by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
LEAVENWORTH — Sometimes, it only takes the right words at the right time to bring someone back to the Catholic Church.
Patty Davis, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Church in Leavenworth, has seen it happen.
At the 10th annual Lenten Ministry Morning held March 10 at St. Joseph Church in Leavenworth, Davis shared her story.
“Eleven years ago,” explained Davis, her sister’s son Jimmy died of cancer at 26.
“So that very day [my sister Kathy] started hating God,” said Davis, “and dropped out of the church.”
What brought about her miraculous change of heart?
During a retreat Davis attended with her sister at Christ’s Peace House of Prayer in Easton, a few simple words of a discussion touched Kathy’s heart.
“The discussion was about our children and how they’re not really our property,” said Davis. “We only have them for a short time. They belong to God.”
That hit home with Kathy, said Davis.
“Now, she’s gone to Holy Hour and everything,” she said.
Davis recalled the story when Father Paul Turner, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Missouri, asked attendees during his talk, entitled “Liturgy and Evangelization: Ministering Beyond the Mass to recall a time when evangelization brought someone back to the church.
His discussion was divided into two parts. First, Father Turner spoke on the pastoral side of evangelization. He said when a person disconnects from the Catholic Church, there is almost always a reason.
That is because Catholics act, at least in part, as consumers with their Mass attendance.
“People do a little shopping around as a consumer might,” Father Turner said. “They may pick this parish or this weekend because the timing works out better.
“They’re more interested in getting their own needs cared for that weekend and that tends to diminish involvement in parish activities.”
Other sources of disconnect include hurts caused by individuals or the larger church, tipping points and virtual realities, Turner said.
“People who want to know something about Catholic Church life don’t even have to go to church,” he said. “But, there’s something very exciting going on when a community gathers.”
“I know we have something valuable,” added Father Turner. “But we have to remind people from time to time that virtual reality isn’t everything. We also offer real reality.”
He said the way to combat these disconnections is to turn to the resources already in place to help others reconnect, including the Mass, special events and gatherings through the church, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Father Turner quoted passages from the Acts of the Apostles, the First Letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of John which demonstrated key points in a conversion — a charismatic minister, a charismatic convert, an experience in spirituality that pre-exists, a life-changing event such as an illness or a supernatural force.
These are all ways to connect the disconnected, he said.
In the second part of his talk, Father Turner focused specifically on evangelization within the Mass.
“Sometimes we aren’t aware of how effective the Mass is,” he said.
He went on to explain how the Mass is a community celebration and should be an invitation to always set an example.
“We all have a responsibility every moment of the Mass,” he said. “It’s not like we check out until we have our favorite moments. Every moment along the way [during the Mass], we’ve got something that we need to do.”
This includes participating in songs, hearing the word of God and going to Communion as a community, he said.
“The fact that you sit together is an expression of your unity. You are now ready to listen to the word of God. And when you listen as one, then you are building the community,” Father Turner said.
Though participating in the Mass is important, he said evangelization begins before the Mass and continues after the Mass — and the most important step is to simply learn a person’s name.
“Church is extremely important to learn names and get people connected,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted that people know one another by name.”
In closing, Father Turner had two questions that he asked attendees to think about: How can our parish be more evangelizing? How can I be more evangelizing?
“Thanks for your service to the church,” he said. “It’s important for us in our parishes to have people filled with faith so deep that they just want to give it back to others, the community and the world.
“And it really does make a difference.”