Dear Followers of Jesus,
In this week’s gospel (Matthew 6:24-34), Jesus says to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear.” Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. However, he knows that we will worry anyway about whether or not we are doing the right thing, saying the right thing and loving in the correct way. We worry about following Him when we are challenged beyond our expertise. We worry if our prayers are the right words and whether or not our actions will be bold enough to forgive or heal. We are master worriers! Jesus invites us to serve God and not mammon. Jesus invites us into real and authentic trust and prayer.
We are always struggling in some ways. Some of us worry about how we look, how we dress, whether we’ve gained too much weight, or how we can keep our gray hair from showing. Others worry about where our next meal will come from, whether we can keep a roof over our family’s heads, or whether we can afford to put gas in our car this week. And when we worry – regardless of what we worry about – we can often lose track of our need for our relationship with God.
As a parish, working to take small steps on our faith journey we are seeking your unspoken thoughts and your honest feedback on how we are fulfilling our mission “As a prayerful Catholic community of service following Jesus’ message of hope and salvation, we make God known, loved, and served.” We want to know about your worries and how they impact your prayer life, your relationship with God, your relationship with the Church, and your relationships with family and friends. We, as parish community, are here to support and help you.
Over the last few weeks, the small dinner gatherings that we have hosted, have helped us understand some of what your worries and needs are. As I talked about in last week’s column, you are looking for a welcoming experience when you come to church, a sense that you are a part of our community. We’ve had several suggestions about how we can do that.
A number of people feel that we need more participation from parishioners during Mass. Not everyone wants to read, distribute communion, or sing. But many people can serve as greeters, welcoming people as they enter the church. We’ve had the suggestion that one of our hospitality ministers should do the welcoming comments at the beginning of Mass, and that we should take time to speak to each other before our opening procession. We’ve heard from parishioners that they want to know more about what we do as a parish and they want to hear that from the people who are actually involved in the ministries.
Many parishioners feel the need for us to engage with small communities. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s we had small groups gathering in each other’s homes to share community and faith. That invitation, opening our doors for each other, helped build the church, and parishioners are asking for us to consider re-engaging small communities. Those activities might be small in-home bible studies, groups that gather to go to the symphony together and reflect on their experiences afterward, or groups that do service for those in need in our community. In the coming year, there are many ways that we will look to build our relationships through small communities and small gatherings.
We also had parishioners suggest we need to do something more for our youth. As one parishioner shared, “These days, our youth are looking for things that are fun, and Church isn’t fun.” So how can we make our church experience fun, yet formative, for our youth? We want to see more youth engagement and involvement. We hear about the Youth Ministry, but we don’t see the youth active in our church community. We don’t have a lot of answers, but we know we need to address this important group in our plans for the future. And part of that will involve talking to the youth to understand what they are looking for and how we can provide it.
Parishioners at our dinners have shared that we need to do things for our young families. Should we offer day care during Mass for families so that young parents can have quiet, prayerful time during Mass? Are there programs we can provide that engage an entire family, not just kids or adults separately? The answer is a resounding YES! We are looking at programs that provide “food for the soul” for everyone in a family, from young children to adults, from Youth Ministry participants to their grandparents.
You also shared some comments that at times, our homilies are not what you want to hear or need to hear. You feel that we aren’t always speaking to you or hearing your needs. While that is a difficult message for me to hear, I am thankful that you are willing to share your thoughts and concerns with me. Our homilies are driven by scripture and our life experiences. They will resonate with people in different ways at different times in their lives. So if you have comments, questions, or suggestions about our homilies, we want to hear from you. Please continue to share your thoughts – positive, negative, or neutral – with us so that we can make sure we are meeting your needs.
Our parish community will only grow and prosper with your help and commitment. Please continue to share your thoughts, your praises, and your concerns. As we pursue our mission, as we worship together, and as we serve our community, we will worry- sometimes for a good reason but often because it is our human nature. But by open, honest, respectful conversation, we will be able to assure ourselves that we are serving God and that we are moving into real and authentic trust and prayer.