Your Church is Waiting for You!
By Margarita Mendoza, Editor El Observador
March 16, 2023
DIOCESE—There is a place where you are welcome and where you can find peace. It is a spiritual home, and that place is your church. 
The Diocese of Rockford created a “media campaign to invite Catholics back to Mass,” says Penny Wiegert, director of communications for the Diocese of Rockford. That campaign aired on television and social media from Feb. 17-26. 
It was, Wiegert says, “an attempt to give Catholics a nudge to come home, especially now that Lent is beginning.”
Since the pandemic, some Catholics have stopped attending Mass in person, have ceased going to adoration or participating in parish community activities. 
Reasons to attend Mass in person:
To keep God at the center of life.
⇒ God has requested our participation.
⇒ Mass enriches life.
⇒ It is an example for our children.
⇒ It embodies gratitude and respect to God.
⇒ It is a sacred and specially dedicated place for prayer.
⇒ To create and be part of the community of faith.


Maddy Bar, communications coordinator at St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles, notes that Msgr. Daniel Deutsch, V.F., pastor, and Nicholas Frank, director of vision and evangelization there, developed “welcoming and embracing” campaigns for St. Patrick parishioners.

She herself was attracted by the inviting messages. Bar remembers that when she first arrived from Michigan for her job interview, she decided to go to Mass at St. Patrick’s. When she read the big banners on the church entrance that said ‘You Belong Here’ and ‘Start a new chapter here,’ that was “an extra reminder that I was in the right place,” she says.

This initiative of invitational phrases has motivated non-practicing as well as practicing Catholics to return to the Church in a more active, participative way. 
One banner message is: “Discover your Home here.” Father Lisandro Cristancho, parochial vicar, says one woman found a “good surprise” when she went to the parish church downtown. 
“She said she was new in the area, and she was looking for a place to go to Mass,” he recalls.
When she read the banner, the woman said she thought, “They were waiting for me here. This is the place.” 
The banner stated exactly what she was looking for, Father Lisandro says.
St. Patrick Parish also has implemented ALPHA, a 9-week course that “explore life, spirituality, and the Christian faith in a fun and nonjudgmental environment,” says the parish website. 
Crystal Villagómez participated in the program. 
“It’s hard to explain the feeling,” she says, “but I felt ‘home.’ (It was) like walking into your own home after a long day at work. It felt more than ‘This is what I’m supposed to do’ … 
“During the ALPHA classes I learned a lot about me and what I’ve been looking for all this time. It wasn’t just the church I needed … It was God … and the help of the right people to guide me to understand all this time it’s been the Holy Spirit calling me … 
“God wanted me to serve him and not just ‘live life’ but ‘live life for the Lord,’” she says. Crystal and her husband have four children, and she now is a volunteer in the parish — her parish.
“Either the Church ‘goes forth’ or she is not a church; either she is on a journey, always widening her space so that everyone can enter, or she is not a church,” Pope Francis said even before the pandemic.
Statistics show that after the pandemic, many people stopped going to church, especially young people. “Only 58 percent of young adults report the same level of religious attendance in spring 2022 as they did a couple years earlier,” according to the Survey Center on American Life.
Why come back?
“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church at number 2181. 
Indeed, the Third Commandment of God’s law is to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Returning to Mass in person, in a church, is vital because God has requested it, and Catholics are meant to be part of their faith community. It is important for children to have training in how to live their faith. Each Catholic church is a place dedicated to the prayer and worship to God. 
What could be better than to dedicate a special time to God, with all willingness to listen to his Word and be enriched by his message and the Eucharist?
In short, Sunday Mass helps people prepare for their week and helps each person to have God as the center of their life.
The pandemic now is mostly over, and all are welcome to return to church. 
Your spiritual home is waiting for you!


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