Did you know that 45 percent of Americans (about 112 million people) have some meaningful connection to the Catholic faith in some way? Some bridge of trust? Only 20 percent of them – 50 million — are Catholic. This statistic means more than twice as many Americans have some connection to the Church in some way as those who go to Mass once a year or more. What would a Sunday Mass at your parish look like with more than twice as many worshippers? Imagine how the quality of our families, schools, work environments, media, relationships – everything in our culture — would improve!
Nine percent of Americans feel they are “partially Catholic” or “half Catholic.” They think of themselves as associated with Catholicism. Perhaps their spouse or parents are Catholic; they worked in a Catholic parish or school. Two-thirds are “Ex-Catholic” grew up in a Catholic culture but no longer attend mass.
Many partially Catholic people were not raised in the faith. They are the ones who consider Catholicism more faith than culture.
Fifty-two percent of Americans have left the Catholic Church at some time, most of them now ex-Catholics. Many say they are open to coming back. Eleven percent of them are back. “The rest are still in motion and the Holy Spirit is still at work,” said Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples.
Some of these meaningfully-connected, partially-Catholic or ex-Catholics are within your circle of influence. You work with them, work out with them, serve them in your business, go out to dinner and concerts with them. They live in your neighborhood. Maybe they work in the Food Bank or March for Life with you.
We cannot write off even one of these people who is somehow connected to the Catholic Church but not worshiping with us. Each of them has a story of that connection. How do we influence them, evangelize them?
Bridges of connection
When we listen to their stories, we will discover bridges that connect them. Perhaps the bridge is a relationship — a Catholic spouse, childhood friend, teacher or grandparent. It may be cultural and tied into holidays and celebrations. Or a shared ministry such as pro-life or charities. That relationship, family celebration or ministry is the bridge that brings them back.
For the cradle Catholics who have left, perhaps it was a bridge of unforgiveness for a priest or teacher that treated them unkindly. I might be a sin they feel God cannot forgive. When you discover the bridge they took to leave the Church you will know the bridge on which they will return. Their need for reconciliation is the path back.
Read how to make yourself approachable and give your personal witness.