It’s the number one request on prayer cards returned for the Because We Are Catholic appeal, and it was on the mind of many people who commented during the Synod of Bishops: Family members and friends who have fallen away from the Church.
Now, a Hellertown woman is starting a ministry to help.
The first St. Monica Ministry Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert at St. Theresa Parish, Hellertown, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21.
“Like St. Monica, those who cherish their faith experience a unique anguish when a loved one leaves the Church,” said Celeste Behe, who is organizing the ministry at the request of the Bishop.
“The goal of the St. Monica Ministry is to offer hope to the families of the fallen-away, to provide opportunities to console and encourage one another, to petition Our Lord as a community, and to share gentle strategies for evangelizing those who no longer are active Catholics.”
Behe hopes that other parishes will host St. Monica Ministry events in the future.
St. Monica prayed patiently for the conversion of her husband and her son, both of whom eventually became faithful Catholics. Her son, Augustine, went on to become a saint and a Doctor of the Church – someone who is recognized for a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through research, study, or writing.
For Behe, the issue addressed by the St. Monica Ministry strikes close to home.
“Back in 2007, one of my sons declared himself to be an atheist,” she said. “Since then, two more of my nine children have left the Church.
“It’s heartbreaking but statistically unsurprising,” she said, “since eight in ten Catholics leave the Church before the age of 23.
“Although many families are bearing the cross of loved ones leaving the Faith, there don’t appear to be any suitable support groups,” Behe said. “The St. Monica Ministry is meant to give those families the chance to hope, wait, pray, and fast in community.”
All are welcome to attend the Mass and to pray regularly — and patiently –for the return of those who have left the Church.
A St. Monica Ministry Holy Hour and Presentation are planned for Jan. 11 at St. Theresa Parish. For more information or updates on this ministry, email Behe at StMonicaMinistry27@gmail.com.