Late have I loved you, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
-St. Augustine, Confessions
When deliberating over the question of how to bring inactive Catholics back to the Church, our gaze must turn to Christ. We look to him to discover the way by which he has attracted the human heart to himself since the beginning of time. A sincere look at the Gospels reveals to us that God draws man to himself by revealing his love. This reaches its definitive climax on Calvary, when God displays his infinite love for the world through the pierced Heart of Christ. In response, the human heart, created for love, cannot help but be attracted to this love and draw near (cf. Jn 12:32).
In light of this, we see that evangelization to inactive Catholics proceeds along the path of the revelation of God’s love. In other words, evangelization must proceed along the path of holiness. For it is only the individual, and the parish, that has been authentically transformed by the love of the living Christ such that “it is no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20) that can radiate the irresistible love of Christ that draws man back to God. There is no program or marketing strategy that can replace the fundamental attraction of holiness to man. The Tradition of the Church gives witness to this in the countless saints who have always attracted to themselves overwhelming crowds of people, through no effort of their own. There is no ultimate resolution to the problem of inactive Catholics that does not involve, at its heart, the effort of stirring up the fire of divine love in the parish, centered in the heart of the Eucharistic Christ and his love for man. It is the parish rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17) that is ready to go forth to the nations to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Resources for Outreach to Inactive Catholics
Parish-Based Outreach and Trainings
Start by visiting our page on parish-based evangelization ministries, which are designed to reach active Catholics, inactive Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated: phillyevang.org/disciples
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate
Community of contemplative-missionary sisters whose primary apostolate
is outreach to inactive Catholics. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia rejoices to have a convent of Parish Visitor sisters in Clifton Heights, PA. PVMI door-to-door manual and some audio CDs are available for purchase. For more information, visit their website.
Rosary for Evangelization
Pray the Rosary for your own continued conversion and holiness. In addition, pray for those whose hearts are far away from God, mentioning them by name in your prayer. Consider praying a Rosary for Evangelization.
St. Paul Street Evangelization
This Catholic program trains groups to “hit the streets”, bringing Christ to the world through sidewalk evangelization. Visit the website at: streetevangelization.com.
Legion of Mary Door-to-Door Visiting
Prayer group that will help you run door-to-door evangelization in your parish
Local Philadelphia Chapter
Catholics Come Home
Resources for inactive Catholics, returning Catholics and practicing Catholics.
Catholics Come Home Parish Resources and Materials
Inactive Catholics Online Survey
Archdiocese of Philadelphia parishes are welcome to include this online survey on their parish website or social media to allow inactive Catholics to share their stories. We have much to learn about why people have distanced themselves from the Church. This is a small way to open the doors of communication. Click here for an example
- Bulks orders of medals, scapulars, pamphlets & more
- “Been Away for Awhile?” Postcards – Side 1
- “Been Away for Awhile?” Postcards – Side 2
- Our Sunday Visitor Evangelization Pamphlets
- FaithCatholic booklet: Welcome to Our Church and Guide to the Mass
- The Ultimate Relationship booklet: English / Spanish
HOME VISITATION RESOURCES
Make Every Person Count! is a Parish outreach to every registered household for the purpose of reconnecting with inactive Catholics, conducting pastoral visits and updating parish records. It can be done at any time of the year. To learn more about the process, time line, role of leadership team, materials needed and follow-up action steps, please download the following booklets.
PHONE VISITATION RESOURCES
It is not always possible for a parish to do a door-to-door visitation but, in a desire to reach out, a parish could make phone calls. Here are two booklets to help parishes with that important ministry. One is for the team in preparing this outreach and the other is a guideline for the callers. (For additional materials for the phone visits, see the materials listed under Home Visitation and adapt accordingly.)