In the Saturday, January 9th issue of the Rapid City Journal, the following article appear. Thanks to Mary Garrigan for spreading the word on this program.
FAITH IN ACTION
by Mary Garrigan
Class welcomes back inactive Catholics
With about 65 million of us in the United States, Roman Catholics make up the largest religious denomination in America.
But, as Greg Sass can probably tell you, inactive or lapsed Catholics – people who have largely given up practicing the faith they were born into – comprise the SECOND largest “denomination” in the U.S.
According to the adherents.com Web site, surveys show that perhaps one-third of baptized U.S. Catholics no longer attend any church, and millions more have found new faith homes in other denominations. At more than 22 million, non-practicing Catholics far outnumber Baptists or any other individual Protestant churches.
In his role as coordinator for a Returning Catholics class in Rapid City, Sass is all too familiar with those statistics. He’s one of several volunteers leading a Returning Catholics class that began Jan. 5 and continues for the next five weeks at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Rapid City.
People leave the Catholic Church for many different reasons, Sass said, so it only makes sense that they also explore returning to it for a variety of reasons.
“But we always tell them, it doesn’t matter the reason you left … there is always a path back to God, because God has never left you and he loves you,” Sass said.
The class, offered three times a year, uses Sally Mews’ book, “Inviting Catholics Home,” to provide correct information about Catholicism and its doctrine that many “cradle Catholics” may have missed the first time around, as well as inform them about changes to the Mass or church practices.
As a member of Our Lady of the Black Hills Catholic Church in Piedmont, Sass initially dragged his feet before getting involved in his church’s mission to foster an ongoing program to welcome back inactive Catholics.
“The short answer is God asked me to do this,” Sass said when asked how he got involved with Returning Catholics. Still, it took him “most of a year before I finally said yes.”
Early in 2007, he attended a church workshop, on a completely unrelated topic, that planted the first seed about starting a ministry to inactive Catholics. He ignored several more attempts to involve him in the Returning Catholics ministry, including a message from God.
“Later that summer, while doing my morning prayer, I had a thought, or ‘vision’ where my wife and I were driving a sports car down a superhighway heading toward a beautiful mountain. In my ‘vision,’ I then started to notice people along the road, trying to figure out how to get onto the same road. That is when I noticed that it wasn’t a sports car, but an empty bus, and I was to help people get onto the road. Still, I did nothing.”
Finally, in December, an empty parish ministry sign-up sheet got his attention.
“I currently coordinate the ministry, and facilitate many of the sessions, but a team of three or four attend all sessions, often rotating the facilitator role. In addition, there are presenters for the topic for the week,” he said.
While it’s best to attend all six sessions, people can come to any of them, he said. Registration is not required, but Sass encourages interested people to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 787-5168 so he can have enough class materials available. The next class will be Tuesday, Jan. 12.