by Father Pat Murphy, cs
The Diocese of Trenton, N.J., did a study that presented to former Catholics an unusual question: “Why did you leave the church?”
It was a surprise to hear that many left for the following reasons: They find homilies uninspiring, the parish unwelcoming, the pastor arrogant or the parish staff unwelcoming. I quickly said to myself: “I am glad I am not like that.” However, after thinking about it, I refocused and thought: “Am I really that innocent?”
A few days ago, Lupe, an adult woman preparing for confirmation, came to talk to me about her quest to find a confirmation sponsor. She was a bit down because she had just called her baptismal godparents to invite them to be her confirmation sponsors and was immediately rejected by them because they were no longer Catholics and had recently found Jesus and converted to become evangelicals.
She then went on to explain how she had contacted so many other potential sponsors and all were either not practicing the faith or had changed religions. I am happy to report that, after a lengthy conversation, we were able to find her an excellent sponsor who will guide her in the journey of faith.
This conversation made me think about all the Lupes who might be out there in our archdiocese. They are on the verge of deepening their faith commitment, but at the same time in desperate need of feeling the support of a loving faith community that will welcome them into the life of the parish.
I often wonder: Are we doing all we can? If you drive through any Hispanic community, you will soon notice a plethora of evangelical and Pentecostal churches hanging out the welcome sign to those who speak Spanish.
As the community grows, the number of church options continues to multiply almost overnight. And I continue to wonder: What else can we do so that in a few years we are not repeating the Diocese of Trenton study of fallen away Catholics in Kansas City — but this time in Spanish?
Let me propose three strategies:
1) We need to offer true missionary outreach and welcome Hispanics into our parishes (St. Patrick’s in Kansas City, Kan., is a prime example of how to do it right); 2) We need to be comfortable at accepting the Lupes of our world where they are and then commit ourselves to walking with them in their journey of faith; and 3) We need to prepare truly bilingual, bicultural priests and laypeople committed to showing genuine pastoral care to the Spanish speaking.
In conclusion, it is not too late to act. But the time to move forward is now.