EWTN Catholic Q&A
Re: Family members who are nonbelievers
Question from Lily T. on 01-16-2013:

Dear Father Echert--You had a recent post from someone who refused to attend non-sacramental marriages of family members and did not want to associate with them. I am a revert to the Catholic church, and my faith means everything to me. My husband is Episcopalian and my children were raised in that faith, although neither of my sons attend church and my daughter attends a Baptist church. My elderly mother is a devout Catholic--my three siblings are basically atheists. So you can see that I am up against it in my family. However, I do not avoid them--we all have a close relationship and I strongly believe that I can be a beacon of light to them. I talk about my faith quite a bit, and even had an opportunity recently to talk to a five-year-old grand-nephew about Jesus when his non-believing parents were in another room! This little boy was like a sponge, soaking up everything I was telling him, full of questions about Jesus and heaven. If I had a policy of avoiding these non-believing relatives, this moment would never have occurred. I pray for them all every day--for the conversion of their hearts, but I also feel that I need to spend time with them. My younger son is dating a young lady who also does not believe, and I took her to lunch and told her how important my faith is to me. Just yesterday she told me she is looking for a new job, and I told her I would pray for her at daily Mass, and she thanked me! So I urge anyone who thinks it is not a good idea to associate with non-believing relatives to think again--you never know when a seed will be planted in someone's heart.

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 01-23-2013:

I am in agreement that one need not cut off from family members, UNLESS there is a compelling reason. As I recall, this past poster found herself spiritually frustrated and hurt by continued contact, since family members harrassed her. I also urge against attending invalid sacraments, which grants credence to that which is wrong and can be construed as support for something evil. But I do agree with you, as to your situation and continued contact, other matters not withstanding or impeding this.

Thanks, Lily

Father Echert