectly.
“We want to extend a welcoming hand for people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves drifting away or apart from the church,” he explained in an interview at St. Paul offices last week.
“We want to listen to people, to find out what’s happened, to apologize for any wrong that might have been done to them,” he continued. “That’s what we’ll do first — we’ll listen. And if we need to apologize for something the church did, something perhaps a priest did, we’ll do that.”
The whole idea, Jacobs noted, is to simply get Catholics who had wandered away from their church back into the fold, back into the comfort that’s to be found living the Gospel life, doing the work of the Lord and sharing the Eucharist at his table.
The program is based on a book by Sally Mews called Inviting Catholics Home, Jacobs explained.
“Father Dismas (St. Paul’s pastor, Conventual Franciscan Father Dismas Veeneman) knew about the book and suggested that I take a look at it,” he recalled. “It was exactly what we’re looking for.”
“Catholics Returning Home” will be a six-week-long program that will begin April 16 and be held each subsequent Monday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There is no cost, Jacobs said, and reservations aren’t necessary but would be appreciated.
“The program is supposed to be held three times a year,” he said, “and we may do that. The idea in the book is to offer the program around Christmas when people are coming back to the church, and the same thing at Easter. The idea is that some people might come to church just those one or two times a year.
“They also suggest that we offer one of the programs around the time the school year starts, because people are around the church then,” Jacobs said. “But we’re going to see how this goes before we decide how many programs we’ll do.”
One of the things that may be of comfort for those taking part in the “returning” programs is that they can describe their reasons for stepping away from the church anonymously.
“We’ll collect information, but no one is asked to sign anything,” he said. “We want this to be welcoming, helpful and not intimidating in any way.”
There will likely be a fairly significant-sized pool of potential participants — Jacobs noted that in our community many people say that, next to Catholics the largest number of identifiably religious people are “non-practicing Catholics.”
“We want to make it attractive and comfortable for those people to re-establish a connection with their church,” he said. “We’ve advertised the program in parish bulletins all across the Archdiocese of Louisville. We’ve even advertised the program in “The Turret,” (the newspaper for the U.S. Army base at Ft. Knox, Ky.)
“We’ve tried to get news about the program on every media outlet that takes free advertising,” he said.
Those who take part in the program beginning April 16 will be introduced to the series overview and faith-sharing exercises. The second session will feature “stories of faith from Catholics returning home,” according to the program outline. Other topics throughout the program will include “The Church Today,” “Changes Since Vatican II,” the “Revisions of the Roman Missal” and others.
For information or to register for the program, call St. Paul Church at 935-1223. Or you can reach Jacobs by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.