Corning program welcomes home fallen-away Catholics - Catholic Courier

Corning program welcomes home fallen-away Catholics

In Alene Goodman’s experience, estrangement from the Catholic Church can be compared to a relationship gone bad. One person may want to mend fences, but doesn’t want to risk rejection by knocking on the other one’s door.
 
Thus, All Saints Parish is opening its doors wide for what Goodman believes is a large number of Catholics wishing to return to church, but needing some encouragement.
 
“People are just waiting for an invitation to come home,” Goodman emphasized.
 
Goodman, who serves as All Saints’ faith-formation coordinator, is overseeing a six-week series for nonpracticing Catholics, "Welcome Home to the Catholic Church.” The program will kick off Monday, Jan. 4, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the parish office, 222 Dodge Ave., Corning, on the campus of St. Vincent de Paul Church. Sessions will take place the following five Mondays at the same time and location. Participants may attend one or all of the sessions.
 
Several announcements are being made at all three All Saints churches — St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mary in Corning and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Painted Post. Key in the publicity campaign will be invitations at Christmas liturgies to folks who might be attending their only Mass all year. Goodman said it’s vital that regularly attending parishioners, as well as priests and staff members, spread the word to people they think might be interested in such a program.
 
"We’re throwing a wide net out there," Goodman remarked.
 
The opening two sessions of "Welcome Home to the Catholic Church" will involve the sharing of stories — by those who have fallen away from the church, and “people who have remained (but) have still struggled with their faith,” Goodman said. Other planned activities during the series are a church tour, a walk-through of the Mass and an overview of the sacraments. Goodman added that she plans to keep participants engaged in parish life after the program ends, in part by creating small Christian communities specifically tailored to their needs.
 
Goodman said there are many possible reasons that people drift away from church involvement: personal struggles related to finances, broken relationships or health issues; hard feelings because “a (church) staff person hurt them or wasn’t pleasant like they expected them to be”; or misinformation such as believing they’re excommunicated when they’re actually not. Guilt and self-consciousness also play into the equation, so Goodman said it’s vital for the parish to model a "welcome home" approach rather than question why people have been absent.
 
The initiative at All Saints is similar to the Outreach to Inactive Catholics program currently going on at St. Mary Southside Parish in Elmira. That ministry was featured in the December 2009 Catholic Courier print edition, and the story also may be found in the Faith & Family section of the Courier‘s Web site, www.catholiccourier.com.
 
Goodman noted that an additional six-week "Welcome Home to the Catholic Church" series will be held right after Easter. She added that a similar program was conducted in 2000 at the All Saints churches and "was very successful," saying she hopes fallen-away Catholics will be just as open to current evangelization efforts.
 
“They belong here, by virtue of their baptism,” Goodman stated. “We really just want them to come home. They are missed.”
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on "Welcome Home to the Catholic Church," contact Alene Goodman at 607-936-4689, ext, 14, or agoodman@dor.org.

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