Advertisements ad

November 22, 2009

Preparing happy people to welcome Catholics home Evangelization initiative begins Dec. 16

By Joyce Duriga


There were chocolate kisses for the ways they show love to others. A rubber band to represent the flexibility they demonstrate in their jobs. A puzzle piece for the important role they play in the parish. And a paper clip because they keep everyone together.

All of these objects were part of a small gift given to parish “ministers of first impressions” who will be on the front lines welcoming people back through the Catholics Come Home initiative.

These ministers, who are usually parish and school administrative assistants, received the gifts during luncheons, the last of which was held Nov. 10 at Biagio Banquets on North Central Avenue, sponsored by the Office for Evangelization. These luncheons trained 650 parish assistants throughout Cook and Lake Counties.

Since most often administrative assistants are the first point of contact for people coming in to the parish, their role is especially vital, Liz Johnson of the Office for Evangelization told the 200 people gathered Nov. 10.

Good first response

When Catholics Come Home, an evangelization initiative focused around a series of television advertisements (view them at www.catholicscomehomechicago. org), begins Dec. 16, organizers expect parishes will receive more calls from fallen-away Catholics looking to return to church.

It is important to have those on the other end of the phone lines prepared to answer a variety of questions and to be welcoming, said Nancy Polacek, coordinator for Catholics Come Home in the archdiocese.

Parishes are encouraged to have a live person answering phones during the time the initiative runs, from Dec. 16 through Jan. 24.

For Catholics Come Home, the archdiocese partnered with the Rockford and Joliet dioceses. Commercials will be broadcast in 20 counties in northern Illinois. The ads welcoming Catholics back to church will run in English, Spanish and Polish and will air on 10 different stations.

Each parish is supposed to have a contact person for the initiative who help the pastor coordinate the parish’s response.

‘Worth doing’

Deacon Mike De Larco of St. Celestine Parish in Elmwood Park attended the November luncheon and said he already sees marriages and baptisms bringing fallen-away Catholics back to the church but this is one more invitation.

“It’s worth doing,” De Larco said adding that it will “reach people sitting on the fence.”

He said parishes will then have to introduce the newcomers to the people and ministries that are relevant to them.

In the end, the Catholic Church can offer them a more meaningful life, he said.

Chris Wilson, an administrative assistant at St. Robert Bellarmine School, 4646 N. Austin Ave., who attended the luncheon said she is hopeful that Catholics Come Home will “open the eyes” of those who have fallen away. Wilson, who attended St. Robert and whose children now attend the school, said she has seen the numbers of people at Mass declining over the years along with school enrollment.

“I hope this brings them back to their roots and where they started,” Wilson said.

“Society is so crazy busy that they don’t make the time [for church],” she said. “They need to slow down and get back to what’s important.”