There are a variety of prepackaged programs for outreach programs to inactive Catholics. This article reviews nine programs that you might consider using or adapting for your parish. They are listed by two criteria, cost and effort (planning, volunteers, and work). Programs are tools, like a set of keys. They do not evangelize by themselves. Each of us needs to grow in our own faith in Jesus and to develop good relational evangelizing skills in order to use programs effectively.
NO or LOW Cost – Amount of Effort to Use “+”
- CatholicsComeHome.org at www.catholicscomehome.org or www.CatolicosRegresen.org. Welcoming (English or Spanish) website for learning about Catholic faith with non-judgmental atmosphere. Resources include TV ads and steps for finding an RCIA program and/or local parish. (Using many materials does not require commitment to placing ads on cable, regional, or national TV.)
- New Movers Mailing List to connect with new movers in your community. Lists run by ZIP Codes the first week of each month. Download sample welcome letter to new movers, and customize it to be ready when you receive your lists. Paulist Evangelization Ministries.
- When They Come, What Makes Them Stay? Practical Suggestions for: Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday. Checklist of things a parish can do to reach out to and welcome inactive Catholics. Diocese of Buffalo – www.evangelizebuffalo.org.
MODERATE Cost – Amount of Effort to Use “++”
- Awakening Faith: Reconnecting with Your Catholic Faith is a small group process that helps inactive Catholics return to the Church by Rev. Frank DeSiano, CSP, and Rev. Kenneth Boyack, CSP. The group meets once a week for six weeks of conversation and socializing. The conversations are based on short, easy to read essays. Paulist Evangelization Ministries – video and print resources at www.awakeningfaith.org.
- Christmas Carol Festival: A New Way to Reach Inactive Catholics helps inactive Catholics return to Jesus and the Church through group caroling in the weeks before Christmas. Resources: Christmas Carol Festival Guidebook.
- Catholics Returning Home (CRH) is a parish based small study and support group program designed to reach-out and invite non-practicing/inactive Catholics to return “Home to the Catholic Church” and resume active practice of their faith. See resources at www.catholicsreturninghome.org.
HIGH Cost – Amount of Effort to Use “+++”
- Landings: A Ministry of Reconciliation. Parish-based small group (8 – 10 week) process that empowers us to welcome returning Catholics. Paulist Fathers – resources and licensing for materials at http://landingsintl.org; contact Landingsdc@yahoo.com.
- Alpha in the Catholic Context is a parish-wide 10 week group program to help secularized people hear the gospel message and encounter Jesus. It attracts many people (especially young adults) who ask, “Is there more to life than this?” Alpha USA for Catholics – videos and materials at http://www.alphausa.org/Groups/1000042056/Alpha_Catholic_Context.aspx.
- Discovering Christ is a seven-week evangelizing process. It is a course that provides a relational context in which members of a parish, campus ministry, etc. can bring family and friends to hear the good news and personally encounter Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Discovering Christ – videos and materials available at http://christlife.org/discover/whatIsDC.php.
John J. Boucher is a Catholic evangelization consultant and trainer. He served for many years as the director of evangelization in the Diocese of Trenton. He has authored/co-authored over 300 religious articles and many books including, Sharing the Faith that You Love: Four Simple Ways to Be Part of the New Evangelization and Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loves Us.