Catholic parishioners at churches throughout the Diocese of Allentown listened to a special request from His Excellency Most Rev. John O. Barres, Bishop of Allentown during the Year of Faith Weekend.
"I am asking you and every active Catholic in the Diocese of Allentown to invite one inactive Catholic back to Mass during the Year of Faith," the bishop said. "I am asking young active Catholic families to invite young inactive Catholic families back to Mass. This is a very practical step of the evangelization and it could have incredible results."
The bishop said that researchers from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently determined that Catholics are the largest religious body in the United States at 45 million and roughly 22.5 million Americans are former Catholics or inactive Catholics.
"That makes former or inactive Catholics the second largest religious group in the country," the bishop said. "These inactive Catholics or former Catholics are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, maybe even our parents.
"We work alongside them and they live next door to us. Many are personal friends and some are lifelong friends. That is why at the beginning of this Year of Faith I am asking you to ask an inactive Catholic to return to Mass.
"These kind invitations, even when they are not accepted immediately, do so much good and often build a bridge that leads many people back to the faith. We want our Catholic parishes to be so on fire with the love of the Holy Spirit and so warmly welcoming that inactive Catholics will rediscover their true home as soon as they open the door of their parish church. If we do nothing else to participate in this Year of Faith, we will have accomplished much."
"The Pope titled his apostolic letter that called for the Year of Faith 'Porta Fidei' which is Latin for 'the door of faith.' In his letter, the Pope wrote 'the door of faith is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into this Church.
"So if each of you holds open the door faith for someone you know who hasn't crossed through that door in some time, it may be...for that person...the nicest thing anyone has ever done for them. Again, I am asking you and every Catholic and every Catholic family to invite one inactive Catholic and one inactive Catholic family to come back two Mass.
"Thank you and God bless you."
Speaking after Mass at St. Joseph Church in Jim Thorpe, Pastor Father Francis Baransky mirrored that message.
"We would like to welcome all inactive and former Catholics back to St. Joseph and Immaculate Conception Churches," he said. "That's what the Year of Faith is all about, to open the doors of the church to our neighbors and friends who are not with us, and we miss them, and we want them home."