Parishioners encouraged to leave their comfort zone

Parishioners encouraged to leave their comfort zone The second Mercy on the Mall in Skycourt Shopping Centre, Shannon, took place on 8th December 2016.

With bishops urging parishioners to be “creative and original” in encouraging family members and friends to come back to the Faith, the initiatives they have developed in their own dioceses set a shining example of how Catholics can be innovative in their own personal spheres of influence.

The Mercy on the Mall event which has been running in Shannon’s Skycourt shopping centre for the last four years shows that it’s not enough for Catholics to sit in their own areas of comfort when it comes to evangelisation, but that they need to go out and meet people where they’re at, be it at their homes, workplace or place of recreation. Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe said that initiatives like these allow those who are lapsed or have no interest in the Faith to encounter it in a new and surprising way.

“Initially when people see us there, they kind of smirk and look past and look back and then they realise that there are people lining up and genuinely are interested in it. They do take it quite seriously. Certainly, at this time of year there is more of an interest in that,” he told The Irish Catholic.

Likewise, the Reach Out initiative in Kildare and Leighlin is premised on the idea that Catholics need to enter the trenches if they want to touch the lives of others. Beginning in 2004, parishioners are given two gifts, one of which is to be passed on to a family member, friend or neighbour who is no longer going to Mass or connecting with the Church.

The radical move of reaching out a hand to those who no longer practice could be enough to move the hearts and minds of those lapsed.

Explaining the project, Bishop Denis Nulty said: “It’s about inviting people back, trying to be as inclusive but also being very clear about the truth of the message of Christ and the message he has for us.”

The Lightfever events, which run throughout the year in the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, follow a similar pattern where street missionaries will go in pairs onto the streets and invite people to come inside and experience a special atmosphere of music, prayer, Confession, candlelight, allowing people to spend some time in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

In all of these initiatives, one theme seems to stand out: parishioners must go to where people are at, rather than remaining in their own silos of comfort. This radical call to action is something Catholics should all reflect on this Christmas.