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Is the Church an Image of Compassion and Mercy?

May 13th, 2013by Colleen Gerke

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a courageous and good woman and mom.  A single parent of 4 children, she desires to raise her children to be adults with good morals, with an education to be productive citizens and independent, and she asks the Church to help her.  I shared with her the statics that show “faith is good for kids.”  Studies show that families, who pray together in the home, attend Church services together and have relationships with other members of their Church community usually become adults with faith.  These adults with faith generally have a higher level of education, a higher level of income and a healthier state of mind than those young adults who do not have faith.  

I said, “It sounds like you are on the right track seeking membership in the Church for your children.”

I asked, “What about you?”

She looked at me as said, “I am not worthy.”

My immediate response was, “You are worthy!”

Her response was, “You do not know what I have done.”

I said, “I do not care.  You are here today.  There is forgiveness in the Church.”

She began to sob.  My heart ached with her.   We continued our conversation and ended with a commitment from her to participate with her children in the Church’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process.  Through this process, she will gain an understanding of the Church’s mercy and love, tools to live the example of Christ mercy and love in her family and in the world.  The process will invite all 5 members of the family to join the Church, celebrating the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  She will be invited to join a community of believers that will help her and her children live the Christian life.

After she left, I was overwhelmed with emotion and humbled by the opportunity to offer this young mom hope.  I was deeply saddened that she felt she was not good enough to belong to the Catholic Church.  What is wrong with the image our Church projects if people feel they are not good enough to belong?  We have a lot of work to do in welcoming the broken-hearted!  I have much work to do to heal relationships one person and one family at a time.  I am so grateful for this powerful conversation.

Colleen Gerke

Colleen Gerke is the wife of Deacon John Gerke for over 30 years and has five young adult children and one grandchild. She is a Secular Franciscan and member of St. Clement Franciscan Parish in the Village of St. Bernard and the Director of the Family and Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.