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Newly returned Catholic weighs his, family's journey

Parishioner says debates, arguments won’t bring back Catholics who have fallen away

Published: November 28, 2023   
Aprille Hanson Spivey
Brian Werner, seen here with his family, has returned to the Catholic Church after drifting away.

Brian Werner, 45, faithfully attends Mass at either Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling or Sts. Sabina and Mary Church in Jenny Lind. In itself, it is not out of the ordinary. But for the better part of his adult life, the cradle Catholic was not active in his faith. 

“I always had a relationship with God that never went away,” he said. “I just didn’t see the necessity to be in church all the time, to have a strong community and bond. I’m just coming back into the Catholic Church in the last six months.” 

Werner’s story is similar to many other adult Catholics raised in the “traditions” of the faith but with no genuine faith connection to keep practicing. 

But his story is one of hope, giving a perspective to parents who might wonder if their adult child will ever return to the faith.

Werner, a married father of two, had the quintessential Catholic upbringing in Watertown, Wis., attending a Catholic school from kindergarten to eighth grade and religious education classes. 

“We went to church weekly. When I was older, we stopped going to weekly Mass. I still went during school,” he said. “We were what you’d refer to as ‘Christers,’ attending Mass on Christmas and Easter. So I just kind of fell away from the faith without having a solid foundation.” 

While a “rebellious teenager,” he told his family he was not ready to be confirmed. He would later be confirmed while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

He and his wife Jackie began attending a church in 2007 after their first child was born, knowing they were “going to need some help raising her and bringing her to God.” They primarily attended the Methodist church for about 15 years. 

Ultimately, it was a nondenominational Bible study, as well as the schism in the Methodist church, that led Werner back to the Catholic faith. 

“Protestants have taken a casual approach to worship, and it’s always changing,” he said. “... I came back into the Church because of all the Scripture, devotions.” 

While he prays his wife will one day convert, as well as their two daughters, he understands religion cannot be forced on someone else. It’s why he does not recommend parents push their faith on their adult children. 

“Perhaps if I had seen my parents more involved, that might have made a difference,” he said. “But again, I was a rebellious teenager, so there’s a good chance I would have rejected that as well. It’s really hard to say what could have been different… The harder you argue, that pushes them further. I don’t think that’s the approach.” 

Besides looking at their own spirituality, Werner said parents should listen to their adult child.

“They would know them best. Try to understand why they’re not attending Mass or falling away — is it because they’re rebellious like I was? At the time, they couldn’t have said anything different to get me back in Church,” Werner said. “Educate themselves on why the Catholic Church is the only (Christian) church, and maybe be able to have discussions about what their child is looking for.
“Debates are not useful, I don’t think, for anybody. People just tend to harden their resolve. Discuss, and that may lead them back into the Church. Identify what their objection is to the Church first and look for those opportunities to discuss it with them.” 

Werner said most of all, it goes back to prayer. 

“Praying to God, praying to the Holy Spirit to move their children,” he said. 

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