The following comes from a Jan. 31 story in Catholic San Francisco.
Nearly every Catholic knows a former Catholic. According to Pew Research Center, about 13 percent of U.S. adults said they were raised in the Catholic Church, but no longer identify with it.
How the church can respond to this mass exodus of members has been an ongoing topic of discussion. But one Burlingame parish ministers to disconnected Catholics by offering them the opportunity to discuss their concerns in a small group setting.
“Landings,” an international Paulist Fathers ministry started in 1989, is a discussion-based program led by laity at Our Lady of Angels Parish. It is designed to help people who have drifted away from the church or who attend a parish but feel disconnected from their Catholic faith.
“It really felt like home, like a safe place to be vulnerable about your fears, about the Catholic faith,” said Viennelyn Copero, who went through Landings two years ago after a long period of spiritual searching.
Copero told Catholic San Francisco she had grown up Catholic but left the church in college, feeling that she was not being “spiritually fed.” At other Christian churches, she found communities she liked but that ultimately left her feeling unsatisfied. A flyer at Our Lady of Angels told her about Landings, and led her back to the church.
Capuchin Father Michael Mahoney, Our Lady of Angels’ pastor, said people in Landings feel free to discuss their past experiences.
“They can voice their opinions or doubts without feeling they’ll be reprimanded for expressing what they know or feel.”
Father Mahoney added that many participants felt they left “a rigid, rule-bound church” and were surprised “they were able to express their views, even views struggling with dogmas of the faith.”
He added that “even if they cannot embrace the church and all its teachings and doctrines fully, they’re still welcomed. And sometimes that’s a revelation to them.”
The Landings program lasts for 10 weeks, with each meeting focusing on Catholic themes and questions. Early sessions discuss “Who is God?” and “Why follow Jesus?” while later sessions cover such topics as the sacraments and Catholic life….