Many of my Catholic Facebook friends have been sharing an article about Catholicism in the South. The story in the National Catholic Register features several quotes from Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor for the Diocese of Knoxville.
I liked the article because it corroborates many of the things I’ve been thinking and saying for several years. Here’s my favorite part:
“Our Protestant brothers and sisters have done us a great favor. Talking about faith here in the South is like eating, breathing, and sleeping,” said Randy Hain, a managing partner at Bell Oaks Executive Search in Atlanta and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life, an online magazine. “There’s an openness about faith here which makes it easier to be open about your faith if you’re Catholic.”
Smith, who grew up in Colorado, suggested that it is easier for Northern Catholics to take their faith for granted because most of their friends belong to the Church. “It doesn’t really challenge the Catholics there to know their faith as well or be able to explain it clearly,” added Lisa Wheeler, founder of Carmel Communications, a Catholic marketing firm in the Atlanta area.
But in the South, where they are a decided minority in predominantly evangelical Protestant population, Catholics must constantly defend their faith. As a result, they come to cherish it, Smith said.
The article credits two main things for the growth of Catholicism in the South: transplants and converts. Transplants, like me, moved here from areas with a larger percentage of Catholics. Converts are those from other faiths who decided to join the Catholic Church via the RCIA program. As the article states, converts are enthusiastic about their belief. I know converts who chose to become Catholic after researching the beginnings of their own Christian faith and realizing that they wanted to be part of the original church and to share in the Eucharist as Jesus instructed.
At the party my wife and I attended last night, our friends were talking about the vitality of our Diocese and the upcoming Eucharistic Congress. Some of the biggest names in the church will be the featured speakers. One of our friends pointed out that Bishop Stika had personally invited Pope Francis to attend the Eucharistic Congress too.