Catholic Church 'Welcomes Back Former Members with Open Arms

Article excerpt

Byline: Carolyn C. Armistead Daily Herald Correspondent

When Charlie Miller was in his 20s, he put the Catholic Church "on hold" to focus on living, finding a mate, starting a family and setting up a home.

But once he had accomplished these important steps, he realized there was still something vital missing in his life.

So Miller rediscovered the Catholic Church - something he and members of St. Raphael Catholic Church in Naperville are urging other inactive Catholics to do during this season of Lent.

Miller, now an active leader in the St. Raphael parish, told his story to a group of Catholics interested in returning to the church during a recent "Welcome Back Wednesday" program.

The evening was the first in a four-part series held Wednesday nights, through March 19, in which the questions and concerns of inactive Catholics are discussed, and reconciliation is encouraged.

The evenings consist of presentations by church leaders and an open discussion of questions. Participants are then invited to talk or pray with a priest or parishioner or go to confession.

"This is such a good time for people to explore where God is in their lives," said Pat Shutts, director of adult spiritual formation at St. Raphael.

"Lent is a time when a lot of Catholics are focusing on the presence of God and spiritual needs as we ready our hearts for Easter."

The program helps Catholics considering a return to the fold because many aren't sure where to start.

"People who have been away feel like they need to do or learn something - to get a refresher. They feel more comfortable going through a process," Shutts said.

For people who fell away from the church in their youth, they may need to arrive at a new understanding of concepts such as reconciliation and confession.

"They wonder if they're supposed to do it like when they were little kids - like the little formulas were learned in grade school. But it's different for adults because we do it from the heart," Shutts said.

Catholics become inactive for many reasons, Shutts said. …