Reach Out to Others
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
March 11, 2021
Holy Family Parish is taking a deliberate approach to welcome
less engaged Catholics back after pandemic
ROCKFORD—Catholics around the nation are looking at ways to welcome parishioners back as COVID numbers and restrictions ease up.
Dominican Sister Teresa Rickard, president and executive director of Renew International, says, “I would be doing things leading up to the fall and going into next Christmas. People have to be creative, innovating. It can’t be about maintenance, it’s got to be about mission.” 
At least one Rockford diocesan parish is planning to further their mission of evangelization in new ways.
“Right now we have the vision, but we are just in the planning stages,” says Father Phillip Kaim, pastor of Holy Family Parish.
He announced those plans in his Feb. 14 homily, saying, “Only disciples of Jesus Christ make other disciples of Jesus Christ.  That means the point of our Christian existence is to multiply ourselves as best we can before we leave this earth. When we fail to do this as a Church, we lapse into a maintenance mode, losing our true identity.”
With that homily Father Kaim launched the Deacon Frank Zammuto Memorial Fund for Evangelization, named for a parish deacon who died unexpectedly just weeks earlier. 
Hopes are to raise enough to pay for the first three years’ salary of a new parish position of evangelization director.
Reaching out to neighbors
Father Kaim and an evangelization committee at the parish are working with evangelization coach Matthew Schwartz to make plans for “Neighborhood Host Families” among parishioners who have not been as engaged with the parish as they may have been before the pandemic came along.
Father Kaim and parish staff first heard about what was called a “block captain” concept from Rich Curran, executive director of an organization called Parish Success Group, who spoke at a diocesan Ministry Day a few years ago. 
Curran served Holy Family as a consultant for a bit over a year — and his contract with the parish ended “right as the pandemic started,” Father Kaim says.
Curran had just begun to talk about the neighborhood groups, Father Kaim says, adding that the pandemic hit before Holy Family had been given the tools for such a project. 
Curran’s Parish Success Group didn’t survive the financial challenges of the pandemic, so Father Kaim contacted Schwartz (who had worked for Curran for two years) and hired him as a consultant for the next three months “to help us roll out the Neighborhood Host Family system.”
Father Kaim is optimistic about the project.
“I think we’re all in a unique time that is a challenge and an opportunity,” the priest says. 
To illustrate the challenge, he mentions a Catholic Leadership Institute survey of 225,000 Catholics who, pre-COVID-19, went to church every Sunday. One third of those weekly-Mass Catholics admitted they were going out of habit, and “most habits take about six weeks to break,” Father Kaim says. “The Sunday obligation was dispensed. On St. Patrick’s Day, it will be a year. We’re all wondering if they’ll come back.”
He is not one to wait to find out. “We need a very proactive approach,” he says. “We can’t just open the doors and hope they return.”
Neighbors help each other
As pastor, he views evangelization as a relational ministry. The Neighborhood Host Families will be trained to help 10 parish households in their neighborhood create a relationship with the parish. Parish staff also will be trained.
“I think a lot of people have just drifted away from the Church,” Father Kaim says, pointing to business guru Stephen Covey’s “four quadrants of time management” to illustrate where many end up placing church and spiritual matters: the Number Two Quadrant of “things important, but not urgent.”
These folks, he says, “recognize the importance (of faith), but it gets put on the back burner. We can help bring it to the fore (and) deepen the relationships between the parish and those 10 host families.”
Father Kaim calls “all this social isolation” of the past year a “great opportunity (because) we are made for community, and people, whether they know it or not, are hardwired” for that ...
“All the parishes should go out there and welcome people back (when the pandemic is essentially done). People are ripe for these kinds of overtures ... we’ll have to gauge the (time) when people will be willing to be receptive and not feel that COVID-19 would spread to them” through the program.
No matter the still-unknown timing, Sister Rickard agrees with Holy Family’s approach, suggesting that parishes tell people: “We miss being together, we’ll be together soon ... (do) personal outreach, telling people you care about them and (showing them) the power of community.”


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