The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Luring back lapsed Catholics: “With hurt, there’s a call to reconcile”

There’s a renewed push in many parishes to lure back Catholics who have wandered away from the faith. And this item, about one deacon’s efforts, illustrates one move underway in Memphis:

Dressed in cream-colored robes, beneath a portrait of the crucifixion, Deacon Jack Conrad radiates religious devotion.


Assisting with a recent service at St. Ann Catholic Church, Conrad, 59, tenderly clasped a Bible to his chest, his eyes closed, with a peaceful smile across his face.

But not long ago, as a corporate executive for a manufacturing company, Conrad hadn’t darkened the door of a church for more than a decade.

As a boy, he had dipped into the teachings of the Catholic church with excitement.

A verbally abusive priest, however, and an overly generous tithe from his mother, which caused a rift between his parents, ultimately pushed him away.

“I’ve been hurt by the church,” Conrad said. “But with hurt there’s a call to reconcile.”

No major faith in the U.S. has experienced greater loss in numbers over the last few decades to people leaving than the Catholic Church.


Overall, nearly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church, according to a study earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

As concern for those who have strayed from the church takes on a greater priority among area parishes, Conrad has been recruited to tell his story to help others find their way back.

For the first time, local churches are joining together to appeal to former Catholics.

Along with St. Ann, the Church of the Nativity and St. Francis of Assisi are participating.

During the Gathering to Remember Novena, starting Jan. 29, meetings will be held on nine consecutive Thursday nights to allow people looking to return to share their good memories as well as their frustrations with the church.


“A lot of the times there are large misconceptions,” said Robert Marczynski, director of administration and stewardship at St. Ann.

For example, he said, “People think if they’ve been divorced they can’t participate in church. That’s not true.”

Continue at the link to find out how Deacon Conrad found his way back to the church.

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posted January 2, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Fascinating – thanks for posting this.As I indicated in the comment for the post above, I was away from church for a long time.For me it was a nun telling me that my recently deceased father (I was 13 at the time) telling me (and kindly telling me) that my father would not go to heaven because he was not Catholic.*Deep sigh*I never really lost my faith, which is a gift, but did lose my religious practice. I did not return for 18 years and even then only by accident.It is great to see what this deacon is doing and it motivates me to find ways to share my faith with others who might want to find their way back.

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posted January 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm

My dear Fran:evangelizing is the simplest thing in the world–JUST BE YOURSELF- and don’t put on any act of insincerity– people will soon know your timber if you are yourself—the apostles were uneducated men and the women who followed them were all humble people–look at what they have achieved–the story above is the story of a man who like many of us has seen the light–may God bless you and listen to Him/Her who you speak to—He or She will help you accomplish your goal!!!

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posted January 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm

One can hope for reconcilliation with growth and truth. However, if those trying to win people back to the church do so without the truth and clear teaching of the church, they are doing them a grave injustice. Many who left need to not only hear the truth, but need to hear what is behind the truth from someone that knows and believes. Providing a drug addict with dope and telling them it is ok because society accepts it as cool is not help just as telling a homosexual that their lifestyle is ok and acceptible. The same is true with birth control and many other issues that the liberal wing of the church tries to deviate from at the expense of the flock.

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