BY REV DR JOHN FRAUENFELDER
We have that innate feeling of wanting to belong. This finds expression in the longing of grandparents for their grandchildren to be baptised.
I recall Jeanne Hunt’s story about Charlotte who secretly worried about her granddaughter, Kelsey Marie. Kelsey’s parents, Kevin and Sarah, had not been going to Mass saying that they felt they didn’t belong in their parish of Holy Family which, in their opinion, felt like anything but a “holy family!”
So Charlotte is delighted when Sarah asks to use the family baptismal gown. Kelsey’s arrival has rekindled her parents’ faith and awakened a desire for a faith community.
But Kevin and Sarah feel out of touch with their parish. How can they make meaningful connections with the community?
Perhaps parish staff and active parishioners could see life moments – marriages, funerals and baptisms – as opportunities to invite people to become involved. It might be a sincere welcome that is followed up with a phone call encouraging them to participate in the community life.
Newcomers can join parish activities that attract them. Look for anything that fits your lifestyle and background – an accountant might like to assist the finance committee; a young mum might like to be with other mums; if you can sing then maybe the choir offers an opportunity to share your gift.
Feeling welcomed requires some determination and effort. If you feel like a stranger at Sunday Mass, your aversion to the cold shoulder might lessen your desire to practice the faith.
Parish groups can pray for opportunities to widen the circle of love. Prayer cannot be underestimated as a powerful force against all the negative energy that keeps people from feeling a part of God’s family.
We all desire to belong, to be part of the community. We want people to know our name and notice when we’re not at Sunday Mass. It’s not enough to suggest that our daughter, brother or friend go to church. We need to invite them to Mass and go with them.
We must help one another make connections with parishioners and stay with the effort. Remember that strong faith requires strong roots in fertile soil. Commit to staying engaged in parish life until a good root system has been established.
Charlotte looks forward to Sundays when her family joins her for Mass. She’s pleased that Sarah has made friends with other mums with toddlers. Kevin even missed a Saturday of golf to attend the diocesan men’s retreat.
As Charlotte tends her garden she thinks about the parable of the sower. Seeds grow in fertile soil. Holy Family Parish is that fertile soil of hospitality and community, and her family finally feels at home in God’s house.