An Interview with Fr. Rick Bolte
By Deacon Dave Profitt
Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Fr. Bolte and discuss the United Catholic Movement. I wanted to get his input on some of the questions he had been hearing along with some that I had been asked.
Father Bolte, we’ve been hearing about this United Catholic Movement at Mass. What is this and is it another program the Church is trying?
The United Catholic Movement had its start in October of 2016, Bishop Roger Foys, Bishop of Covington, asked seven priests to work with a facilitator to develop a plan to help non-practicing Catholics to come back to Mass. They’ve developed a mission statement: Bringing All Catholics Together. The plan is continuing to develop; it is not scripted as a program is. Also, unlike a program, there is no end date. It is a movement without end as we realize more and more that we, the people of God, are a missionary church.
Why are we trying to get people to come back to Church? Isn’t this their decision to make?
Jesus’ parting words were “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20) The gift of faith that we have received is only fully realized when we share it. When we have good news that can benefit others, we are normally anxious to share it. To be able to hear God speak especially through the Scriptures, to participate in the Sacraments, and to know God and be in relationship with him are gifts we can’t keep to ourselves. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7) Reflecting in our hearts on the gifts we’ve received, the excitement and joy can’t be contained. It is a personal decision for a non-practicing Catholic to return to Church. But for someone gifted with the faith to fail to invite, would raise questions about the depth of their faith and/or why they would not want others to benefit from it.
If someone is not sure how to approach somebody to ask them to come back, what would you suggest?
The first step has to be letting go of our need to have them say “yes.” We are extending an invitation; we are not salesman dependent on the success of our sales job. The invitation has to begin with a concern for the other. Why do we invite? Because we have good news to share. The best invitation is to recognize how valuable our faith is to us and so why we believe it is good for them. Our personal witness of why we are active in our faith and what we would like them to have is the essence of the invitation.
Some people don’t really feel comfortable in talking about the teachings of the Church if they’re asked. What’s important for them to know?
The most important thing to know is that you don’t know everything. If they ask questions you’re not sure of the answer to or they have an issue with what the Church teaches – refer. On the cards you are giving out are the ways to contact each of the priests and deacons directly, they can be a part of the discussion at [email protected], and they can search the web site www.formed.org.
We often hear from people about trying to get their kids back to Church. Do you have any advice for that?
You can’t argue that other churches may be more entertaining or fun. However don’t underestimate the fact that your children do value prayer and their relationship with God. Reminding them of what the Eucharist is all about can remind them of what is so special about the Catholic Church.
Coming together as sinners, welcoming each other not as someone better than anyone but as a community of people who need the mercy of God.
For Christ to truly be present in our midst is a blessing requiring faith but of immeasurable importance. We don’t just remember what Jesus did but we are aware of what He is doing now, in our presence. He knows us, he know the way we get lost in our efforts to be the good person we long to be, and he comes among us. The sacraments make our relationship with God physical enabling us to more fully encounter God. To see Jesus present and to receive Him into ourselves is an encounter beyond words. It’s not just an idea but it is experienced.
Having received Christ into ourselves, we are aware that the gift is not dependent on how good we are but how good God is. The gift is God’s willingness to be with us as sinners on the journey of our lives. His mercy reveals the love that overcomes sin in our lives as we no longer look elsewhere to prove who we are. Christ, now within us, trusts us to be his presence to all we meet, sharing the good news we’ve received.
If we ask somebody to come back to Church and they say no, how should we respond to that?
Accept their answer. However be willing to listen to whatever concerns or issues they have. DO NOT TRY TO DEFEND THE CHURCH OR ANY PERSON THEY ARE OFFENDED BY AND DO NOT TRY TO ANSWER ALL THEIR CONCERNS. Being concerned about what is blocking them from returning communicates your concern for them. That alone may be the gift they can receive at that point. However, if there is an opening, share with them why you go to church anyway.