Like many people, I drifted away from the Catholic Church in my late teens. Through my 20's and 30's I was establishing a career, relationships and home, busy with the usual responsibilities of adult life. God became a lower priority, something to think about when I had more time. In my 40's having a child brought God back to the top of my priority list, as I needed to decide whether or not to give my daughter a Christian upbringing as I had.
Rather by chance we started attending our local Anglican church and were quickly drawn in by the warmth of the welcome, the energy of the services and the excellence of the children's ministry. My faith was rekindled and we attended happily for several years, although there were a few aspects of Anglican teaching with which I was not comfortable.
When I gave up my career to be a full-time mum, I had more time to read, study and learn about Christianity. I went to several Catholic retreats and felt myself gradually drawn back to Catholicism. However, when I attended an occasional Mass in various churches, I knew no-one and felt like a stranger. One evening a Catholic friend told me about Landings, which would shortly begin at St Edmund's Church in Southampton. I sent for information and loved the sound of it. Initially apprehensive, I went along to the first information evening and found the organisers to be friendly, genuinely welcoming and not in the least judgmental. Far from being criticised as a "lapsed Catholic", I felt that the Church wanted me back and valued me. Over the eight evening meetings there was time to get to know a small group of parishioners and to hear about their faith journeys. It was reassuring that they too had experienced doubts and had periods away from faith. We explored various different approaches to prayer and heard about aspects of modern Catholicism. It was apparent that the Church had evolved from the rather frightening, punitive, authoritarian institution in which I grew up in the 1950's and 60's. Although the fundamentals were of course unchanged, I was being invited to rejoin a much sunnier, happier, more open faith than the one I had left.
In addition to our group meetings, I was also able to meet privately with one of the priests to discuss personal issues and get advice. The programme culminated in a day retreat, attended also by the two parish priests. Although there was no pressure to do so, I was by then delighted to return to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. Landings enabled me to make the decision to come back. All my questions were answered and concerns discussed. Equally importantly, I made friends with members of the parish, and through them met more people, so that I began to feel like part of the parish community. Without Landings it would have been much harder to come back and I may have continued to procrastinate, never quite plucking up the courage to make the commitment.
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