“Do people today find it difficult to encounter God in our Churches? Has our preaching lost its salt? Might it be that many people have forgotten, or never really learned, how to pray in and with the Church? …We need to discover, as I have suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring.… What is needed above all… is a renewal of that apostolic zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing. And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking….” —Pope Benedict XVI in remarks to the U.S. Catholic bishops, April 16, 2008.
Are you angry about some church-related issue?
Have you been embarrassed, hurt or rejected by someone representing the Catholic Church? Has your present marital status left you estranged or unwelcome in the Church? Are you participating in another church but still feel that “I’m a Catholic and I’ll always be a Catholic.” Do you feel uncomfortable saying “I’m a spiritual person but I’m not religious”? Would you like someone to listen to the events, people or circumstances which have shaped your relationship or alienation from the Catholic Church?
Consider making an appointment with a Parish Staff member to discuss your past, present or future relationship to the Catholic faith community in a safe, discrete, and welcoming environment. We’re here to listen, not to judge. We want to be helpful to you in your present spiritual circumstance. To set up an appointment, please call the parish at: (419) 625-3698.
Are you, or someone you know, an inactive, alienated or former Catholic?
Holy Angels Parish is eager to encourage and support our sisters and brothers who no longer participate regularly in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic community. There are a variety of opportunities and options for inactive or former Catholics who wish to resume, or wish to explore, the possibility of resuming fuller participation. We invite you to dialogue about your past, present or future relationship to the Catholic Church, even if you do not plan to resume active participation in the future.
What Inactive Catholics Should Know About Being Catholic
Individuals are incorporated into the Catholic faith community through the Sacraments of Initiation. These sacraments establish a spiritual and legal relationship to the Church. This relationship can almost never be completely revoked or renounced. Baptized Catholics are members of the Catholic Church for the rest of their lives, unless they take a deliberate public action to renounce that membership. However, membership in the Church assumes continuing participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic community. Active participation generally includes regular participation in Sunday Eucharist, personal prayer, an effort to grow in faith, commitment to Catholic moral principles, a contribution of time, talent and financial support to the faith community, and service to the broader human community.
In fact, the level of an individual’s participation may vary from time to time and person to person, depending upon a wide variety of circumstances. There are many reasons why baptized Catholics do not participate fully or regularly in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church. According to a 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 63% of Catholics who have left the Catholic Church did so because they gradually drifted away from active participation; 57% did so because their spiritual needs were not being met; 56% did so because they stopped believing in some of the Church’s teachings, particularly the Church’s teaching on abortion and homosexuality (40%) and the Church’s understanding of the Bible (36%).
Some inactive or former Catholics limit their participation because of their marital status or because past experiences left them feeling alienated or rejected. Some feel unwelcome or excluded because of certain Church laws or community attitudes. You should know that Church laws and customs which seem to exclude individuals under certain circumstances are often misunderstood or mistakenly applied. Most inactive Catholics are still Catholics. Most may resume participating in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church if they wish to do so. Resuming full participation or reconciling your relationship to the Church under present circumstances is a deeply personal and sometimes difficult challenge; for most inactive Catholics it is a gradual process of spiritual growth and personal healing. For many former Catholics who have made that journey, it is like a long-delayed homecoming which fills a spiritual void they have experienced for a long time.
Facts About Divorce You Should Know…
- Inactive, divorced or remarried Catholics are not excommunicated.
- Divorced Catholics who have not remarried may participate fully in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church, including Mass and Communion.
- Divorced Catholics remarried outside the Church may participate in many aspects of the Church’s sacramental and spiritual life, although they may not receive Communion.
- Divorced and remarried Catholics may have their children baptized, and may enroll them in a Catholic school or religious education classes.
- Inactive Catholics who are not divorced and remarried outside the Church may celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and resume full participation in the Church’s spiritual and sacramental life. Click here for information for and about Divorced Catholics
Are you ready to resume active participation in the Church? Here are some common signs which may suggest that you are ready to consider resuming active participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic community:
- You feel personally or spiritually lost.
- You sense that something important is missing in your life.
- You feel socially or spiritually unconnected.
- You sense a need for more encouragement and support.
- You feel like you do not have the emotional or spiritual resources to face difficult situations or problems.
- You worry about how your non-participation in the Church is affecting your marriage or your children.
- You feel less angry or bitter about the Church.
- You have more positive feelings about your past Church experiences.
- You are experiencing major changes in your life, or are more aware of growing older.
- You are concerned about “starting over” or “getting things in order.”
Here are some steps you can take if you are an inactive Catholic who is interested in resuming participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church:
1. Find a Catholic parish where you feel welcome.
Begin attending Mass; participate in other parish activities to the extent that you are comfortable. This is the most important thing you can do. At first you may feel uncomfortable and strange; eventually you will get to know more people and begin to feel more comfortable. If not, you may want to visit with a parish staff person, or try another parish. (You do not have to officially register in a parish in order to attend Mass and participate in most parish activities. However, when you are ready to resume full participation in the Church, you should register in the parish where you plan to be active.)
Here is a current schedule of Masses in the Sandusky area: St Mary’s and Saints Peter & Paul.
2. Take advantage of adult formation and education programs where you can learn more about the Church, the sacraments, and Catholic teaching.
- Consider making an appointment with a Parish Staff person to privately and confidential share your story, ask questions and clarify your relationship to the Catholic Church.
