Here at the Coming Home Network, we help non-Catholic Christian clergy and laypeople learn about and come home to the Catholic Church by sharing conversion stories, dialoguing with people, answering their questions, and discipling them on their journey toward a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.
In a world of declining Christian culture and ever-growing secularism, we focus on inviting Protestants and lapsed-Catholics back to the faith.
In a world of polarized politics and fierce public discourse, we try to bring people together by sharing stories.
In a world of globalization, hyper-connectivity, and mass media, we disciple people one at a time.
It is a mission and approach which my father, Marcus Grodi — founder of the CHNetwork and host of EWTN’s The Journey Home — envisioned and put into action over 25 years ago, and it is one that I and the whole team here at the CHNetwork remain passionate about to this very day.
What is so unique about the mission of the Coming Home Network? Why, after 25 years, do we remain so convicted of its importance to the Church and the world?
I propose, for your consideration, five crucial needs that the Coming Home Network seeks to fill in our world today — five points that, when examined, reveal the vision that drives our apostolate of reunion.
1. Christians Need the Catholic Church
Most of us in the CHNetwork are converts ourselves and have come home to Catholicism from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. Consequently, we have very personal and hard-won convictions that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus Christ founded and which He continues to guide and sustain.
We can attest, on the one hand, to the work of the Holy Spirit even amongst the divisions of modern-day Christianity. We have nothing but gratitude and respect for the faithful non-Catholic Christians who introduced us to Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures—long before we even dreamed of becoming Catholic. On the other hand, the divisions of Christianity remain a wound in the Body of Christ, a wound which we have become only more viscerally aware of through our journeys.
Today more than ever, at a time when Christians face a rising tide of secularism, heralded and abetted by an almost omni-present mass media that distracts, divides, deafens, and deadens its hearers, Christians need the intellectual, practical, aesthetic, and spiritual treasures of the Catholic Church — they need to come home to the fullness.
Christians need the firm foundation of faith found in the Church established by Christ. They need the Spirit-guided authority of the apostolic Church to guide their theology and scriptural interpretation. They need the deposit of faith and authentic teaching. They need the wisdom and example of the Church’s saints and heroes.
Most importantly, of course, they need the sacraments — the visible and efficacious signs by which Christ imparts His grace.
It is for this reason that we are so passionate about sharing the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church and discipling people on the journey home.
But let me tell you, it can be a rough journey. We know all too well the myriad barriers that stand in the way.
2. Christians Need Help on Their Journeys
For so many non-Catholic Christians who contact the Coming Home Network, even contemplating the possibility of becoming Catholic is crazy-talk. These are people who, by grace, are already radically devoted to Jesus Christ and dedicated to their faith tradition. Becoming Catholic is a step that they would have never dreamed of taking — possibly not having even considered Catholics to be Christians.
The journey home to the Catholic Church can be a difficult and lonely process, not to mention a spiritual battleground. Often, completely aside from the intellectual hurdles, conversion to Catholicism involves great confusion, doubt, and loss.
The fact that someone is even considering joining the Catholic Church is a huge moment of grace.
One of the main reasons my father, a former Presbyterian minister, began the Coming Home Network was that he, and the many other clergy converts he began to meet, had all experienced great turmoil before, during, and after becoming Catholic.
A lay person who leaves their Christian tradition to become Catholic experiences a certain level of loss of community, suspicion, or rejection by family and friends, as well as some disorientation as they enter the “strange land” of an actual Catholic parish (which may be different than the “ideal” they read about and begin to imagine during the journey).
However, a non-Catholic Christian pastor, missionary, or academic often loses much, much more. Many of these people depend on their ordination and denomination for their livelihood; many times they have no other career options or professional training, and very often have a spouse and children to support. Furthermore the loss of their ministry poses not just these practical problems, but also all manner of doubt about their sense of identity and of vocation. It can be a very tough road.
We have worked with non-Catholic Christian pastors who live in the parsonage of their church, who are faced with homelessness in addition to unemployment. We have worked with pastors whose spouse threatens to leave them, separating husband from wife and children if they become Catholic. We have worked with pastors who entered seminary right out of highschool and have no secular professional skill-set to fall back on. We have worked with pastors who, when finally seeking the aid of a Catholic or a Catholic priest, have been told: “Why would you want to become Catholic? You are fine where you are.” Some don’t have a single person they can turn to for support in this journey.
Further still, even when one of these journeyers, whether clergy or lay people, successfully is received into the Church and finds a supportive Catholic community to become part of, there remains much baggage to work out and a new culture to learn and to adapt. This process is a lifelong journey.
For all these reasons, the Coming Home Network exists. Wherever a person is coming from theologically, and whatever is their vocation or state in life, one of our Pastoral Care Team will reach out to them, get to know their needs, provide them with helpful resources, pray for them, and stick with them throughout the duration of their journey home and beyond.
Think for a moment: We are 500 years removed from the Reformation and most of the Protestants who contact the Coming Home Network never actually “left” the Catholic Church.
They were born into a non-Catholic faith tradition, such as a Baptist, Lutheran, or Evangelical community, and have since followed Christ as faithfully as possible.
Can you imagine what it means for them to finally see the Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6 and realize that Christ indeed may have given us His Body and Blood, commanded us to partake of it, and that they have not been doing so?
