Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
Two weeks ago a number of us from the staff leadership team, and an usher-representative from each campus attended a seminar on the topic of hospitality, arranged by the Diocese. The main speaker throughout the day was Chris Turner, a young man with a background in hotel management and hospitality. [Thankfully, by God’s grace, Chris will actually be joining our Diocese as a seminarian in training for the priesthood this fall.] Hospitality is one of the big areas we should consider, when we look at the experience of each person who comes to Sunday Mass.
We want to consider especially what the experience of a newcomer to our parish is like. Are guests to our parish recognized as guests and greeted cheerfully by those around them? Are they helped as soon as they get to the door at the beginning of Mass? Are they given help finding seats? Is there a way to engage them before or after Mass, so that they realize how happy we are with their presence among us? Is there an obvious way to sign up as a member and quickly discover all the many facets of our life together that might be of interest to them? How can we put some things in place, such as a welcome packet that gives them a quick and engaging snapshot of our parish life? Although this applies especially for newcomers, the warm concern for every member of the parish should really simply be a part of our life together, even for those who have been here their entire life.
We should consider hospitality, really, as one facet of evangelization – helping people encounter Jesus Christ. Imagine how much more open-hearted the newcomer – and even those of us who have been here all our lives – will be to receive the graces of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass if there is a warm concern and joyful countenance about each of the members in the congregation! Hospitality is not an optional add-on. It’s really a basic part of being human in the community, and therefore it is a tremendous instrument for God’s divine grace in our community.
So there’s a little bit of inspiration regarding hospitality. With this in mind, I hope to offer sometime in the not-too-distant-future, as we eventually get more organized regarding a structure for our volunteer life, a spiritual talk and review of tasks for ushers in greeters from each of our campuses. I provided an enrichment session like this for Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors soon after I arrived at the parish, but it never occurred to me to offer something similar for all those who serve as ushers and greeters. (“My bad.”) Recently in prayer, it occurred to me that I could probably find some pretty rich teaching to inspire ushers and greeters spiritually, by looking at the centuries-long order of “porter” in the Church. The “porter” position was the first order a man entered on his way towards the priesthood. The porter was the one who opened the door and greeted visitors. He was the first impression a person got as they approached a monastery. There are a couple of modern, North American examples: Saint André Bessette (from Montreal, Canada) and Venerable Solanus Casey (soon to become Blessed Solanus Casey, from Detroit, Michigan). Both of these saints were humble porters in their religious order, and God transformed the lives of visitors through them.
May the vibrancy of our own relationship with Jesus Christ be apparent in the hospitality we offer to all those who enter through our parish doors.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,