- The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is an adult formation program for non-baptized persons and non-Catholic Christians who are interested in becoming Catholics. However, it is also an excellent opportunity for inactive Catholics who have been away from the Church for a long period of time.
Click here for information about RCIA.
- In addition, many parishes have adult faith-sharing and bible-study groups or “Catholics Welcome Home” programs which give inactive Catholics an opportunity to share their personal experiences, questions and concerns in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere.
Click here for information about adult formation and education programs.
3. Choose a spiritual guide or spiritual director with whom you are comfortable discussing your faith experience, your questions about the Church, and your participation in the Church.
A spiritual guide can walk with you on your spiritual journey, even if you are not planning to resume active participation in the Church; he or she can help you evaluate your experience, recommend resources which will help you grow spiritually, and can suggest opportunities for fuller participation. A friend who is active in the Church might be a good spiritual guide. At some point you may need to visit with a priest or a Parish Staff person who can answer specific questions about Church teaching or law.
4. Seek healing for painful personal experiences which may have left you emotionally or spiritually scarred, alienated from the Church, or angry at God.
Sometimes an understanding spiritual guide can help heal these painful experiences. However, in some cases, professional counseling may be necessary to heal serious emotional and spiritual hurts. Click here for information about assistance for victims of clergy abuse.
5. Investigate what might be done to resolve official barriers to full participation.
In most cases an invalid marriage can be reconciled through the annulment process. Inactive Catholics often assume that validating their marriage is too painful or legalistic. In fact, many people experience this process as a positive opportunity which provides a sense of personal wholeness and spiritual peace. A parish staff person can recommend someone who is trained to help you work through the annulment process. Click here for information about annulments.
6. Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
When you are ready, this is the most appropriate way in which to renew your participation in the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church. You can celebrate Reconciliation as part of a parish communal penance service during Advent or Lent; however, if you have been away from the Church for a long period of time, you will find it more helpful to celebrate Reconciliation privately with an understanding priest who will guide you through the process. (Generally, an inactive Catholic should not begin receiving Communion again until he or she has celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) Click here for information about Reconciliation .
7. Here are some other steps you can take toward resuming active participation:
- If you have children, enroll them in a Catholic school or religious education program. Participating in your child’s religious education is a good way to prepare yourself for more active participation.
- Subscribe to a Catholic newspaper like The Catholic Chronicle from the Diocese of Toledo, a newsletter like Catholic Update, or Catholic magazines like America, Liguorian, St. Anthony Messenger, or U.S. Catholic.
- Become active in a Catholic service or social justice organization like the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
- Attend a renewal experience like “The Sandusky Catholic Community Parish Mission” or the “Catholics Welcome Home Program”. These experiences can help you appreciate the relationship between your personal spirituality and Church participation.
Our relationship to the Church is not unlike other personal relationships. In a healthy personal relationship, we have certain expectations of the relationship and our partner. When a relationship breaks down, it is usually because our partner has failed to meet some or all of our expectations.
- We expect the relationship to be
- challenging (in a positive way)
- We expect our partner to be
In our relationship to the Church, we have similar expectations which we expect the Church to fulfill. A breakdown in our relationship to Church occurs when we perceive that the Church or its representatives is not fulfilling those expectations. In assessing our relationship to the Church, it is helpful to identify which of our expectations the Church does not meet. This is something we identify at the feelings level. It is not first of all a matter of fact or truth, but our perception of what has happened.
The following steps may help you develop further insight into your relationship with the Church:
- Assess what expectations are most important to you. (Objectively, all of our expectations are important; but some may be more important in your relationship to the Church than others.)
- Identify which of your expectations the Church does not meet.
- Identify which expectations the Church does adequately fulfill for you.
- Identify unrealistic expectations you may project onto the Church from your personal experience or needs.
- Identify which expectations the Church has which you may not be able to fulfill.
- Consider how well another church will be able to fulfill your expectations.
This process helps us examine our relationship to the Church in a broader perspective. It helps us identify more clearly why our relationship to the Church is damaged or broken. Just as in any other personal relationship, the knowledge and insight you gain may help you repair or rebuild the relationship, or it may simply confirm that the relationship cannot be reclaimed at the present time. In either case, it should help you to move on with greater serenity and help you be more intentional about what you seek in your relationship to another church.
[Copyright: Dave Cushing]
How We Can Help
The Catholic parishes in Sandusky are eager to encourage and support our sisters and brothers who do not feel at home in the Catholic faith community.
If you or someone you know is an inactive, alienated disillusioned or former Catholic, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your concerns and questions in a safe, understanding and nonjudgmental environment, even if you do not anticipate resuming participation in the Catholic faith community.
Consider making an appointment with a Parish Staff member at Holy Angels Parish to discuss your past, present or future relationship to the Catholic faith community in a safe, discrete, and welcoming environment. We’re here to listen, not to judge. We want to be helpful to you in your present spiritual circumstance. To set up an appointment, please call the parish at: (419) 625-3698.
Catholics Welcome Home Program
This is a six-session program to help inactive Catholics reconnect with the Catholic Church and its community. This is offered collaboratively with the three Catholic Parishes in Sandusky. Please call the parish to find out when the next program will be offered or check out the website: Catholics Come Home.
If you or someone you know is an inactive, alienated or former Catholic who is interested in discussing their relationship to the Catholic Church, please contact a pastor or staff member at Holy Angels Parish. (419-625-3698).