What is Operation Information?
It is the mobilization of all the priests, nuns, brothers, and laity of a province, diocese, or parish, under the direction of the proper Church authority, supported by a campaign of prayer, to fire practicing Catholics with apostolic zeal, win back lapsed Catholics, and try to share the faith with non-Catholics. It is a crusade for souls.
Why should the laity be asked to take part in operation information?
For several reasons:
1. Every Christian is bound to share his treasures with those who are in need. Faith is our greatest treasure; we must share it with the churchless millions among whom we live.
2. Every Catholic is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, a living cell in a supernatural organism which carries on Christ’s life and work in the world. He must have the mind of Christ; he must be zealous for the salvation of souls.
3. Every confirmed Catholic is called to be a soldier of Christ and given sacramental grace to fight for Christ.
4. The popes have summoned all Catholics to the apostolate.
Can you quote the summons of the popes to all the laity?
Yes. St. Pius X once asked a group of cardinals, “What is the greatest need of the Church?” One replied, “More schools”; another, “More churches”; and others gave various answers. “No,” said the Saint. “The greatest need is for zealous lay apostles in every parish.”
Pius XI is known as the pope of Catholic Action. Here are some of his words: “The clergy are quite insufficient to cope with the needs of our times. All men must be apostles. To do nothing is a sin of omission and it may be extremely grave . . . What would the Twelve have done, lost in the world’s immensity, if they had not called aloud to others—men, women, old and young—saying: ‘Let us carry forth the treasure of heaven; help us to distribute it’?”
Pius XII said, “The missionary spirit and the Catholic spirit are one and the same thing . . . A Christian is not truly faithful and devoted to the Church if he is not equally attached and devoted to her universality, desiring that she take root and flourish in all parts of the earth.”
How would the visiting be planned?
A complete list of all the streets in the parish with the number of houses in each street would be made. This would then be divided conveniently into districts according to the number of pairs of visitors available. The literature and census cards necessary for the visitors would be obtained in good time.
How are visitors recruited?
By the priests and the committee, in consultation with them. Experience has shown that the success of Operation Information depends on the care with which the visitors are chosen and the thoroughness with which they are trained and do their job. All who are invited to serve as visitors should be made to understand that they are privileged to be asked to serve the Church in this way.
How many pairs of visitors will be needed?
It depends on the size of the parish. The minimum number of homes assigned to each pair should be forty, the maximum a hundred. On this basis a parish of 5,000 homes (Catholic and non?Catholic) would require at least 50 pairs of visitors.
Is it advisable to visit in pairs?
Yes. It is mutually encouraging to the visitors, more efficient, more impressive for those called upon, and safer.
How are they trained for their work?
For some weeks before the visiting begins they meet the priest once a week. He gives them careful instruction, firing them with zeal, warning them against indiscretions, explaining the technique to be followed according to the type of people they are likely to meet—in short, doing everything possible to insure that the visiting is carried out charitably and efficiently.
How can the visitors prepare themselves for Operation Information?
They will, of course, take part according to their capacity in the preparatory crusade of prayer and support their work throughout, where possible, by daily Mass, Holy Communion, and the rosary. Each evening’s visiting might well begin with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Following the talk by the priest at the weekly meeting, they should take part in a discussion. Those already experienced in door?to?door work, such as Legionaries of Mary and Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul, can contribute much helpful advice for the benefit of all.
Will the visiting be resented?
Hardly ever. All must understand that their calls are to be made with great courtesy, tact, and kindliness. They are to avoid all controversy and to thank the person at the door, doing their utmost to leave a good impression and, if possible, win that person’s friendship. Fr. John O’Brien, who has directed such crusades in many dioceses, writes: “As a result of careful instruction the visitors made their calls most successfully, and, far from arousing hostility, they found that the overwhelming reaction of the families called upon was one of gratitude and pleasant surprise that Catholics were sufficiently interested in them to extend an invitation to them to attend Catholic services and the inquiry class. So favorable was the impression made by the visitors, and so wholesome an effect did the work have upon the visitors themselves, that parish priests were heard to say before the crusade started: ‘If this crusade doesn’t win a single convert or reclaim a single lapsed Catholic, it will already have more than justified itself. For the first time our Catholic laity have become truly apostolic and missionary minded, and we are breaking down the barriers which have so long kept us from fruitful contact with outsiders.’”
What is the purpose of the visiting?
To provide the parish clergy with accurate, up?to?date lists of all the people in the district so that they can cater zealously and efficiently for their needs; to discover lapsed and nominal Catholics and invite them to return to their duties; to invite non?Catholics to Catholic services or events specially arranged for them, such as the inquiry class, and to offer them information about available correspondence courses or to leave with them a booklet about the Church.
Does the visiting begin with a ceremony?
It may well do so. All the visitors could assemble in the church at an appropriate time (say Sunday afternoon), hear a final exhortation from the priest, and receive his blessing. In some places it has been found effective to arrange a holy hour on this occasion.
How long does the visiting last?
It normally should be completed within a week and the census cards immediately returned to the priest or official appointed by him. Their contents must, of course, be regarded as strictly confidential.
What is the procedure when visiting?
The following is suggested. When the door is opened, the visitors say pleasantly: “We are members of the Catholic Church. The priest is trying to bring the parish registers up to date. He asked us to call to see whether there are any Catholics living here.” This may at once elicit information upon which subsequent conversation will be based, for example: “No; but we used to be” or “My mother was a Catholic.” If the answer is a simple “No,” the visitor might ask if the person or anybody at the address would be interested in visiting the Catholic church. The answer will reveal whether it would be tactful to extend an invitation to the inquiry class, to offer information about a correspondence course, or to leave a booklet.
What happens when lapsed Catholics are discovered?
The visitors tactfully offer to call again to accompany members of the family to Mass, to confession, or to see the priest. If this proves fruitless they offer a copy of the Catholic Truth Society booklet A Letter to Lapsed Catholics, suggesting that it will prove helpful. A note of the address is made on the appropriate census card to enable the priest to call later.
Do non-Catholics respond to an invitation to attend catholic services?
Sometimes. Many conversions have resulted from the acceptance of these invitations.
Could not a special event be arranged especially for interested non-Catholics?
Yes. It is usual to invite them to an Open Day. On the first Sunday after the visiting has been completed, all the visitors assemble with their wives, husbands, and older members of their families in the parish hall or school room, with the priests to welcome all—non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics—who accept the invitation to attend. It is well for the visitors to accompany strangers to this meeting if it can be arranged. The first hour is spent in social mingling, getting well acquainted over a cup of tea. The second hour could be devoted to a tour of the church, convent, and school with explanations of what is to be seen there.