April 23, 2012

No one gasped when Judy Payne told a parish group she hadn't attended Mass regularly in 25 years.

They didn't raise their eyebrows when she admitted she had married outside the Catholic Church.

The pastoral sensitivity of the Inviting Catholics Home group at the parish in Ballston Lake, N.Y., and the parish's welcoming environment persuaded Payne to become a parishioner.

Videos on changes the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s brought to the Church made Payne and other returning Catholics "realize (that) a lot has changed," she explained.

"It's not so strict and rigid."

Becoming an active Catholic again "felt right."

That decision followed decades of church-shopping, misinterpreting dogma and feeling shunned by people in the pews.

Despite believing that her Catholic school education in the Schenectady area had instilled values, Payne fell away from the church as a teenager because she could no longer relate to a lot of the rules – she remembers inventing sins during mandated monthly confessions – and because God was depicted as punitive.