To help encourage those who have been away from Sunday Mass, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has launched a simple effort called “Come to Me,” with the hopes of drawing people to Mass.
“The last two years of the pandemic have obviously been incredibly challenging,” said Pete Burds, the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the archdiocese. “The wholehearted prayer of people right now is ‘Lord, give us rest!’”
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“This invitation from Jesus to ‘Come to me,’ is an incredible, potentially life-changing invitation,” Burds said. “Our hope is to help people come back to Mass, but it’s ultimately to have to friendship with Jesus Christ lived deeply within the Church. For those whose faith may have been hanging on by a thread, this may be an opportunity to return and grow as Christ’s disciple.”
“Come to Me” is an initiative in the spirit of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s pastoral letter, “The Gift of Sunday,” which was released in January. But even further back than “The Gift of Sunday,” this effort has its roots in the 2014 Archdiocesan Synod, which identified Evangelization and Sunday Mass as one of the top priorities. COVID-19 certainly had a major impact on Mass attendance when the dispensation was lifted in September 2020.
“We’re seeing that Mass attendance in our parishes hasn’t gone back to 100 percent of what it was before the pandemic,” Burds said. “In light of that, and declining Mass attendance even prior, we’ve been deeply wrestling with how do we effectively invite people back to Mass?”
As part of the “Come to Me” effort, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will provide parishes with communication assets, evangelization training and catechetical resources to both call and welcome people to Mass. Burds describes this as a two-pronged evangelization effort: through communication efforts (social media, website, videos, etc.) and training in how to evangelize, personally inviting people to Mass.
“The two things you don’t talk about at a cocktail party are religion and politics,” Burds said. “People tend to avoid taking about faith. However, part of the very fabric of what it means to be Catholic is to evangelize. Talking about Christ to others is what he has called us to do. This needs to be at forefront of what we’re doing. In the Catholic view of evangelization, it’s simply proclaiming Christ, either by our words or by the witness of life. To live an attractive life of invitational joy that others are drawn to.”
“Evangelization is a lot simpler than people think it is,” Burds continued. “You don’t need to know everything about the Catholic faith to be able to do share the love of Christ with others.”
An aspect of “Come to Me” is to train a Mass-going Catholic who is alive in their faith and help equip them to welcome and invite people they are already in relationship with to come closer to Christ. To say, “Who are some people in your life that have some sense of trust with you that you can invite to Mass?”
“That has to do with people who are already attending Mass regularly, going out and inviting friends and family and co-workers, whether it’s the first time or (they are coming) back to Mass since the pandemic,” Burds said.
Now is the perfect time to invite people to reconnect to their local Catholic community, rediscover Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist, and renew their “normal” with Jesus at the center of their life.