Archdicoese in the News: Catholics Come Home

Both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe had feature articles today about the Archdiocese of Boston. More specifically, the Herald ran several pieces about the “Catholics Come Home” initiative, and the Globe wrote about the visitation by Cardinal O’Malley to Ireland.  Here are a few excerpts from the Herald articles and a short video clip that BCI felt everyone should see.  The Globe article excerpt is in a separate post.

Prodigal Parishioners Return to Church (Boston Herald)

The Boston Archdiocese’s largest effort in a generation to reach lapsed Catholics is drawing wandering souls back to the church’s open arms, but the biggest obstacle could be keeping them, priests and parishioners say.

The archdiocese, still suffering fallout from the clergy sex abuse crisis and parish closings, is hoping to bring back thousands of the formerly faithful through Catholics Come Home, a series of TV ads airing during Lent, coupled with a grass-roots push at parishes.

With two weeks left in the campaign, there is evidence it’s working.

“I was doing laundry and that stopped me in my tracks, that made me cry,” said Jackeline Rolon, 36, who was so moved by one of the TV ads she started going to Mass at St. Stephen’s in Framingham. She stopped going to church when she was 15. But the ad drew a flood of memories of her grandma, who walked her to church every Sunday in her native Puerto Rico, and her late father, a devout Catholic.

The most visible components of the $600,000 campaign are the emotional TV ads, lasting up to two minutes and reaching 95 percent of Boston-area TV viewers.

Inside church walls, priests and parishioners are ushering in greeters, welcome tables and a new spirit of acceptance. Parishioners are encouraged to bring a friend or relative who has fallen away.

“Before we just waited for the people to come to the church. Now we see a lot aren’t coming. It behooves us to reach out to them and tell them we want them to be part of our family,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley told the Herald. “My hope is that this effort will help our Catholics to feel more responsible to invite, to welcome, to be an evangelical community.”

The push comes as fewer and fewer Catholics are going to Mass. Only about 300,000 of the 1.7 million Catholics in the archdiocese attend Mass on Sunday. In the 1960s, some 1.3 million of the 1.7 million Catholics in the archdiocese regularly attended.

Parish priests and staff interviewed for this story say they are seeing new faces at Mass, increases in baptism requests and more people in confessional booths after long lapses.

The Rev. Francisco Anzoategui, believes as many as 20 people have come back to St. Stephen’s.

“You’ll be amazed how many people return because they are just waiting for an invitation to come back. It’s happening,” he said.

Kristopher Spanks, 22, who was sickened by the clergy abuse crisis, has started attending Mass again.

He stopped going three years ago and was skeptical when his brother recently asked him to join him at St. Michael’s in North Andover. “It brought back feelings, nostalgia,” said Spanks, who went to Catholic school. “It feels really good.”

Lee Conlon, 52, who stopped attending regular Mass seven years ago when Sacred Heart in Medford closed, said she finally feels at home at St. Patrick’s in Stoneham.

“I missed the familiarity of going into the church and sitting there and it’s an overall feeling of warmth and comfort,” said Conlon who came to St. Patrick’s last month at the suggestion of a parishioner. “I can be in my darkest gloom and I would go and come out . . . hoping.”


The second Herald article, Religious campaign goes beyond  TV ads” gives examples of how some parishes are conducting their outreach:

At St. Michael’s in North Andover, greeters welcome parishioners at Mass. A welcome table has a locked box for those who want to drop a confidential question to a priest. A brochure called We Miss You is going “like hotcakes,” said Donna O’Brien, coordinator of evangelization. “We’ve made efforts to make people feel welcome, to make people feel they can walk into this church at any time and be met with openness.”


At St. Patrick’s in Stoneham, the Rev. Bill Schmidt held a three-night Lenten mission last month for current and lapsed Catholics. About 60 people attended a Q&A night to learn about the faith. Another 50 came to a session on annulments. Parishioners are encouraged to bring friends and family. “We are putting a big push on people to invite somebody to go back,” he said. “It’s always easier to come back with someone.”


