My MIL left the Church shortly after my husband started college. She “church-hopped” for a while and eventually settled on a non-denominational, contemporary music style place that was just starting up and had a very charismatic pastor (who had broken off from a more mainline Protestant faith and felt called to start his own church). My FIL, who is not Catholic and had never practiced religion at any time since knowing my MIL, saw her enthusiasm and eventually began attending with her, and they got really involved with it, overseeing different ministries, etc. Both of them were “re-baptized” there (we were invited but declined to attend.)
Well, as we expected might happen after a few years, they have gotten a bit disillusioned with it, attendance has dropped off, there’s not a lot of money coming in, and they’re not happy with the pastor anymore. So they’re church hopping again. We’ve become aware through some conversations that MIL was really poorly catechized as a Catholic growing up and even though she continued attending Mass while DH was growing up, almost all of her non-Mass faith life was done through Protestant devotionals and TV evangelists, so it’s not a surprise that she ended up where she ended up. I’ve never really explicitly evangelized her because I felt it wasn’t my place, although I talk about the activities we do through our parish (one of her big complaints is that there’s “nothing for Catholics to do” besides sit in the pews and listen to the priest…which IMO is funny because on the one occasion we attended their “church” all we did was sit and listen to a very long sermon, with a contemporary song at the beginning and then at the end) and the faith practices we have as a family.
My husband would like to encourage his mom to return, but isn’t sure how to do so within that family dynamic. Our parish has materials on encouraging family members to return to the faith, but it’s very “parent encouraging child” oriented and here it’s switched. Of course we know that at this point whatever theology they’ve been getting where they were going could have given them some very strange ideas about Catholic beliefs and practices, and we can defend those on an intellectual level, but he also wants to be sensitive to the fact that he is talking to his mother.
(On a practical level, it boggles our minds that they are now travelling over an hour away from home to attend another non-denominational place when there are five Catholic parishes within twenty minutes of their home, that we go to all the time when we visit and are very good.)
MIL can’t be completely opposed to Catholicism because she gives us Catholic items as gifts (some she buys herself, some were things that belonged to her mother who was a very devout lady). She talks about all of us worshipping God and that she knows that Catholics are Christians (which was apparently a controversial position for her to old at her old “community church.”) So we feel like there is some opening there, but are just stuck on how to start a conversation.