Kokomo, Indiana Catholic parish offers more than pray, pay, go away.

St. Joan of Arc’s youth group has more than 100 kids in it.

“We have a really vibrant faith community here,” Bath said.

But there’s always work to do. The church is constantly searching for ways to strengthen the faith of practicing Catholics, bring back the non-practicing Catholics and find those who have no faith tradition at all, Bath said.

The catholic school — which serves both St. Joan and St. Patrick Church — is a good avenue for that.

Second-grader Aubrey Lewis talked Thursday about her Lenten sacrifice. She gave up candy this year and her parents gave up meat.

This is Aubrey’s second year at Sts. Joan of Arc & Patrick School, and it’s a special one for her family.

They all decided to convert to Catholicism this year. During the Easter Vigil, they will officially become members of the church.

Bath said 11 people are joining St. Joan this year.

For Aubrey’s family, it all started at the school.

Bath said she thinks kids who grow up in the Catholic school are less likely to drift away from the church as young adults.

Their religious education helps them understand what they’re doing at Mass and why. And at the school, they learn it’s OK to have open discussions about faith and Christ, she said.

“When you’re formed in the faith, it takes root in you,” she said.

Beyond the school, the diocese has implemented other programs. Sometime soon the bishop — the leader of the diocese — will host a lunch for young adults in the church. He will meet with them to hear questions and concerns and share stories, Bath said. It’s a way to give them a voice.

Kokomo also just hosted the Holy Family Catholic Conference, a weekend event with games, speakers and workshops for Catholics of all ages.

Bath said it was meant to strengthen the church family by making it feel more like a tight-knit community.

“It makes a big difference when you don’t just walk in, worship and leave,” she said.

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