Eucharistic Revival's 'Invite One Back' initiative helps parishes reach lapsed Catholics

A woman prays during Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City Jan. 1, 2023. The U.S. bishops' National Eucharistic Revival initiative launched an effort called "Invite One Back" providing parishes with letter and postcard templates and other resources to help them invite lapsed Catholics to come back to church. (OSV News/Gregory A. Shemitz)

(OSV News) -- What would happen if clergy and parish leaders personally reached out to Catholics who have stopped attending Mass to invite them to come back, telling them they are missed and wanted in the parish community? This is the question and challenge the U.S. bishops are posing as their National Eucharistic Revival initiative focuses on parish efforts this year.

The bishops launched resources in early March as part of the "Invite One Back" initiative, equipping clergy and parish leaders to invite those who have stopped attending Sunday Mass to fill the pews once again.

Many people simply didn't return to the pews after the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-person Mass attendance in 2020. One 2022 study from Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed a 7% decline in adult Catholics attending Sunday Mass compared with pre-COVID data.

The revival website notes that in 2020 a "significant portion of Catholics lost connection with their local parish during the shutdowns, and just never came back. It's time to bring them home." The website also points to Pew data from 2014, which found that 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics.

"The goal of this initiative is to fill the pews again," the website says. "To do that, we all need to invite back everyone who has left in a way that makes sure they feel seen and desired as an individual member of your parish family. Whom are you called to invite home?"

In his introductory letter to parish leaders, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, wrote, "Our efforts in evangelization and inviting Catholics back to Mass are not just about increasing numbers or filling pews. Rather, our efforts are about guiding people to intimate encounters with Jesus Christ and leading souls to salvation, allowing them to experience God's love, mercy, and goodness."

"It is important to invite these people back because it is a great act of love! It is also one of the simplest and most effective ways to evangelize," he emphasized. "Love desires to be shared once it is received. The source and summit of the Christian life is participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice, where we encounter the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament."

The initiative stresses the unique power of invitation, saying that for those who have left parishes, "an invitation reminds them that they belong within our community and that their presence is missing."

The website encourages clergy and parish leadership to "make a list of parishioners you haven't seen in a while or people who used to be members of your parish" to immediately begin praying for them and start discerning "how you can best reach each member of that group, and make a plan to contact each one of them in whatever way would be most meaningful."

When it comes to tools for reaching those who've stopped attending Mass, resources include letter and postcard templates as well as scripts for starting phone calls with former parishioners. Creativity and personalization are encouraged in these conversations with the goal of listening to the individual and meeting them where they are.

Prayer also is a central part of the campaign, as the initiative calls for parishes to put a prayer for the campaign in the bulletin as well as for parish groups to dedicate rosaries and Holy Hours for the effort.

"Let us pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit's guidance and fortitude to carry out this sacred mission," urged Bishop Cozzens, chairman of the board of the National Eucharistic Congress Inc. "Let us embrace each soul with open arms, rejoicing as they return to the embrace of the Church and our parish communities through the gift of the Eucharist."



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