EWTN’s The Journey Home has become one of my favorite TV programs. The host, Marcus Grodi, himself a convert, interviews those who have become Catholic from every imaginable denomination as well as those who’ve converted from atheism. I love hearing just how far away from the Church some people were, and yet through various situations, prods, questions, and their own searching, they were led to the “fullness of truth.”
The common thread in every one of these conversion stories is the joy and peace these people have discovered.
The Journey Home show is part of the Coming Home Network (CHNetwork), a vibrant apostolate created 25 years ago to support converts to the Catholic faith, as well as those born Catholic and returning to the faith after a time away.
This past year brought more than 5,000 new converts or reverts supported by the ministry. Since the CHNetwork began tracking the numbers, that’s a record year.
Of this astounding 5,000, 195 are those whom the CHNetwork refers to as “primaries,” that is, anyone who is sacrificing their vocation and/or occupation to become Catholic. This includes non-Catholic clergy, seminary professors or students, missionaries, lay ministers, and even spouses of clergy. These “primaries” contact the CHNetwork for encouragement, fellowship, and practical advice, which often comes from existing members of the network with similar ministerial backgrounds.
“Protestants and other non-Catholics on the journey to Catholicism need to meet Catholics who themselves are faithful Christians, as well as other converts who know the difficulty of the journey into the Church and beyond. They also need to successfully land after conversion in a local parish, with a pastor, and real-world contacts,” Grodi explained, according to the Catholic News Agency. “Handling these large numbers is a wonderful challenge, because ours is a very personal mission. We work to understand each individual person’s journey and needs, and then help them accordingly.”
The Coming Home Network is a remarkable success story, particularly at a time when the Catholic Church — along with other Christian denominations — is seeing more people walk away than enter. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reports that approximately 100,000 people have entered the Church in the US each year for the last 10 years through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program. That certainly sounds like an enormous number. Yet adult conversions are actually in decline since 2000. This is at least partly attributed to fewer marriages. A primary catalyst for many adult conversions is marrying a Catholic. About 72% of adult converts came into the Church through an interfaith marriage. However, not only are Americans less likely to marry now than in 2000, Catholics are less likely to marry in the Catholic Church. The number of marriages in the Church declined by 44% between 2000 and 2016. The Pew Research Center reports a decline in U.S. conversions to all Christian faiths including Catholicism, while those self identifying as “unaffiliated” with any religion are increasing. But those who are finding the Church are glad to be home. Grodi says “a day doesn’t go by when we don’t receive grateful calls, emails, tweets, and texts from viewers and listeners.”
As to what those former Protestant clergy are doing in the Church now that they’ve become Catholic? They’re serving “in every imaginable way as bishops, priests, deacons, and religious,” says Grodi, “but mostly as active, faithful laity.”
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