By Susan Gately - 06 December, 2013
Every Catholic family in Kildare is set to receive a picture of Pope Francis for their home in a new outreach campaign spearheaded by Bishop Denis Nulty.
The bishop of four months has made a present of an attractive A5 size portrait of the pontiff as part of his 2013 Reach Out campaign.
‘Reach Out’ was begun by Bishop Jim Moriarty in 2004 after a consultation process in the diocese highlighted the priority of reaching out to youth, newcomers and those uncommitted to parish life.
Each year following this, small gifts were distributed to families around Christmas time – often with a message encouraging the family to pray together, and to reach out to their neighbours.
In 2005, for example, each family was given a candle for itself, and one to give to a friend or neighbour who was not involved with the parish community.
“My hope is that when you look at his portrait, you will think of the Holy Father’s powerful words, calling on us to reach out with the message of Jesus Christ,” writes Bishop Nulty in the accompanying Christmas card.
In his message, he prays that the Pope’s words and inspiring actions “will lead us to a renewed belief in the healing and hope that is the gift of Christ. I think particularly of those who feel alienated from the Church and those who see no meaning or joy in life at this time.”
The card contains a quote from Pope Francis which compares the Church to a “field hospital after battle”.
“I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today, is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity, ” the Pontiff has stated.
The message continues, “The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.”
In an interview commenting on this, Bishop Nulty urged his flock to “Meet everyone, include them, welcome them. Be a Church that sees people coming in rather than the reasons why you should stay out.”
He emphasised that the campaign was aimed beyond those who are regular church goers.
“Reach Out is not just for ‘Mary’ and ‘John’ who are at Mass every Sunday. Hopefully it’s for reaching beyond Mary to her son, or to John’s brother who maybe don’t practise as regularly and who don’t feel as comfortable in the fold of Church, that they would literally be ‘reached out’ to, towards the stand that ‘Jesus is the Saviour for all of us’.”
The gift pack also contains a prayer card with, on one side, a prayer for families to say each day during Advent, and on the other, a special prayer for Christmas.
Distribution of the 40,000 Christmas Greeting packs began at the start of Advent. The gift packs are available in Kildare’s fifty-six parishes.