Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Every parish should have a welcoming committee that knows when a new family has moved into the neighborhood and they should send a delegation out to greet them with information about the parish and invite them to come to Mass with them. Every parish should also have alert greeters and ushers that recognize new faces and help them get situated at the Mass. People at every parish should be welcoming, friendly, and ready to give up the pew that they sat in for the last 25 years to someone who does not know better. Every priest should be able to tell when someone is new and welcome them heartily to the parish.

All this should be true.

But most likely it is not at your parish.

Sometimes for good reason.

One reason might be that at larger parishes where there is the possibility of a couple thousand people passing through the doors on any given weekend at any given Mass, just because you don’t recognize someone doesn’t mean that they are not a lifelong parishioner. “Welcome to Saint Weallgetalong.” “I’ve been a member here for 50 years sonny! I helped build this place! I just usually come to the 4:30.”

Also, people are basically shy. As afraid as you might be of saying hi, they are nervous about approaching a new person and saying hi. It is a gamble both ways.

It would be nice, say for example, when you switch parishes because of a job move or some such thing that the Catholic community into which you move would be there to greet you with open arms. But remember often we are talking about the population of a small city. It gets complicated. If you want a good experience, bite the bullet and don’t wait for your new parish to take the initiative.

Here are some various ideas to try:

If there are ushers, come up with a question that perhaps you don’t even need an answer to. “Hi! I’m new. Could you tell me where the restrooms are?” That might start a conversation.

Don’t sit behind the pillar in the back of the church, in the dark, with your arms crossed and your head down. You are telling everyone “I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE TO PRAY!”

After Mass as you are crunched together to get out turn to someone and say, “Hi. My name is Sue. I’m new here. You have a beautiful church.” (You might find out that they are new too and are looking for someone to talk to!)

REGISTER! Become part of the parish. Ask the person who registers you to tell you more about the parish and how you might become involved.

Join something – or better yet VOLUNTEER! How do you get to know 6,000 people? Start by getting to know 10 well. Everyone wants to be asked to do something – few just volunteer. “Do you need volunteers to clean up after the dance?” You will instantly become gold if they have been looking for someone.

Go on a men’s or women’s retreat – a smaller group of people than say a parish mission.

Don’t go to donut Sunday – volunteer for donut Sunday.

Do you have a unique talent that you might offer the parish? Let the pastor know.

Participate in commitment weekend.

If after giving a decent amount of time and all that effort you do not feel welcome at a particular parish – it is just that – an unfortunate experience at a particular parish – not the Catholic Church. You then have basically two choices: Decide that you are staying to try to make this parish a more welcoming place for others being that welcoming presence for others that was not there for you (the Adam’s Ale recommendation) – or – seek out another parish that will appreciate you better.


Cracked Pot said...


You are so right. Volunteering is the best way for someone who is a bit shy to get to know people. When working together on a project, conversation flows automatically because the topics are generated by the tasks at hand. Volunteering has helped me to feel like I belong.

Anonymous said...

that's me . . . hey, bub, I'm a charter member. I was here before you was born. . . . big deal


Matthew K said...

Excellent post made even more excellenter by the Princess Bride allusion.

Karen said...

Thanks for the reminders. I just moved, so it was good to have that bit of a push to get involved.

I do have two observations for the parish side of things though. First, if you publish contact info, either on the website or bulletin, make sure they are accurate and that someone is checking them constantly. I e-mailed two people about volunteering, one bounced and I haven't got a reply to the other.

Second, make sure the registration is obvious. There is nothing in the pew here and the bulletin says something about a table in the back of the Church, but I looked today and it wasn't obvious. I shouldn't have to go on a treasure hunt to register. ;)