As you know the Archdiocese of Washington is extending invitations to people who are part of our family of faith but have not been participating in our life of prayer and worship. Archbishop Wuerl has asked us to take his invitation and to give it to someone and invite the person to join us for Mass. This makes some of us quite nervous. It is not that we don’t want to do it. Many of us, in fact, pray regularly for family members or friends to find their way back to church. Often, our hesitation is wondering how the person we want to invite will respond. Today, I’d like to share two stories about “what happened next…” and ask you to share your stories.
Firstly, From Fr. Mike, a priest at St. Camillus parish. Fr. Mike is excited abut this initiative because a number of years ago, something similar changed his life. In his words:
Twenty years ago, I was just such a young man, who had drifted away from the church for a number of years, until a friend invited me to come to Mass. Not realizing how much I missed the experience, I initially said “no.” This friend was persistent because he too had been away from the church for a while and knew it what a huge difference returning, reconnecting had made in his own life. Because of his persistent invitation and his sharing his experience I ultimately said “yes” and went to Mass with him. Absent that invitation 20 years ago, my life might have taken a very different course. To this day, I am incredibly grateful for the gift of this invitation. As we prepare to celebrate the greatest sacrifice, the mystery of Christi’s Passion and the gift of new life on Easter Sunday, let us reach out and bring God home to those who have drifted away from the Church.
Secondly, an eyewitness account from Maggie Gutiérrez, Coordinator of Evangelization and Hispanic Christian Initiation:
I have been explaining our Lenten initiative to my friends, my family, my coworkers and leaders on the parish evangelization team. Last week, I met with the planning team for the RCIA Retreat for Spanish speakers at which we are expecting 500 people. I was meeting the retreat planning team for dinner to go over some details. We went to a Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring and while we were driving I found myself again retelling the story of how Archbishop Wuerl sent hundreds of invitations to the parishes and that he is asking us to give them out to people who we want to invite back. After we ate our delicious dinner, and we were discussing the planning of the retreat, we noticed that our young waiter kept coming back to the table and chit chatting in a friendly manner.
At some point he asked if we were Catholic, which he probably figured out because Father Jose Arriaga was wearing his clerics and collar. So we talked to our waiter friend, Anastasio (Father told him it means resurrection in Greek) and he told us that he always tries to go to Mass even when he has to work on Sunday, though that is not always easy. We told him that Saturday night Mass is also an option. He left us again to continue our meeting. I told Father: “Hey Father, I have with me a few Spanish invitations, why don’t you give Anastasio one and ask him to give it to a friend?!”
Father answered, “Anastasio could probably do that right here and now, just look around, all the waiters, they are all young adults.” So when Anastasio came back, Father José, who is a Scripture scholar, a former university professor, very calmly, very clearly, very much the teacher, explains the program to Anastasio, and asked Anastasio if he would be interested in helping us by giving an invitation to a friend. Anastasio smiled and immediately said, “give me two, Father.”
The four of us rejoiced in this young man’s interest in being an evangelizer. We had one of those humble moments when we collectively realized how blessed we are to have an opportunity to be part of God’s ministry of reconciliation this Lent and every day of our lives!
I fear you might be thinking that it’s easy to invite when you are a priest or an RCIA retreat team and that maybe true, so please post a story of your own. Thanks!