Pastor's Desk Notes

September 10, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Starting last week and continuing over the next several weeks, you may notice some new faces in the sanctuary. Fr. Brendan has trained a new group of altar servers and they are getting their first experiences of serving at the liturgy. They are stepping into an incredibly important role which can, at first, be intimidating. If you happen to see some of our new servers after Mass, you might share a word of encouragement with them. And if you have a child in your family who is interested in serving at the altar, please contact Fr. Brendan so he can arrange training.

With new altar servers embarking on a new responsibility, I would like to also invite participation from our parish in a ministry of hospitality. I envision this as something that whole families can do together, or individuals on their own. One element of this ministry will be greeters, people who will be at the doors of the church before Mass to welcome people, hand them a worship aid, and enhance the sense of homecoming that ought to be present when attending Mass. After Mass ends, the greeters will be at the doors to hand out bulletins, and then will help to straighten up the pews in preparation for the next Mass. This is a simple service that the whole family can share. It can also be taken up by individuals. Another important element of this ministry of hospitality is ushers who, before Mass, help people find seats (especially at our more crowded Masses), and who take the collection during the offertory. You will find flyers at the doors of the church describing these ministries and providing contact information for anyone who is willing to serve our parish community in this way.

As I watch our new servers get their start and consider this new effort in hospitality, I go back in my mind to my own experience of parish life as a kid. I served the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass almost every week, and I almost always served with the Nolan brothers. The reader was always the same guy (I confess I never learned his name), and the ushers were as much a part of the scenery at the church as the stained glass windows. There was always a sense of home and comfort in seeing so many familiar faces each Sunday. At the same time, when I look back I realize how many of those faces remained just faces. Good Catholics that we were, my family always sat in the same place. Across the aisle and two pews back sat another family with kids slightly older than us. But it was years before we actually met and learned each other’s names.  Turns out they were (and are!) a delightful family and getting to know them is one of the great blessings of my life. The scenery of parish life, whether in the form of a lived relationship with a fellow parishioner or in the form of those steady, ever-present human or decorative figures made the parish a center of my life and gave me a sense of security and belonging. As much as one person may have been a face without a name for me, I realize that I was exactly that for someone else, an altar server with no name who was simply always there. What if there were more names to go with those faces, or if I had become more than a face for someone else?

The reality is that our primary purpose in attending Mass and belonging to a parish is to worship almighty God. A parish is not a club. It is, as Pope Francis might say, a field hospital, a place where we come to recharge, recalibrate, and realign our lives with the will, mind, love, and mercy of God. At the same time, a parish is a community bound together by faith in God and by the charity that faith must inspire in our hearts. Whether we know one another or not, we are together in this journey of faith and in our walk with God. We can belong to this community in quiet ways, content in our knowledge that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. We can also belong in more outwardly noticeable ways, serving in a public capacity in the liturgy or volunteering at parish events. Either way, we are part of something. But when we step out of the shadows, meet other people, engage more with our community, our real sense of belonging grows. We are not part of a club but of a family. As we meet one another and step outside of ourselves, we are also invited to step out of our comfort zone with God, to allow His grace and mercy to do more for us than we have ever experienced before. And so the parish community which provides us with an opportunity for relationships on the human level, also is to be a vehicle for our relationship with the divine. So in these next few weeks, look around and see if there are some nameless faces, and try to put a name to them. And look inward and see if there is a place where God feels like a nameless face to you, and open your heart to a relationship with Him. In some small ways, then, our parish can continue to grow, provide that sense of home, and help us to grow in charity for one another and in true love for God.


Fr. Sam