Thursday, May 27, 2010


This may seem trivial but it bothers me like a June fly incessantly circling my head. You try to ignore it but eventually it gets to you and today is a shot at taking a swat at it hoping that it will go away. (I fear few people will agree with me and so I must learn to live with the buzzing.)

It concerns a phrase used often in the Catholic Church and I can think of no place less appropriate to use it. It usually takes a form similar to this one: “Good morning! And welcome to Saint Wearehappy Parish.”

Sounds rather harmless at first does it not? But exactly WHO is welcoming WHOM? Is there a “we” by which I am being welcomed? And if so is the person welcoming me more a part of Wearehappy Parish than I am? I could understand if I were a visitor and I was being welcomed or if I had been away for a long time, say serving in the military, and came back after a few months or years being welcomed, but if this is my parish week after week, why am I being welcomed to it?

Coupled with this is the phrase, “Please join us.” Join WHO? The rest of the parish of which I am obviously not considered a full member? Now, if there is a specific group to which you are soliciting my participation I could understand that such as, “Please join the choir as they perform their winter concert,” or “Please join the Chesterton Society of St. Wearehappy for their annual steak dinner.” However, if you are saying, “Please join US as we sing,” I ask, “Who is the us? Some secret group of insiders? Are these the same people to whom I am being welcomed? How do you get to be the welcomers or the “us”es?

I suppose we could welcome visitors but most technically speaking, there are no visitors at Mass (for those who are Catholic.) Now that may be picky. There are visitors to a particular location – but even so. But I think I could handle, “We welcome all those who are visiting Wearehappyparish and invite THEM to join US in singing the opening hymn.”
That is not to say that parishes do not need work at being more welcoming. I am just saying that this particular phrasing is does not do the trick. In fact, it make me (personally) feel a bit less welcomed.

Ha! This was supposed to be a short, one paragraph post today. I guess this bothered Monsignor Manners more than I realized.


Matt W said...

Yes, you have to be very careful with language. Even something as innocuous as "welcome" has shades of meaning.

melody said...

We had a cantor once who also sang the National Anthem at local baseball games. His "Please, join me in singing..." always sounded just like it should have ended with "...the National Anthem!" It didn't make me feel like an outsider but I was afflicted with a fit of giggles almost every time he said it. Especially when seeing my very well-behaved husband's shoulders shake in silent mirth!

I do see what you are saying though now that you mention it. I suppose it's that way with many parish organizations though, particularly in a large parish. We can all be very active in our little groups and yet be quite isolated from each other. I almost brought my children to the Children of Mary's May crowning but the wording in the bulletin sounded very exclusive so I chickened out. How much more isolating it must be for those not as comfortable or active in the community? How lovely it would be to be united primarily around the liturgical calendar instead of mostly around the calendars of our personal projects. To be united wholly in common prayer and purpose before going out to serve. Your thoughts on bringing the characteristics of a religious order into parish life come to mind.

Anonymous said...

As local parishes close, we will indeed be welcoming new people to our parish. But they may not all show up on the same weekend. Should we be endlessly saying "welcome" each week until Christ returns, just so that we didn't miss a newcomer?

Our former pastor "welcomed" us to Mass each weekend. For us parishioners, it seemed like the pastor was welcoming us to a place where he belonged and we didn't quite. He did also address newcomers: "be welcome!" [I used to cringe when I heard that phrase.]

Sarah said...

Thank you, father! I find myself in solid agreement with your sentiments. I've regularly been uncomfortable entering churches where someone other than one of the priests was greeting people at the door. I can see now that I was uncomfortable both at being received by someone unknown to me and also at effectively being cast as the 'outsider' who needed to be welcomed.

Robert M Kraus Sr said...

Shakespeare wrote a play . . . much ado about nothing . . . it is a comedy . . . . I repeat . . . . . much ado about nothing . . . . have a good day . . . to whom am I directing that wish?

rmk sr

Cracked Pot said...

I don't think that Mass is the place where we need to "welcome" people (before or after Mass, perhaps).

As a newcomer to several parishes, I sought to be welcomed within the groups and ministries in which I became involved. Some people did not accept me because I was not part of the "established group." That was THEIR problem, not mine.

But being welcome is a two-way street. The newcomer has to reach out to others, join and serve. Eventually, friends are made and the newcomer does feel welcome--not only because others were nice to him but because he made an effort to get to know others.

Carol said...

It has bothered me a teensy tiny bit, for the very reasons mentioned. It could be changed to, "It is good for us to be here." Wouldn't that make everyone smile?
Or one could just leave it at "Good morning!" -- we know what parish we came to.

Matthew K said...

It would shock me if St. Wearehappy had a Chesterton Society. A Haugen Society? Perhaps.