Volunteers from Ballmagraorty’s ‘Big Invite’ project have been knocking on doors across the parish to extend the hand of friendship and ask people to return to mass.
Originally the brainchild of lay people from the Three Patrons Parishes of Galliagh, Carnhill and Pennyburn, the initiative seeks to engage with what are often described as “lapsed Catholics” and invites parishioners to actively particpate in hearing the word of God.
“I can’t take credit for this at all,” said Father Paddy who has gathered a total of 36 volunteers from the area to knock on doors between 7.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. each evening until they have reached out to all 2,500 parishioners.
“I would say that 80 per cent of people in our parish now don’t go to Mass,” continued the local priest.
“Numbers have been slipping for more than a deacade and that’s all over the world and not just in our parish. I would say that the child abuse scandals are a factor, but they are not the whole reason why people have fallen away from Mass.
“Why should they come back? I explain it to people by using the imagery of a phone charger; if you come to Mass you’ll get plugged in.
“People need to be constantly reminded of how much God loves them and if people know they are loved and cherished, they can do anything, they can change the world.
“Telling the parish how much God loves them is usually the thrust of my sermons and we are lucky that we have a congregation that loves to sing as well. People should come away from Mass uplifted and feeling better for having come along. What did you do on a Sunday morning, did you lie in bed or did you come along to here the word of God?
Father O’Kane also said that Mass is a vital part of bringing and holding the community together.
“As Catholics we are on a faith journey together and we do not exist alone; we are all part of the body of Christ and we can express that by coming to Mass.
“Parents of children who are making their First Communion this year should be aware of the importance of setting an example by coming to Mass.
“If a child sees that a parent does not go to Mass, then he or she will question how important that sacrament really is.
“They will think ‘oh well if my mammy or daddy don’t ake communion then why should it be important to me?”
Father O’Kane also expressed his delight at the revitlasing influence that Pope Francis continues to have on the church.
“His wisdom, compassion and his non-judgemental attitude have made his a very refreshing and revatlising the Papacy.
“No one man can fix all the problems of our church but Pope Francis is doing great work indeed and has taken us back to the word of God, to the Gospels.
“On his recent visit to the USA he showed us humanity with his visits to the homeless and his meetings with victims of abuse.
“He assured them that bishops who covered up abuse would be dealt with by the church. He can’t solve all the problems, but he’s making a very good effort.
“These are all very positive moves forward.