The Holy Spirit has been working very hard in our parish, as always, and one of the fruits has been an idea suggested by two parishioners. They were thinking of people they had known in the parish over many years whom they had not seen at church for a long time. Of course, there can be a multitude of reasons for this e.g. a move to another town, attendance at other masses that they do not go to, illness etc. There can be other more painful reasons such as bereavement and family problems or thoughtless comments made at a vulnerable time by a priest or another parishioner that can be so hurtful that a person feels unable to come to church.
Some people go through their whole lives without any serious doubts about their faith but many of us are not so blessed and can be assailed by doubts and difficulties that can be a block to the practise of our faith. Some of our Saints have had such dark periods and have called them ‘the dark nights of the soul’.
It might be that a person troubled in some way, might very well not have anyone to talk to about it. For many people there is often a close friend or family member to discuss things with, for others they can talk to a priest but for many the very people that could be spoken to could be part of the problem as far as the individual is concerned. There may also be privacy and confidentiality issues that preclude someone from discussing problems.
So the Parish set up a service for anyone to talk in complete confidence with a sympathetic and thoughtful listener without even identifying themselves if they do not wish to; this could be a great help in dealing with a problem.
A group of trained parishioners are Listeners at the end of the phone. Callers need to be free to say anything they wish to so the Listeners have had some life experience, are not easily shocked, not judgemental, and are able to hold a conversation in confidence and to gently make suggestions as to a way forward if appropriate. This includes meeting up with people in or outside of the church or being with them when they come back to the church for the first time.
You may want to use this service yourself or you may know of friends or neighbours or family members who might be relieved to be able to talk to someone about what is stopping them from coming to church or about how to return to church after perhaps a long absence. Please tell them about this and encourage them to pick up the phone.