"You just can't assume that people will be Catholic because of cultural influences," said the Rev. Kenneth Boyack, president of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. "This is one of the elements that leads to this sort of urgency of evangelization."
Some of the efforts are taking a cue from evangelical Protestants.
"A good percentage of people who are in the megachurches are former Catholics," Father Boyack said. "They're really attentive to try to connect to people exactly where they are. And the language they're using is not great theological language."
Megachurches, experts say, effectively use sermons that link Scripture with everyday problems. They also use pop music, social events, the Internet, informal settings and small-group fellowship to foster a sense of community.
"They're not leaving because they don't like the Catholic Church," said Tim Kruse, executive director of the Evangelical Catholic, a group in Madison, Wis., that helps campus ministries develop programs to foster evangelical life. "They're leaving because Protestant evangelicals have communicated the Gospel to them in a meaningful way."
Megachurches are a good deal of what's wrong with Christianity.
Buddhists have traditionally proslytized, too. And explaining the Dharma in order to help others is a good thing. But that's not in the same league as the "trying to close the sale with the hard sell" techniques of many Christian evangelists. So when I read:
When the Rev. Robert Barron talks about why he thinks Jesus is the answer to what is missing in people's lives, he mentions St. Augustine's writings about the restlessness of the human heart. He also evokes less common figures in Roman Catholic sermons: Mick Jagger and Bono.
One sings about not getting satisfaction and the other about not finding what he was looking for, but both rock stars address the same sense of longing, said Father Barron, 46, a theology professor at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.
"This is what Billy Graham has always done," said Father Barron, the host of an evangelical Catholic radio program and the author of seven books. "To show, you're not satisfied, are you? I've got what can satisfy you."
I can only reply: you are prescribing a medicine for which I do not have an illness, and moreover, your medicine would merely give me another head on top of where I already have one.