Most of us have had experiences in more than one parish over our lifetime, I think I’ve been a member in around five or six different parishes, but some of you may have attended the same one all your life. Regardless of how many or where they were, we know that what we understand about worship and community has to start at the parish that we associate with as our own. That’s why the US bishops have targeted parish life as another place for us to focus our efforts in evangelization.
I hope when you hear the word “evangelization” that you’re not thinking that it’s directed only towards evangelizing random people on the streets. Because I feel that the bishops are also speaking to those of us already in the pews. For instance, how many people do you see at church sitting in the same seats week after week that you don’t know their name? How quickly do you leave Mass when it’s over? Or when was the last time you signed up for something in a volunteer capacity at church? We can always improve our own experience of community by getting involved, which in turn, helps us to reach out to others.
Ultimately the parish is where the faith is passed down, lived, and sustained for all members of the Body of Christ and most especially for those members seeking to return.
Our parish communities aren’t perfect. There are always things we want to change whether it’s the style of music at the mass we attend, the decorations, the homily, the temperature, you name it, I’m sure someone’s complained about it. But it all really comes down to what we make of it. Each of us as individuals makes up the parish community. It really is up to us to ensure that hospitality is being promoted both in and out of the church doors.
So here’s a small challenge should you choose to accept it. The next time you’re at Mass if you don’t know the name of the person you’re sitting next to, ask them what it is. That’s it. You don’t need to engage them in a lengthy conversation, just ask them their name and tell them yours. I’m going to try it at my own parish and I’d love to hear about it if you do the same in yours. I think we’ll be amazed at what a simple gesture like that can do. Not just for the other person, but for us too.
Photo by Frank Jasper, OFM