When you consider soberly some of the examples of our evangelical brothers and sisters whose love of Jesus, whose radical surrender to His will, whose commitment to His holy Scriptures, and whose witness in carrying out His good works in the world so often exceed our own (my own — mea culpa!), we then can only wonder: What if they had all that Christ had intended to give them? What if they had His very Body and Blood as their true food and true drink?
Indeed, if these Christians were given our personal support and discipleship on their journeys home to the Eucharist, imagine what it could mean for the Catholic Church?
3. The Catholic Church Needs Protestant Christians to Come Home
Of course we needn’t be content with simple probabilities and speculations. We can turn to the real-world evidence we already have. The Holy Spirit continues to work uniquely and unexpectedly even amidst our divisions, and converts have amazing gifts to bring home to the Catholic Church.
This is true historically, in the lives of some of the great convert saints and heroes of the Church — like John Henry Cardinal Newman, Edith Stein, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and G.K. Chesterton — as well as in our own day and age. Think of some of the “big names” that we hear around the Catholic world: Scott & Kimberly Hahn, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples, Steve Ray, David Anders, Brandon Vogt, Jennifer Fulwiler, and many more. These men and women are doing amazing things for the Church and the world.
Think too of the thousands of other conversion stories we share in our Coming Home Newsletter, on our website, and over the air through our collaboration with EWTN on The Journey Home program. These Christians are also doing much to build up the Church in their own parishes, communities, and families.
In addition to their stories, converts bring other unique gifts to the Church: an enthusiasm for evangelization, an emphasis on kerygma (proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ as a prelude for further catechesis), a love of sacred Scripture, and many other gifts. Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism reminds us of the tremendous gifts they bring:
Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.
Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 4)
4. Catholics Need Conversion Stories
Strictly on the level of the stories themselves, we constantly hear from people — many Catholics and non-Catholics alike — whose own lives were changed the fateful day they began watching or listening to the Journey Home, or reading our CHNewsletter or website. We are constantly amazed by how the stories of Protestants who embrace Catholicism often serve as a powerful catalyst of renewal for life-long Catholics.
Conversion stories have a unique power in this respect. One is reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s image at the beginning of Orthodoxy of the man who sets out in a rowboat from England to find a new world. Upon discovering a new land, he experiences a few precious moments of wonder and delight … before realizing he has simply landed back in England. Chesterton explains:
His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?
This is what such conversion stories do for the Church: they allow old and new Catholics alike to see the Catholic Church — the unique worldview, authority, devotions, sacraments, the Eucharist itself — for a brief moment through the eyes of someone who has lacked these things, but who loves Jesus and is searching for His fullness.
5. The World Needs Saints
These moments of grace — the moments in which our separated brethren are opened to the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and the moments in which we decide to reach out in fellowship and support — may have life-changing and, I daresay, world-altering consequences.
Every one of us is called to the heights of holiness, to a life of radical devotion and obedience to Christ. The task can seem impossible, but we must remember that at any given point it comes down to simply taking, in faith, the next small step that Our Lord puts in front of us, trusting that His grace is sufficient. Saints were not those who set out to do great things but those who buckled down and were faithful to the small things given to them. Step by obedient step, God used them to set the world on fire.
In his powerful article “How to Win the Culture War”, Peter Kreeft concludes:
All it takes is saints.
Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for the world? Can you imagine what would happen if just twelve readers of this article offered Christ 100% of their hearts and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?
No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It is your free choice.
As members of the Body of Christ we must be pursuing this vocation to holiness, encouraging each other in the journey, and evangelizing the world. We must especially be assisting people who are approaching critical decisions or turning points in their spiritual journeys, which brings me back to the mission of the Coming Home Network.
Our mission is to disciple fellow Christians whose next step is to embrace the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church and to share their stories for the evangelization of the world. This mission is our own “next step” in following Christ and carrying out His work. Could it be yours as well?
I leave you with the insightful words of our beloved Pope Saint John Paul II which beautifully describe both our great responsibility to disciple our separated brothers and sisters as well as the impact that such efforts could have:
Certainly, every convert is a gift to the Church and represents a serious responsibility for her … especially in the case of adults, such converts bring with them a kind of new energy, an enthusiasm for the faith and a desire to see the Gospel lived out in the Church. They would be greatly disappointed if, having entered the ecclesial community, they were to find a life lacking fervor and without signs of renewal! We cannot preach conversion unless we ourselves are converted anew every day. (Redemptoris Missio, 47)
Converts are a gift to the Church but also a responsibility. If each of us are not striving to be more converted to Jesus Christ every day and if we do not take care to be good stewards of the gifts the Holy Spirit wishes to give the Church in and through converts, gifts may be squandered and souls may be lost or waylaid.
This is why after 25 years we remain so passionate about this mission of conversion and reunion and this is also why I invite you to consider making this mission your own.
It is only through the prayers and support of fellow Catholics and converts to Catholicism that the Coming Home Network is able to share the beauty and truth of Catholicism with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters through stories, articles, videos, and other resources. It is only through such partnerships that our staff can be available to individually counsel, assist, network, and pray with people who are on the journey to the Catholic Church — people who are experiencing a crucial moment of grace.
I invite you to join me in this apostolate of conversion and reunion, both through your own personal witness as well as through support and involvement in the Coming Home Network International, so that together we might share with other Christians the great “encouragement with which we have been encouraged by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4): the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.