In our diocese we have begun training Evangelization Teams in parishes using a combination of The Evangelizing Laity from the USCCB webinar series and The Evangelization Jump Start Kit from Paulist Evangelization Ministries. Every time in the training when we reach the section on home visitation I hear the same comment, “That’s not something we can even consider doing.” Home visits seem the most foreign, overwhelming and scary aspect of evangelization for Catholics. I began wondering if there was a way to gradually introduce the experience of home visitation to Evangelization Teams and Catholic parishioners. One great idea is to begin visits with those who have recently come to the parish for sacramental and other reasons.
Sometimes Catholics come to a parish for the baptism of a child, First Communion or maybe Confirmation without any real connection to the parish. Instead of bemoaning the possibility that parents and children might disappear again until it is “time for the next sacrament,” why not try to establish a connection at the time they do come to the parish?
Our diocese is piloting a program in a few parishes to begin with the sacrament of Baptism. During the pre-baptism preparation, parents will be told that a month after the baptism there will be a home visitation by members of the parish. The purpose of the visit will be to continue the connection of the parents established through the recent experience and let them know that the parish is there for them. The couple or team will do a short survey that covers the recent experience of preparation and celebration of the sacrament, and also ask if there are other needs to which the parish can respond. They will talk about the different ministries of the parish, and leave information and a small gift from the parish such as a candle or booklet on Catholic parenting, or something else suitable for the parents.
Training for visitors in pilot parishes begins in September. We hope that such a program will eventually be extended to the times when people approach the parish for the other sacraments and other celebrations, such as funerals and quinceañeras. I believe that if Catholics experience and see positive results from such home visitations, they might feel more confident to begin reaching out to other disconnected Catholics. As a child learns to walk one little step at a time, it is my hope that Catholics can gradually move from a negative view of home visitation to one that recognizes it as a vital part of our role as evangelizers.