At Holy Name in West Roxbury, a letter went out to every parishioner encouraging them to bring a friend to church. At each Mass, the Rev. George F. Carlson welcomes those who have been away. “We are happy you are here,” he says

* * *

The chart to the right, found in that second Herald article, presents some interesting statistics.  The Boston archdiocese has referred to there being about 2 million Catholics in the archdiocese for the past 40 years, and the percentage of Catholics attending Mass has been reported as a percentage of 2 million.  When 294,000 is divided by 2,000,000, that means only 14.7% of Catholics are attending Mass. But now it is reportedly down to 1.7 million Catholics in Boston, a decline seen over the course of the last 5-6 years.

At the same time we wish to bring Catholics back “home,” we wonder who is asking and answering a key question here:  What has caused Catholics in Boston to drift or purposely walk away from the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church in such large numbers? It seems that the most precipitious drop had already occurred between 1990 and 2000, before the sexual abuse crisis hit, so it cannot be attributed to that alone.

What do you think has happened? Even more importantly, beyond TV advertising (which, based on the moving testimony by Jackeline Rolon, is obviously having some positive impact), what else do you think should be done about this?

13 Responses to Archdicoese in the News: Catholics Come Home

  1. Serviam says:

    The Liturgy and the poor implementation of Vatican II (junk Ecclesiology and experimental Theology) that gave way to a false perception that Church discipline and its practice didn’t matter anymore.

  2. Mary Reilly says:

    I think it’s at least somewhat due to the watered-down Catholicism here in Boston, that’s gotten worse in the past few years. Reconfiguration may have also had something to do with the declining attendance. I’m curious how the wizards at the Pastoral Center explaining this?

  3. Liam says:

    The abuse crisis in Massachusetts dates back to 1992. Just because the Globe broke another larger round a decade later doesn’t make that the beginning.

  4. Former Employee says:

    Something interesting that struck me about the BCI article is one of the Parishes referenced.

    I’ve been to Holy Name they vandalized the Church and Carlson changes the words of the Mass to be gender inclusive (specifically “through him, with him, in him”).

    If he is going to abuse the Liturgy he is going to drive people away.

  5. q says:

    Found myself oddly finding a gem in the Margery Eagan column about this;

    “Well, many Catholics will tell you about the pull of what they fell in love with as children and cannot find, with due respect, even among near-beer Episcopalians. That’s the mystery, the ritual, the Eucharist, the incense, the Mass and Rosary with their meditative prayers that can bring comfort, joy, strength, and sometimes, on the best days, transcendence. Many Catholics will tell you about the attraction of faith, a rock upon which they prefer to stand.”

    a broken clock is right twice – for in the same column which expresses what seems to be a summation of what the Church needs to do to right itself, is the ridiculous promotion of her rogues gallery of Priests who strive to do away with all that, namely

    “Bob Bowers, Walter Cuenin, Ron Coyne and the late Bob Bullock”

    • Angry Parish Council Member says:

      I thought almost the same thing when I saw her column. Had she stopped on the part about what pulls people to the Catholic faith and Catholic Church, I’d have been very happy. But (sigh).

      I must say, I found the video testimonial very moving, and appreciate it being shared here at BCI. The Catholic Come Home team should feel really good about stories like that. I’m sure there are angels smiling in heaven each time someone comes back to the Catholic Church and brings God into their lives again, while the evil one has to reconcile himself to losing another soul.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Being a Catholic means to stand with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross for the salvation of our souls and the souls of others. That understanding was long ago lost to the average Catholic. I’m not sure when the poor catechesis began but it was probably even before the ’60’s. Had Catholics understood the meaning of our lives and the tenets of our Faith, the light shed on the abomination that is clerical sex abuse, as well as on other forms of falsehood and pride that abound among the hierarchy and laity alike, would have drawn us closer to Our Lord and Our Lady. Instead, we thought the answer was in running from Jesus in the Eucharist and all the other Truths and treasures of Catholic life.

    If the aim is to get people who have left to “feel good” by returning to Sunday Mass, this is a campaign doomed to fail. It will fail the Faith, it will fail Our Lord. I had a young friend who attended Mass at a feel good parish. She stopped going because, even though it was a “feel good” place, she “got nothing out of it.”

    Being a Catholic can make one very happy, very joyful. But that comes in the knowledge that we are laying our lives down in union with Christ and His mother for the love of God and souls. And often, that just doesn’t feel good. But, it seems as if so many priests would rather that we feel good being part of a parish than to instruct us in why we are Catholics. (Sad to say, it is now up to them to do this since the instruction of young Catholics has been so long neglected. This has led to generations of ignorant adult Catholics.) So, once the honeymoon is over for those who return, I predict that they will feel empty once again like my young friend did. Maybe they will stay and maybe they will leave again. I only wish that I knew why I was a Catholic when I had that young friend who got nothing out of the Mass. Perhaps I could have shed light for her on what our purpose is as Catholics.

