Pope Benedict XVI last week opened a meeting of Roman Catholic Church leaders to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). During that meeting, he focused on how the Catholic Church can counter rising secularism and embrace a "new evangelization."

He is calling for a "Year of Faith" in honor of Vatican II. As part of this, he's asking all churches to embrace such traditional actions as praying for and extending an invitation to lapsed Catholics to return to the church. We ask area clergy how their congregations are responding to this and other calls to action.

The Rev. Peter Garry, St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Southold:

To evangelize means to pay attention to the Gospel, to "Belong More Deeply."

There are an awful lot of people out there who are "marginal" Catholics, what some call lapsed Catholics. As a diocese, we're putting the word out to congregants to sit down and think of those people -- spouses, children, siblings, neighbors -- who are Catholics who are not currently attending services. I'm asking my parishioners to write a lapsed Catholic's first name down on a card, and we'll pray for all the names given in the hopes they'll return to services.

Our hope is that the prayers and personal invitations -- from congregants and from clergy -- may sway someone to return. Maybe the name is of someone who got a divorce and thought he or she wouldn't be welcome. Maybe it is someone who is new to the area. By doing it as a community effort, I think it will make it more comfortable for individual congregants to extend themselves to others. We've only got about 500-700 families in the parish. Half the people are related to each other, so it should be easy for congregants to contact someone they know.

The Rev. Gregory Cappuccino, St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, Wantagh:

It is not so much creating new programs as it is welcoming people back to the church. Some people may not be very far along in their faith journey. We want to meet them where they are. How can we help them in that journey? If we attract new people in the process, that is wonderful. But it isn't about attracting non-Catholics to the church, but about welcoming Catholics back.

This need to welcome people back to the fold is not exclusive to Catholics. This deterioration of attendance is happening in all denominations. We're not out to be sheep stealers. We don't want to take from another church or another group. This is about reconnecting with Catholics who used to attend but stopped for some reason.

I recently spoke at all our services about the importance of laypeople in this process. One initiative we are beginning is that each person prays for one person they know that he or she will return to the church. During Advent, each parishioner is to ask that person he or she has been praying for to attend at least one Advent service.

The Rev. William Brisotti, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church, Wyandanch:

Since Vatican II, we have enacted many things that came out of the council. Last week, we had a PowerPoint presentation for 100 people. As I prepared for that presentation, I thought about how Vatican II already has impacted our congregation.

We took very seriously the teaching of Vatican II, particularly the statement Pope John XXIII made: I hear your voices. That was the sense that the church was hearing the world, not just pronouncing things to it. He wanted to celebrate the richness of people and of all religions.

Since the 1970s, in Wyandanch, we have extended ourselves to learn about others. For example, we learned the catechism of the local Lutheran Church. We looked for things we had in common, worked together in the community on social issues.

Vatican II also called on us to embrace and inform the laity. We thought this was so important that we made it a budget item to financially help people who wanted to take classes to help them develop a deeper understanding of the faith.

Many things of Vatican II, we've always done. What I would ask of other parishes and the church is: What will you do once these lapsed Catholics return? It is more than just bringing them in. You have to understand why they left in the first place and address those issues together.