Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, finds itself on the frontlines of the battle against one of COVID’s sad side effects.
“After the pandemic lockdown ‘broke the habit’ of Mass attendance for millions of U.S. Catholics, dioceses across the country have waged a battle to bring them back ‘one by one’,” wrote Joan Frawley in her National Catholic Register story, “The Catholic Church Battles to Fill the Pews.”
She reports that in Kansas City, Archbishop Joseph Naumann sees that strong families and strong Mass attendance go hand in hand, so the archdiocese launched a program for couples seeking to improve their marriage and family life.
Archbishop Naumann has been working with Tory Baucum, director of Benedictine College’s Center for Family Life. Baucum explained that they are using Communio: Digital Toolbox for Relationships to triage problems in the community and then direct outreach where it is needed.
Ten parishes are training parishioners to serve families, inviting them to a series of dynamic events that provide a strong foundation of human and Christian virtues.
“There is a way to love in truth, so couples actually grow closer together,” Baucum told the Register. “We want to reach people on the periphery of the Church. They may be cohabitating and attending Mass infrequently, and they have never entered into the full power of the sacraments.”
Eventually, he hopes to direct families into “formation that helps them experience the sacrament of marriage” more fully and the sacrament it depends on: The Eucharist.
Thus far, the paper said, the results are positive.
“We did a family fall festival in one parish: 1,800 came,” he is quoted, “About a third were not part of the parish at all.”
“Each time we help them take a little step closer to the Church,” said Baucum. “This is the pathway to a new evangelization.”
Benedictine College is the right place to plan the recovery from the COVID lockdowns. The college was a standout in living its mission in the pandemic. The National Catholic Register and other publications reported on the way the college averted a COVID crisis by negotiating an agreement with the city defending its mission amid a student-led prayer initiative.