    Fortunately, by the time my family was torn apart by the knowledge that our loved one had been violated by a sociopathic priest, I had been graced with the knowledge that my reason for living was to stand at the foot of the Cross with Our Lady. Sad to say, my other siblings left the Church because they never knew that.

  7. A. J. Constantino says:

    There is good news for the future of the Church, in Boston!

    In the Parish, I serve, we have had the privilege and blessing of having many Seminarians work with the Youth Ministry, make communion calls to the elderly, serve,at the altar.

    Each young man,I have met has been traditional, well versed in the CCC and is politically very conservative.

    There is no doubt, in my mind, the teaching at Saint John’s Seminary holds each young man to the true teachings of the Church! I assure you it is more than lip service – when you are with these young men – you see a new beginning for the Church!

    I know Jack O’Malley may not see it or be happy with it but I see a renewed respect for: Scripture – Tradition and Magisterium!

    The work of Bishop Kennedy, Father Chris O’Connor and a dedicated faculty!

    “Lord God, please send us holy priests!
    All for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus!
    All for the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary!
    All in union with saint joseph!”


  8. Jack O'Malley says:

    A.J. I know Jack O’Malley may not see it or be happy with it but I see a renewed respect for: Scripture – Tradition and Magisterium!

    If I am the Jack O’Malley you mean, I’ve got to tell you, I am all for Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium! So kudos to the young seminarians in that case.

    I do hope that the traditional seminarians are learning the traditional Mass, the traditional language of the Church, the traditional posture for Communion, and the traditional orientation of the Priest. Even if that means in the interim the novus ordo. I have no objection to their performing the corporal works of mercy in the vernacular however. (Exorcisms are still more effective in Latin unless the divil himself is howling and hissing in Syriac.)

    And I agree whole-heartedly with your prayer, which I have latined here with an additional supplication of my own:

    Domine Deus, concede nobis sacerdotes sanctos.
    Omnes pro Sacro et Eucharistico Corde Iesu.
    Omnes pro Immaculato et Doloroso Corde Mariae.
    Omnes coniunctos cum Sancto Ioseph.
    Et omnes pro Ecclesia servanda.

  9. Liam says:

    Political conservatism in the American spectrum is not a Catholic marker per se.

  10. A. J. Constantino says:

    Jack -you are the BEST!

    My observation of these young men is that there is the desire and interest to explore and learn the traditional.

    We have to remember, we live in the post-Vatican II Church, there is a responsibility to teach these young men, the true meaning and intent of the Council; that is the council teachings as defined by the Church Fathers. I know Saint John’s is doing it!

    all that said, I am confident that the traditions of a past generatio, will not be lost with this new generation of priests!

    Jack, I also want to thank you for the Latin tranlation, know it will be used, whenI pray The Rosary for Priests!

    Liam, your point is well taken! However, I guess what I was trying to point out is that in conversation with these your men, they have a clear awareness of where political leaders stand on the issues and who is or is not in line with Church teachings.Realizing this is an opportunity for evangilization!

    My prayer is that each of you have the opportunity to meet anyone of these young men, engage them, in conversation – I am confident you will see a bright future for the Archdiocese of Boston.


  11. Jack O'Malley says:

    Thanks for the compliment, A. J. And you’re most welcome on the Latin translation. I searched a bit since on the internet to find a “standard” translation but nothing popped up. I translate everything into Latin just in case Augustus gets reincarnated — then I’ve got a job. Nothing at #666 Brooks though. Oh, wait, it’s #66, isn’t it? Easy mistake to make.

    My advice is, give these seminarians maniples in each of the liturgical colors. Of course if they don’t even have chasubles then all bets are off!

  12. Cynthia Trainque says:

    Now come visit Our Lady of the Lake in Leominster, MA (Diocese of Worcester). Since January 2010 we’ve registered 186 new families!!! Of course that never makes the headlines! It is not because of parishes merging (Fitchburg went from 8 to 4 parishes in summer 2010 — we had to build an addition back in ’04!

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