Easter - An Ancient Opportunity for New Evangelization
"The Holy Spirit also evangelizes through our attempts to reach those who have given up the practice of their Catholic faith for one reason or another... Many in our Catholic community know family members, friends, and neighbors who do not have or practice faith." (GMD 38)
The Easter Season is an opportunity for New Evangelization. This is not just the highest of holy days. It is the beginning of our most auspicious season. Newcomers and returnees are drawn to the grace of God at such holy moments as the Easter Season. Consider the following ideas for welcoming and engaging them at your church.
Equip your People for the New Evangelization - Send parish leaders to the parish ministry conference - Catholic On Purpose: Becoming a Church that Matters to All on April 19-20, 2013 at Christ the King Seminary. Or arrange for a free parish retreat: God Awaits Us... in Our Stories or a free training in your parish to be Catholic and Confident.
Easter Season Bucket List - Publish a Year of Faith bucket list as a way for Catholics to grow close to God.
Pray on the Scriptures of the Easter Season - Assign the readings from Acts of the Apostles during the Easter Season to various parishioners with instructions to post a faith question or faith challenge each day at the parish Facebook page.
Promote Pentecost - Get a donor to fund printing of two hundred corrugated plastic lawn signs printed with a broken open egg revealing the worship schedule for a Sunday two or three weeks after Easter. Make up cards with the same information and invite parishioners to give them out immediately after Easter for anyone whom that they feel God is leading them. Make a similar invitation on Easter Sunday to the returnees and newcomers. Arrange for a reception on the designated weekend for returnees and newcomers complete with greeters, refreshments, and the parish staff for those who want to check out the church. Give out a small token to the first fifty who attend the reception (e.g. a copy of the book Rediscover Catholicism ($3) by Matthew Kelly or obtain a copy of the Lighthouse Catholic Media CD on the Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality by Matthew Kelly ($2).
Spring Clean Up - Gather willing parishioners to do spring clean-up at the homes of elder parishioners who are homebound and unable to do so on their own. Offer to collect unneeded 'garage sale' items and host a parish garage sale one month later with proceeds to go to Catholic Charities or the St. Gianna Pregnancy Outreach Center.
Easter Egg Pass - Give children five plastic eggs on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday of the Easter Season each containing a piece of candy and an invitation to attend at Pentecost. Invite children to be like the disciples who were so excited that they ran to share the Good News of Jesus' resurrection to friends and family. Arrange for a reception on Pentecost for newcomers and visitors.
Host a FREE Car Wash - offer this to stingy parishioners who have not had the car washed in months. Pass out flyers on any Sunday in the Easter season. On the day of the car wash have someone with a sign on the road. When a car if finished, pass out an invitation card to the parish Masses along with a worship schedule for Pentecost. Arrange a reception for newcomers and visitors on that weekend.
Take Easter Photos - Everyone has a good camera these days. The new iPad has fabulous resolution and preview capabilities. Offer to take Easter photos of visitors with their families with the beauty of the Easter decorations in the sanctuary as a backdrop. Set up a free parish account on Flickr, Snapfish, Picassa or Google+ and post them for families to obtain them as gifts. These photos will show up on Facebook and get passed around faster and more than you can type "text photo".
Easter Gift Jar - Purchase several dozen canning jars at a dollar store (get jars that have sealed lids), add a bright seasonal fabric on the cover. Fill jars with the ingredients and a recipe for a great dessert "Empty Tomb Cookies" or another familiar favorite. Include simple instructions for parishioners to visit a neighbor along with a welcome-to-return-the-visit card from your parish. Once filled, distribute the jars to parishioners in Easter Season or on Pentecost to give out in the neighborhood, family or at work.
Visit these web resources:
Consider the following printed resources:
When Someone You Love Leaves the Church (Lorene Hanley Duquin, Our Sunday Visitor, 2001)
Faith Rediscovered: Coming Home to Catholicism by Lawrence S. Cunningham (Paulist Press)
Christian Hospitality (Archdiocese of Louisville, KY)
Practicing Catholic by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk (St. Anthony Messenger Press)
Returning Home to Your Catholic Faith: An Invitation by Sally Mews (Liguori Publications)
While You Were Gone: A Handbook for Returning Catholics by William J. Bausch (Twenty-Third Publications)
When They Come Home: Ways to Welcome Returning Catholics (Melanie Rigney and Anna M. Lanave, Twenty-Third Publ 2009)
The Mission Driven Parish (Patrick J. Brennan, Orbis Books 2007)
Could You Ever Come Back to the Catholic Church? (Lorene Hanley Duquin, Alba House, 1997)
"Seeking an Annulment", "Top 10 Reasons to Come Back to Church" and more.and other pamphlets by Lorene Hanley Duquin and others from Our Sunday Visitor (800-348-2440); www.osv.com/pamphlets ($14.95 packets of 50) Leaflets Liguori Publications (800-325-9521); www.liguori.org ($6.95 packets of 25)
A Time to Listen . . . A Time to Heal: A Resource Directory for Reaching out to Inactive Catholics. No. 5-306 (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 800-235-8722, www.usccb.org)
Yes, I Can Believe (Frank DeSiano, CSP, Paulist Press).
Awakening Faith (a six-week, 90 minute session program published by Paulists Evangelization Ministries) is designed to invite both inactive and even active Catholics "to feel something about their faith again".
Catholics Continuing the Journey (a faith-sharing program for small groups by Sally Mews) a six weekly two-hour session for those who have recently returned to the Church and for others who are seeking to renew and strengthen their faith. Inviting Catholics Home (a six-week session aimed at helping Catholics return to Church) by Sally Mews.
101 Questions & Answers on the Bible (R. E. Brown, Paulist Press)
Catholic Q & A: Answers to the Most Common Questions about Catholicism (J.J. Dietzen, Crossroad Publishing)
Remaining Catholic: Six Good Reasons for Staying in an Imperfect Church (Rev. Martin Pable, ACTA Publications)
Why be Catholic? Understanding our Experience and Tradition (R. Rohr & J. Martos, St. Anthony Messenger Press)
Catholicism: Now I Get It! by F.S. Smith (Our Sunday Visitor)
Faith sharing materials - many choices available for online purchase from www.renewintl.org. The Impact series booklets are designed for small groups (six sessions every two or three weeks).
For more assistance with outreach to inactive Catholics, contact:
Office of Parish Life
795 Main St.
Buffalo, NY 14203