Evangelizers of note: using music to draw people to church

From The Toledo Blade, a story about a creative way of reaching out to immigrants:

Using popular music to lure new and former Catholics is one of several outreach strategies the Church has undertaken in recent years. “According to church studies, people have been leaving the Catholic Church because they weren’t comfortable,” said Deacon Jose Garcia, diocesan director of Hispanic pastoral ministries.

Deacon Garcia credits the  Rev. Juan Francisco Molina, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, with re-emphasizing outreach efforts to make the church more inviting to families, especially youth and non-Catholics. Father Molina has also tried to eliminate a sometimes cold and intimidating atmosphere often associated with Catholic churches in general, resulting in part in lots of up-tempo Latin music during services.

Six years after Father Molina took the pastorate, Sts. Peter and Paul has grown from about 150 people to five times that membership, with more than 1,000 people attending Spanish and English Masses there, according to church records.

Deacon Garcia is a native of Matamoros, Mexico, and Father Molina is from El Salvador, where the Church plays a much more integral role in the lives of families.

“When I arrived here, Father Molina reminded me how it was in our countries,” Deacon Garcia said. “This country is not the same. He told me, ‘Don’t just stay in the building. Our job is to go out and help people.’” Both Deacon Garcia and Father Molina make home visits. And on the first and last Saturday of each month, families are encouraged to spend the day at the church, where parents cook breakfast and lunch and the families eat together, they participate in family activities, and in the afternoon the children play games outdoors. Beginning this month, all 160 children in the church will have an opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument of their choosing.

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