“Those people who are upset with the church’s teaching — on women or birth control — a lot of them stay; they just don’t agree with the church,” said Reese. “Some do leave, but they tend to become unchurched, or join more liberal Protestant churches.” Convincing them to join a new Catholic tradition can be a challenge.
But at St. Anthony of Padua, a number of parishioners who were discontented with Roman Catholicism have found the parish on their own, though the group remains small.
Stuart and Elke Andrews, both psychologists, found St. Anthony of Padua online and have been attending for six months. “I was raised a Catholic and was looking for that, but something that had an openness and was accepting of others,” Elke Andrews explained.
Cathy and Rob Frye, who described themselves as listless Catholics, found the church when their daughter was getting married; unlike Roman Catholic priests, ANCC clergy will conduct a Catholic ceremony outside of a church.
“The community is warm and welcoming-it truly feels like a community,” said Rob Frye.
The church is led by the Rev. Jason Lody, one of the ANCC’s founding priests. A gregarious former Franciscan, Lody peppers his sermons with an emphasis on faith in action and says he’s determined to imbue the parish with the egalitarian spirit of Vatican II.
The church has faced some stumbling blocks, most notably its lack of a permanent home. But Lody recently located an Episcopal church nearby whose congregation is willing to share the space with his, and says the move will free him up to finally implement an outreach plan.
“I want to create a perception of stability,” explains Lody. “The people coming to us have the option of not going anywhere. We want them to see they can have a full expression of their faith here. We can be that bridge.”
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