Yesterday was the final meeting of the "Cranky Catholics," my parish's "Catholics Returning Home" series.
Every group is so different. This was a quieter session, little fireworks, no arguing (there's a difference), no finger-pointing. Part of that was the individual personalities, but part was the reason is that nobody in this session felt really injured or damaged or cheated by the church. The one who seemed to have a deeper hurt was our only dropout the first week. This was a group of what I sadly think is the norm among Catholics 30-60. They feel that they were undereducated in their Catholic schooling of decades past; they feel undertaught now, from the pulpit; they feel unconnected with their fellow parishioners, or don't know what they are thinking, if they believe, if they have faith.
That third item is where this group made the most progress. Each has said privately or in the group that the individual testimonies of team members and seekers meant so much to them. And now we have to let them go, back into the parish. We have a followup system we'll use, and the team members described when we each go to Mass, during the week or on Sundays, and even where we tend to sit. Maybe just knowing that they can sit near one of us will get them more readily to church.
So, what can you, our readers, learn from this? Tell your story to people; don't hold back. If you get a chance to begin a sentence "When I finally learned what the Church taught about...." or "When I went more deeply into my faith...." or whatever works for you, do so. People want to hear stories; they want to see someone happy to be a Christian; they want frankness and honesty, and they can tell when they get it.