A new initiative is being launched to encourage parishes to reach out to Catholics who have stopped going to church. Called Where are they now?, the project is being sponsored by the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE) which has sent resource packs to every parish and religious house in the Archdiocese and across England and Wales. The materials complement the outreach ministries already started around the country. Mgr Keith Barltrop, Director of CASE, said: "Most Catholic families have members who, for different reasons, no longer go to Mass: some lost contact during their teenage years, others drifted away after a broken marriage, whilst some have had painful experiences with the Catholic community. Our initiative aims to encourage Catholics to listen respectfully and lovingly to people's stories and invite them back. A simple invitation could make all the difference in the world." Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said in support of this project: "My Dear Friends, I urge you to take part in this initiative. All of us know someone who no longer attends Mass. This is a great sorrow for so many of us. In a non-judgemental way, as the Body of Christ, let's go out to the lost sheep this Advent and New Year, with a message of love, acceptance, welcome and reconciliation." A recent report highlighted that three million people in England and Wales would come to Church if invited. It is estimated that at least two thirds of the Catholic community are lapsed. CASE is therefore inviting every practising Catholic to go out in search of the lost sheep like Jesus himself. Research suggests, for example, that if you invite seven people to a parish event, it is probable that one person will attend. Dave (not his real name) is twenty six years old and recently came back to Church after an absence of ten years. One Sunday, having received previous invitations, he felt an overwhelming desire to go to Mass. He said: "I never stopped believing in God, nor the teachings of the Church. I felt that I didn't have to go to Church to believe in God and could do it on my own. Since returning, I've gradually come to appreciate that the Church has so much to offer. It's great, but also challenging." The resource packs are timed to arrive in parishes for Home Mission Sunday which falls on 16 September, a special day when Catholics are invited to pray for and support the work of evangelisation in England and Wales. Materials provided include: bidding prayers, homily notes, a 'welcome home' booklet, poster and sample outreach leaflet. More resources are available online: www.caseresources.org.uk At the beginning of Advent, a national media campaign will be launched called Come Home For Christmas. It's hoped that parishes will issue invitations and put on local events; the September launch therefore gives parishes three months to prepare, supported by CASE's materials. For more information please contact CASE at tel. 020 8458 3316. E-mail: email@example.com
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