Franciscan and Lay Partners Reach "Once Catholics"
CINCINNATI--The Franciscan friars of Cincinnati
have initiated a national outreach on the Internet inviting and
helping people to return to the Catholic Church. The name of the
web site, www.OnceCatholic.org,
is based on the saying, "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic."
Easter is a time when many inactive Catholics visit a Catholic
Church. But others stay away.
A national survey by the U.S. Catholic bishops
finds that Catholics most often leave their Church over dissatisfaction
in at least one of several areas including marriage issues, poor
parish relationships, offense by a Church authority, belief differences
or even simply moving and never reconnecting with a parish. The
new OnceCatholic.org web site offers an online discussion area
for each of these topics, as well as educational materials from
St. Anthony Messenger Press and a searchable listing of local
"Come Home" programs around the United States. St. Anthony Messenger
Press is a publishing service of the Franciscan friars of St.
John the Baptist (O.F.M), the same province that is sponsoring
The goal of the site, according to Fr. Greg
Friedman, O.F.M., one of the Franciscan friars behind the effort,
is, "to offer people a welcoming place to stop in on their quest
for spirituality, with the hope of eventually re-connecting them
with a local Catholic parish." Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., another
project initiator, links the outreach to the life of St. Francis
of Assisi, the 13th-century Franciscan founder. "We're doing what
Francis did--but with new technology. Many people haven't lost
their faith but are looking for a new way to relate to God, a
way that makes sense to them as adults."
Each of the discussion areas is staffed by a
team of pastoral ministers, called "companions," who specialize
in that area of outreach. This team consists of women and men,
priests and laity, drawn from different regions of the United
States. As traffic to the web site grows, the list of companions
will grow, too. "The Internet is providing a new way for people
to minister to each other," says John Bookser Feister, editor
of the site. "We're able to reach out to people everywhere, and
we're able to recruit staff who can work from anywhere connected
to the world wide web."
The companions use screennames while online
to protect confidentiality. "Special care was taken to be sure
everyone's privacy would be protected, both the public and the
companions," says Father McCloskey. Visitors have the option of
posting their question anonymously in a public discussion area
or seeking a personal answer via e-mail.
Inspirational and welcoming content on the site
is updated daily. "We know that people expect the Web sites to
stay fresh," comments editor Feister. "We will achieve that with
fresh input from visitors, a daily reflection and weekly welcome
messages from our editorial staff at St. Anthony Messenger. We
also expect our listing of local programs to grow dramatically
as word spreads about this site." For those seeking more in-depth
information about Catholic beliefs, the site is linked to a search
engine at AmericanCatholic.org, St. Anthony Messenger Press's
popular, five-year-old Web site.
has received the enthusiastic endorsement of Archbishop
Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, as well as several other
Permission is granted to reprint this release.