Eucharistic Congress 2017: Brandon Vogt on bringing lapsed Catholics to Church

Great Smokies camping table

We attended the Atlanta Eucharistic Congress today, for the second year running. Father Donald Calloway was the most prolific speaker last year. He captivated us with his powerful conversion story (thanks to Mother Mary) while pacing the stage and waving a rosary in hand. Enigmatic. Charismatic!

This year’s highlight is a priest of the same Marian order, Father Michael Gaitley, who is known for his 33 days to Marian Consecration/ Merciful Love/ Divine Mercy series.

Today, Brandon Vogt of Word on Fire, delivered a structured and relevant presentation which I enjoyed.

He revealed that Catholics had the highest drop-out rate in a Pew survey and this formed the impetus for his talk/ book, “7 steps to bring someone back to Church.”

First, he began with what not to do.

  1. Wait and See: He shares examples of concerned parents who confide in their priest about their child who has stopped attending mass, to which the priest replies that it is just a phase that they will grow out of… which is appealing but untrue. Not according to statistics at least.
  2. Nag: He claims that this is the most common problem that teenagers face. Well-meaning grandparents or parents who nag their offspring incessantly… only to turn them off completely.
  3. Dismiss their issues: People have a variety of reasons why they left the Church. Because of the Church’ teaching on sexuality, abortion, contraception etc. The idea, however, is not to laugh or trivialize their concerns… since most people bear strong emotional wounds arising from these issues.

So now that we know what not to do, he offers 7 steps on what to do right instead.

  1. Pray and Fast
  • He quoted the famous example of Saint Monica who prayed relentlessly for Saint Augustine. It was Saint Ambrose who shared this with her and was a turning point in Augustine’s conversion:

Speak less to Augustine about God, and more to God about Augustine

2. Prepare yourself

The first step is our own self-reflection of our faith journey. We should be able to answer in an authentic fashion when posed a question: “Why are you Catholic?”

People can sniff out a hypocrite in a mile and this is simply a great chance to share our testimony!

3. Plant the seeds

He throws out the concept of “seed gifts” which are CDs, DVDs, and books on the faith that you can plant in a person’s life which gets them thinking about God.

He made a plug for his website which introduces his top 12 tried-and-tested resources: returngameplan.com

4. Start the conversation

He shares that the correct attitude to have is friendly curiosity. Questions can take the form of: “Can I ask you a question? I just want to listen. What do you believe in and why? What is the biggest thing that is keeping you from returning to the Church?

5. Engage the Issues

Once you have opened Pandora’s box, you need to answer their objections. He references Catholic Answers (catholic.com), for simple, elegant answers.

6. Invite and Connect

Once people are open and responsive, take the opportunity to invite them to a community of vibrant believers such as a bible study group.

7. Close the loop

Once they start coming to Church regularly, however, it is not about the feel-good factor. Convince them to commit to the Faith which includes the following:

a) Connect with a priest
b) Go for Confession
c) Enter RCIA
d) Sign up for a ministry

Now I am motivated to work on my faith story and faith formation! Useful tips/ checklist indeed :).

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