Theology by the Slice: How to you encourage someone to come back to church?
On November 5, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Newman Center hosted an event titled, “Theology by the Slice.” Students were able to ask a panel questions about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith. The following is one of the questions. The panel included Bishop Peter Muhich; Father Mark McCormick, Newman Center chaplain; Sister Christine Hernandez, SCTJM, chancellor; Sister Rachel Gosda, SCTJM, director of Faith Formation; Sr. Maria Belen Musgrove, SCTJM, religion teacher, RCCSS; Seminarian Robert Kinyon; and Michael Pauley, director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference.
What would be the best way to encourage one of your family members, a relative, or someone who is very close to you, to come back to church when doubts or maybe something in their life caused them to stop believing in God?
Father Mark McCormick: You have to have a patient heart. You really have to pray for them. I think through the power of fasting and prayer they might return to the church.
Never give up on them. Accompany them. It’s not being in their face, but a gentle walk with them. Also, to have conversation and dialogue as well. I think just that patient heart and never giving up.
Michael Pauly: The only thing I would add would be that there needs to be a lot of discernment on your part to try to figure out what the stumbling block for them is. What I see in my own personal experiences is that there isn’t any one reason why people are leaving the faith. It’s for a lot of small, different reasons. For some people it is fundamentally intellectual — they saw a video on YouTube and they’re like, “Wow. I had no idea that God was a myth. This is all phony!” and so they become a convicted atheist because of what they saw in a misleading video. But then other times it’s a very personal thing where maybe there’s an area of sin in their life and they felt judged harshly. The first step is to really try to patiently understand what the impediment is, and then from there talk to people, like some of the people on this panel, and get some good advice about different resources that can help people with those stumbling blocks.
Elizabeth Benzmiller, Newman Club President and Theology by the Slice Moderator: I actually really love that question. Personally, as a college student myself, I actually decided to stop practicing my faith at one point. I think the one piece of advice, as a young person that I would give to another young person in addition to meeting them where they’re at, is to embrace them with compassion and hope.