By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Pastoral teams from 21 parishes in Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County and Montgomery County met Feb. 4 at St. Christopher Parish hall with representatives of the archdiocesan Office for the Formation of the Laity to learn more about the “Make Every Person Count” program.

It calls for teams of mostly lay volunteers to fan out through their parish in home visitations during the four weekends of March. Similar information and training sessions have been held at other locations in the Archdiocese over the past few weeks.

“We are there to support you in the ministries of your parishes,” said Maryanne Harrington, director of the Office for the Formation of the Laity. She reminded her audience that the universal Church is coming together in this Year of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Everyone, she said, “has been called to evangelize.”

Make Every Person Count has the ambitious goal of visiting every registered Catholic household in each parish during Lent. It is reminiscent of the annual visitation and block collection, except that it is primarily a lay initiative and there is no monetary collection.

The three-fold purpose, according to program literature, is to reconnect with inactive Catholics, conduct pastoral visits and update parish records. Also, as part of the program, packets of information will be distributed and any comments or suggestions the householders might have will be noted and relayed back to the parish.

Parishes that participate will first assemble a core committee, then train volunteer teams during the month of February. It is recommended the volunteers, in best biblical tradition, go out two by two for the home visitations. Each pair should be assigned no more than 25 homes for visitation over the four weekends, although families who were not home should receive a second attempted visitation.

Doing the math, this would mean a parish with 1,000 registered households would need 40 teams, or a total of 80 volunteer visitors for blanket coverage. Franciscan Sister Louis Alff, who coordinates parish evangelization for the Office for the Formation of the Laity, said if an entire visitation was not possible a parish could do a partial visitation at this time and more at a later date. In any case, the program is flexible and can be adapted to inspanidual parish needs.

“We already do this in our parish, and we’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember,” said Diane Clifford of St. Albert the Great Parish, Huntingdon Valley.

The only difference, noted Angela Forrest of the same parish, is asking people’s opinion about things that happen (or should happen) in the parish. “We haven’t done that before,” she said.

Dick Heim, representing St. Leo Parish, thought the program is something that is sorely needed and worth trying. “The big problem will be getting volunteers, but we have some dedicated people,” he said.

George Stromeyer of St. Martha Parish said his parish has never had a similar program, but “the presentation was well done and well received.”

A number of pastors attended the meeting along with the lay representatives. Among them was Father John Gabin of St. Dominic Parish, who suggested the program reminds people of who we are. “We are a missionary Church and we should reach out,” he said. “Hopefully it will work, enlighten the faith and spread the Word.”

Sister Louise had encouraging words for the home visitors: “Christ walks with us. He promises to give us authority. We bear the name Christian because of Christ, and Christ means the anointed one.

“We are anointed for the mission. The mission is the same mission that Jesus had – the mission of bringing the love of His Father to all people.”