By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship
Have you ever heard a phrase that goes something like this: “If I had $10 every time I heard that I would be rich!”? I am sure the dollar amount and the topic changes, but this is a phrase that we use when we not only hear something again and again, but we expect to hear it in the future as well. So, I wonder if you have ever heard this one: “If I had $10 every time I heard that someone’s family member has left the Church or no longer believes in God I would be rich (and also very sad).” I hear this again and again in my ministry, among friends, and in my own family, that a family member raised as a Catholic no longer believes in the Church or no longer believes in God. I have heard this from you, Catholics in the Diocese of Crookston, and expect I will hear it in the future as well. Your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, or other loved one has left the Catholic Church. It is the most common lamentation I hear in the Church today.
We need to send missionaries out to these individuals to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and I have a perfect person in mind – YOU. Now if this sentence sounds familiar than congratulations, you actually remember something from my previous column! In that column, I wrote about the great missionary program that about 250 people from the Diocese of Crookston were embarking on following the Convocation of Parish Leaders held just before Advent. In fact, many of those 250 Catholics indicated that they were going to reach out to a family member. I suggested that God is calling you (everyone really) to become a missionary disciple and spread the Gospel to help others form a closer relationship with Jesus. I concluded by inviting everyone with a family member who has left the Church, grown indifferent about God, or just simply drifted away from the Lord to be the Lord’s missionary to that person.
What is keeping you from doing this, from being a missionary? Some think they do not know how to address the person’s questions. Others may think that they do not know how to start the conversation. Still others have tried, and things did not go well, so they stay away from the topic to “keep the peace.” There are all sorts of reasons why people do not reach out to these family members, but let me give you one reason why you should: God is asking you to be his missionary. Pope Francis writes in “The Joy of the Gospel,” paragraph 120: “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.”
Over the next few months I will write about how to be a missionary disciple to those in your family who have drifted away from God and his Church. I will offer ideas regarding how to go about this missionary work, how to prepare yourself for this ministry, what it means to listen and accompany, and even how to begin the actual missionary conversations. For most cases, it is not as simple as asking the person, “Hey, why don’t you go to church anymore?” or what works even less often is, “You better go to church or else ...”. Over the next year, the Diocese of Crookston will also be offering a “Prayershop” (a workshop set within a time of prayer) called “Shepherding Them Home” to prepare people to reach out to family members who have left the Church. We are willing to come to any parish in the diocese and meet with any size group – large or small – to help you prepare to be a family missionary.
Do you have someone in mind? I bet everyone reading this column can think of at least one family member, close or distant, who can grow in their relationship with Jesus. If you think you might be the missionary that Christ is calling to share the Good News with this family member, I end this column as I did the previous one by asking you to pray. Pray about this as you begin the next step on the journey. Also, pray for the person you are thinking about, that they may grow closer to Jesus and his Church. In fact, why don’t you start right now and say a Hail Mary for the person and for yourself – asking Holy Mary’s intercession for your missionary work. Let me help you begin: Hail Mary, full of grace …