Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
Two weeks ago we had our first-ever enrichment for ushers and greeters. I’m very grateful for everybody who turned out for it! We chose a date close to the beatification of Father Solanus Casey (beatified last Saturday in Detroit), a Franciscan priest from Detroit’s St. Bonaventure Monastery, who died in 1957. Blessed Solanus was a doorkeeper for his monastery throughout much of his life. In that position he became a friend to thousands, and even worked some miracles of healing for some people who came to him. We also considered Saint Andre Bessette from Montréal. He inspired the building of St. Joseph’s Shrine in Montréal. He also was a doorkeeper for his religious order for some 40 years; and people’s lives were changed when they encountered him. So we began by looking at these two saints for inspiration.
Also, we explained how the job of usher/greeter is connected to the role of the “porter” (i.e., doorkeeper) that used to be one of the six steps leading up to priestly ordination. The porter’s job was to take care of many practical things in the church, including locking and unlocking doors, even taking care of the sacristy; as well as making sure the huge lectionary was put onto the pulpit for liturgies. The background for this position of porter is actually the Old Testament Levites, who were given the responsibility for all the areas of the tent of meeting in the desert, and the permanent temple in Jerusalem, once it was built. As well as handling all the practical implements within the temple, the Levites also kept watch over the doors.
Is there a theological purpose to the ushers/greeters? Of course! Although Jesus comes to us in every Holy Mass that is celebrated correctly, and he brings all of his grace with him… Still there is the question of how much grace you and I actually “soak up”, based on how well disposed we are to encounter our Lord in this amazing Sacrament. The ushers/greeters are on the front lines of hospitality – literally at the front doors – to help people into the church, hopefully each usher/greeter in his or her own way making every parishioner become a bit more open, well-disposed, to encounter Jesus at Mass.
Of course, it’s not just the ushers/greeters who have the task of helping those around them meet Jesus more fruitfully. I hope that every parishioner would take to heart that we all have a duty to reach out to those around us as prudence determines to welcome those around us and help them feel that they belong. If you see somebody you don’t know after Mass, what about introducing yourself? Perhaps here is a guest who otherwise would leave without any personal interaction.
What I’m getting at is “radical hospitality”. Although the highlight of person’s attendance at Mass is the encounter with Jesus Christ directly in the Holy Eucharist, there is still the experience of His Love to be known in part through everybody else attending Mass. I’m very grateful for the witness that Dennis and Tammy Clark gave, regarding their experience in Denver some years ago. There is one parish in particular where they were very warmly greeted and invited back, and this helped inspire them to keep coming back to Mass there. The warmth of the congregation made a huge difference in their spiritual life.
I’m also grateful to Rita Diaz, who put together a very practical list of “things to do” if an usher/greeter were to encounter some medical problem with a parishioner during Mass. If you are a doctor or a nurse, or an emergency medical person, please realize that the ushers/greeters might be keeping their eye on you, in case they would ever need to call upon your help during a service! High on the priority list of things to do in a medical emergency: Find somebody who knows better than you what to do with a medical emergency!
A couple of very practical changes were discussed. First, at our Paulding campus it is been the practice for some years not to bring the collection basket up as part of the offertory. I’m told this is because of the way money counting was handled immediately after Mass at Paulding; so the collection got taken right over to the rectory. Now, money handling procedures have changed. So there is not such a rush, and the Paulding ushers can allow the first collection to be taken up in the offertory procession, just as we do at our other two campuses. The theological reason for this is that the collection being brought up towards the altar represents the way your entire life is connected to the Eucharist. You are offering some of your very hard-earned money to Jesus Christ for his work through the church. Symbolically, it’s a great gesture to have that collection be brought up with the bread and wine in the offertory. Everything in our life is connected to the Eucharist.
This, then, connects to a second minor change. We’re going to try a bit harder to have the offertory gifts brought up by members of the congregation. Usually, this privilege is given first to family members of the deceased for whom the Mass intention is offered. So we are going to try to do that as consistently as possible. It happens sometimes, but not always. One difficulty is that the ushers do not always know if there are any family members present from the family of the deceased for whom the Mass is being offered. So, it would be super helpful if any family members connected to the Mass intention would make themselves known to the ushers right before Mass. That just makes things much easier. We won’t always be perfect at this. Perhaps there will still be some occasions when the ushers end up bringing of the offertory gifts, especially if they have no idea whether there is a family member present, connected to the intention. But, as a general rule, we will try to have some members of the congregation bring up the operatory gifts, even if they are not members of a family connected to the Mass intention. Maybe the ushers will at some time be asking you to take up the gifts!
So, there is a summary of our enrichment session for usher/greeters. I’m grateful for everybody who helped with the practicals for this session, as well as everybody who turned out for it. I think the Lord was glorified by it. And I pray he will be still more glorified by the radical hospitality people experience in our parish!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,