Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Westminster, spoke of the pain experienced by friends and family when faith is lost in his address to around 200 people at a conference in London on Saturday.
Speaking at the Crossing the Threshold Resource Day: Ministry and Outreach to Non Churchgoing Catholics, at Holy Apostles Church in Pimlico, he said: “This theme that you’re addressing today is also important for very personal reasons, because the loss of faith or the absence from the practice of faith, is something which touches many families and many friendships. Faith is of great value to those who, as it were, have put their lives into the community of faith, so when it is lost or even scorned by somebody close to them, then this is a theme that is very important and often quite painful in the lives that they share.”
The Archbishop added: “…people drift away or leave the church because of hurt or simply because of neglect, that much is pretty straightforward. What is interesting is that those who are asked, who have left, who have gone, comment quite often that: ‘Nobody seemed to notice whether I was there or not.’ Also at the same time, people who have been asked say that they are open to a request, they are open to the suggestion that they might want to talk about how this happened. 95% of people say they would welcome an approach which addressed this issue in their lives.”
The day in Pimlico was the fourth of five that are being offered across England and Wales as an initiative of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, coordinated by the Home Mission Desk.
Rt Rev Richard Moth, Bishop of the Forces, offered the keynote and emphasised the importance of dialogue: “For the people of the Old Testament, the Courtyard of the Gentiles was the place in the Temple where people who were not Jews could meet to discuss the questions of life and to talk about God. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken recently of the need for the Church to create such places of encounter and dialogue. Dialogue must be a key theme in our outreach to those who are ‘resting Catholics’ as much as it is to those who have never heard the Gospel message – for it is in that Court of the Gentiles that our ‘resting’ brothers and sisters dwell.”
The day programme included prayer, discussion time, Mass and workshops covering: ‘How to reach out to non-churchgoing Catholics?’; ‘How to make small effective gestures in parishes?’; ‘How to build bridges through involvement with social action?’; ‘Using RCIA as a tool to support non churchgoers to return to parish life’. The day in London is part of a three-year project to raise awareness and develop resources to help massgoing Catholics reach out to the estimated 4 – 5 million non-churchgoing Catholics in England and Wales.
Joan How from St Edward the Confessor Parish in Golders Green attended the day and said: “It was a great meeting and I really enjoyed meeting and speaking to people from across the dioceses. The Archbishop and Bishop offered some very valuable insights and I’ve come away with lots of practical ideas about what the parish can do in the future and how to take things forward. The liturgy and all the organisation was excellent. It was great day.”
The Archbishop and Bishop encouraged those gathered from across the region to take away with them two or three things – practical things – that they would try to do to reach out to people.
The next Crossing the Threshold event is on 23 June in Cardiff hosted by the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev George Stack. The Rt Rev Terence Drainey of Middlesbrough will be giving the keynote address.
To book please ring 020 7901 4818