Here are some steps you can take if you are an inactive Catholic who is interested in resuming participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.
1. Find a Catholic parish where you feel welcome.
Begin attending Mass; participate in other parish activities to the extent that you are comfortable. This is the most important thing you can do. At first you may feel uncomfortable and strange; eventually you will get to know more people, and begin to feel more comfortable. If not, you may want to visit with a parish staff person, or try another parish. (You do not have to officially register in a parish in order to attend Mass and participate in most parish activities. However, when you are ready to resume full participation in the Church, you should register in the parish where you plan to be active.)
Click here for a current schedule of Masses in the Waterloo parishes.
2. Take advantage of adult formation and education programswhere you can learn more about the Church, the sacraments, and Catholic teaching.
• The Catholic parishes in Waterloo sponsor listening sessions for inactive and alienated Catholics; these provide an opportunity to ask questions and clarify your relationship to the Catholic Church. In addition, information and support is available in a confidential private setting throughout the year.
• The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the Rite of Christian Reception of Adults (RCRA) are formation programs for non-baptized persons and non-Catholic Christians who are interested in becoming Catholics. However, they are also an excellent opportunity for inactive Catholics who have been away from the Church for a long period of time.
Click here for information about RCIA and RCRA.
• In addition, many parishes have adult faith-sharing and bible-study groups or intergenerational formation programs which give inactive Catholics an opportunity to share their personal experiences, questions and concerns in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere.
Click here for information about adult formation and education programs.
3. Choose a spiritual guide or spiritual director with whom you are comfortable discussing your faith experience, your questions about the Church, and your participation in the Church.
A spiritual guide can walk with you on your spiritual journey, even if you are not planning to resume active participation in the Church; he or she can help you evaluate your experience, recommend resources which will help you grow spiritually, and can suggest opportunities for fuller participation. A friend who is active in the Church might be a good spiritual guide. At some point you may need to visit with a priest or a parish staff person who can answer specific questions about Church teaching or law.
4. Seek healing for painful personal experiences which may have left you emotionally or spiritually scarred, alienated from the Church, or angry at God.
Sometimes an understanding spiritual guide can help heal these painful experiences. However, in some cases professional counseling may be necessary to heal serious emotional and spiritual hurts. The Archdiocese of Dubuque provides free, confidential assistance to individuals who have been sexually abused by church employees. This assistance is provided by independent professionals, not church employees.
Click here for information about assistance for victims of clergy abuse.
5. Investigate what might be done to resolve official barriers to full participation.
If you are in, or planning, a second marriage, you can seek a Decree of Nullity (an annulment) and have your present marriage validated. Many Catholics assume that validating their marriage is too painful, legalistic or expensive, but most people experience it as a positive opportunity which provides closure and restores a sense of personal wholeness and spiritual peace. A parish staff person can recommend someone who is trained to help you work through the annulment process.
Click here for information about annulments
6. Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
When you are ready, this is the most appropriate way in which to renew your participation in the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church. You can celebrate Reconciliation as part of a parish communal penance service during Advent or Lent; however, if you have been away from the Church for a long period of time, you will find it more helpful to celebrate Reconciliation privately with an understanding priest who will guide you through the process. (Generally, an inactive Catholic should not begin receiving Communion again until he or she has celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)
Click here for information about Reconciliation
7. Here are some other steps you can take toward resuming active participation:
• If you have children, enroll them in a Catholic school or religious
education program. Participating in your child’s religious education is
a good way to prepare yourself for more active participation.
• Subscribe to a Catholic newspaper like The Witness, a newsletter like
Catholic Update, or Catholic magazines like America, Liguorian, St.
Anthony Messenger, or U.S. Catholic.
•Click here for a list of Catholic periodicals and book clubs.
• Become active in a Catholic service or social justice organization like
the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Catholic Worker House.
•Click here for service opportunities.
• Attend a renewal experience like the Christian Experience Weekend,
Marriage Encounter or Beginning Again Experience. These
experiences can help you appreciate the relationship between your
personal spirituality and Church
•Click here for a guide to Spiritual Renewal Programs.
• Use the exercise • here to evaluate your current relationship to the
Catholic faith community.
8. Continue to pray for guidance and encouragement as you make decisions about your relationship to the Catholic Church.
• Click here for prayers you may find helpful during this time.