BFTM*

As I mentioned in a recent column, just before classes began on campus last month, our peer leaders participated in CorsairWorks, a leadership retreat. During that retreat we covered a number of important topics and offered them a number of workshops, all culminating in a session on hospitality and evangelization. 

We spoke about how on a very basic level, hospitality is about relationship and hospitality can inspire evangelization by creating a wonderful place for people to be and people are willing to share the Good News with their friends and invest in it with their time, talent, and treasure. 

As we talked during the workshop session, we told them how important it was for each of them to reach out to others and to be hospitable to the students, faculty and staff with whom they might come into contact. They are “in the field” and have an opportunity to reach out to many more of their friends than we, the adult ministers, might see in a day.

We spoke of a very simple idea — “Bring a Friend to Mass!” It is something that I had worked on with various parishes in the diocese several years back with youth ministry groups. 

As we developed the idea, they came up with a name for the activity which played upon today’s text messaging vocabulary. BFTM — Bring a Friend to Mass. Not only did I like the name but I really liked the concept. I felt that they had hit on something very simple and doable. That is the goal, but we have some work to do before we can get to there.

I’m not sure about most of you, but when I hear that we as Christians are called to change the world, I look at that as a very daunting task. The world is a very big place with lots of people. Sometimes such a large task may make us give up because it looks so impossible. But with this concept of BFTM, we weren’t talking about the world; we were talking about just one other person.

Many years ago, I lived a Cursillo. A Cursillo is a movement of the Church that challenges each and every person to be a Christian leader and to bring about a change in every environment in which we live, work or play by bringing people in those environments closer to a relationship with Christ, one person at a time — using the tools of prayer, study and action. When I first learned of the Cursillo mission, I could easily identify with it and I felt that it was achievable. I couldn’t change the world, but I could work to change the various environments in which my life connected with others and in bringing others to know Christ, slowly but surely we could begin to change the world — one person at a time.

So, when I heard the concept to bring a friend to Mass, that concept fit in well with the challenge that Cursillo gives us. We all have friends and I’m sure many of our friends may or may not have knowledge of or a relationship with Christ. While it may be premature to invite each friend we have to Mass right away, the concept does open the door for us to begin to “set the stage” to do so. At the retreat we talked about their inviting some of their friends to perhaps Pasta Night at Newman House, or some other social activity. Then over a period of time, as the friendship grew and trust was established, perhaps their friends would move on to Spiritual openness, curiosity and seeking and finally becoming intentional disciples, as Sherry Weddell’s states in her book “Forming Intentional Disciples” which many regard as one of the most important Catholic books of this decade.

When you are in a group, whether friends, school, work or even the Church, take some time to think about those with whom you come in contact. Perhaps, if they are not known to you, you might even consider getting to know them. I’m not saying you should get up on a soap box and start rallying the folks around you as a preacher might do. What I am saying is perhaps we can do more to share our life in Christ with those we know — one person at a time. When is the last time you mentioned Christ in a conversation with a friend or acquaintance? You may not want to shock or turn off a friend by being preachy, but we can share a life in action — where what you do and say will bring others to ask why you act the way you do and hopefully will want to emulate that lifestyle. Or we can share stories of our lives and how we have been touched by Christ along the way. Whichever way you choose, we need to step out a little and start that process. Who knows what it will bring? It can only bring something good. Perhaps over the months and years to follow, you will, through your words and action bring that friend closer to a relationship with Christ. 

One important fact that I once read in the Vision for Youth Ministry document, tells us that we cannot only work with the churched youth or young adults. Many people are in different places in their Spiritual lives. Different people have different needs. An effective youth ministry or campus ministry program tries to meet the needs of all. Most young people are not going to accidently walk into our churches and say, “Here I am!” We adults and others in ministry to youth need to meet the needs of all of the youth and young adults in our area by going out to them. 

So in that simple idea to Bring a Friend to Mass, the peer leadership team has come upon a real understanding of youth and young adult ministry even though they may not know it. We’ve already seen evidence of their hospitality and outreach having an effect on campus and I’ve seen it work in parishes, too.

I recently read an article by Father Stan Bilinski. He stated very simply, “True youth and young adult ministry always reaches beyond the Church walls.” He mentions that we need to enter the world of young people and young adults and demonstrate that we care about and be hospitable to them first. 

Relationships change lives more than any program ever will. So let’s get out there and BTFM!

Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife Kristine, and is the father of two daughters and their husbands, and a 20-month-old grandson. Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net

*Bring a Friend To Mass.

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