How one diocese is inviting people back to the Church this Christmas

Artist: Gerard van Honthorst. Public Domain.
Artist: Gerard van Honthorst. Public Domain.

.- As part of a recent evangelization outreach, the Archdiocese of Detroit is launching a Christmas campaign to welcome Catholics who may have been away from the Church.

“This is the way that we are responding to the invitation to share the Gospel with others. This is part of the transformation of being a mission-oriented diocese,” Edmundo Reyes, the archdiocese’s communication director, told CNA.

The campaign is called “Part of the Family.”  Its goal is to create a welcoming environment at Mass and encourage evangelization among the parishioners through virtual tools.

Reyes said these efforts are an extension of the pastoral letter “Unleash the Gospel” released at Pentecost last year. The letter followed several years of preparation, including a year of prayer in 2014 and a synod meeting in 2016.

He said the campaign includes three parts: evangelization training, videos, and a newly published website, specifically focused on Christmas Mass times.

“Our hope is that, with these combined efforts, people that attend Mass once a year or are there for the first time, they experience what we are calling radical hospitality,” he said.

“We target at Christmas knowing there are people who come there for the first time or they haven’t been with us for a while,” he said. “One of the things is we want to be unusually gracious and hospitable for people that come to our churches.”

The first component of the campaign was a day-long evangelization event that included discussions, training, and resource material. More than 800 people from over 120 parishes in the archdiocese attended.

According to the Detroit Catholic, one of the speakers broke down the Gospel into four essential parts. Fr. John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, said the Gospel’s message is on the goodness of God found in his creation, sin and its repercussions, God’s response to sin, and mankind’s response to God.

Hospitality was another major focus of the event, which was held Nov. 16. Regular Mass-goers were presented with simple steps to make people feel welcome, like greeting strangers and sitting in the middle of the pews to allow room on the outsides.

The second element of the campaign is a series of Christmas videos, focusing on the universal Catholic family and God’s incarnation, Reyes said.

“We are all part of the same family, and it’s hard to imagine, but we are celebrating God becoming part of our family. So let’s do it together,” says the narrator in the video. “This Christmas, we are thankful that you are one of us, a Catholic, part of the family.”

The first video was released on Saturday, Reyes said, and it has already received roughly 30,000 views. He said more videos will be released weekly.

In addition, paid ads will be run on spotify, youtube, and social media, inviting people to attend Christmas Mass and bring their friends and family. The ads will use geoparameters to reach people in areas near churches in the archdiocese.

The third aspect of the campaign, Reyes said, is a new website, massfinder.org, to help people navigate Christmas Mass times in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He said the website is accessible, giving people an easy way to discover Mass times and invite friends and family.

“If we want to be truly hospitable, the first encounter the people have with us is going to be trying to find out what time Christmas Mass happens.”

The website includes “share buttons” for people to send links of a specific Mass time via social media, email, or text. When it is shared, the user has access to a virtual reminder of that Mass and a map to the parish.

Especially during this season of giving, Reyes said, the most important gift that can be given is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father.

“This is a time we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, God becoming part of the family. And that's the theme - Part of the Family. We want make sure that people feel welcome and invited in the celebration of Jesus' birth.”
 

Tags: Catholic News, Evangelization, Christmas, Detroit