Recently, I took the plunge into adulthood and joined a local parish. This was no easy task and was a long time coming. For the past year or so following my college graduation, I have been searching for a parish to call home by attending Mass a few times here and a few there throughout my city. Just when the “church hopping” seemed endless...I found it. I knew it was where I belonged from the smiling baby in front of me, the bright and spacious sanctuary, and the other young-adults and families in the surrounding pews. I had been searching for a long time, focusing on small things like location, time, music selection, and ambiance, but I realized it was the community I was searching for so desperately. At this parish, it all came together.
My new parish is full of people, from newborns to elderly choir members, from single twenty-somethings to couples celebrating 40 years together, and everyone in between! The people are kind and welcoming, something I had not found in every church I stepped into. In the other churches people didn’t sing, or the homilies didn’t make sense, or the vibe was off, or there were no screaming kids present, and none of that seemed quite right. Although many people go to the parish closest to them, we are not at all required to do this. I was searching for a parish that felt right to me, especially after going to college where community was the center of my life, I knew I needed a place where an atmosphere of joy was present and alive in its parishioners each time I worship there. To illustrate my point, the USCCB provides a perfect explanation of what a parish community is:
"The parish is where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God's people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church's life." --Communities of Salt and Light, p. 1
Now is the greatest time to become a parishioner. It is never too late to join a local parish, and it can be as easy as filling out an online application (like I did!). Here are three things that helped me throughout my search:
1. Bring someone. One way to not be nervous about going to a new church is to bring someone else with you like a friend or significant other.
2. Do your research. Look up all the information on that parish before you visit so that you understand a little bit more about the priests, rectors, and the size of the congregation.
3. Go early and explore. My favorite part about seeing a new church was when I got to walk around and see where everything was; everything from the beautiful stained glass and statues to the bathrooms and church hall.
Not long ago, I yearned for a welcoming, warm, friendly, vibrant, energetic parish that could be my new faith-filled community. Taking this leap into adulthood closed a chapter from my formative college years and began a new chapter in continuing my faith journey. So, whether it is Marriage, Baptism, Confirmation, Easter, Ordinary Time, or Advent, I know my heart will be open to listening for God’s message of love in a place I can call my home parish.
Krissy Kirby is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to my hometown in Wisconsin to surprise my mother on her birthday. My father had been cooking up a giant surprise party for her, and I was going to be the first part of that surprise. I spent this whirlwind weekend almost exclusively with my family…both immediate and extended. My mother’s side of the family is what is often described as the “stereotypical Irish Catholic family.” My grandparents met in college, married and had 9 children. I have over 40 first cousins and many of us live within a mile of my grandparents’ house. Growing up in this family was a unique experience and one which I realize now has shaped me more than I can know.
Moving halfway across the country, away from my family, has given me a new appreciation for the role that family plays in forming who we become as adults. I was raised by loving parents who instilled a strong faith background in my siblings and me. Mass was a given every weekend. We were fortunate enough to attend wonderful Catholic schools. Our parents modeled for us the perfect example of a loving, Christian marriage. My extended family too, further encouraged the development of a strong faith formation. From a young age, I can remember Saturday evening Masses in my grandparents’ living room which often preceded our monthly birthday celebrations. (It got too hard to celebrate individual birthdays!). Our grandparents created an environment filled with love, somehow making each of their many grandchildren feel like the center of their world. When I was young and had a day off from school, the biggest excitement was not getting to sleep in, but rather getting to go to daily Mass with my grandparents. The first time I went to Mass with them after my first communion, my grandmother couldn’t stop telling everyone in the tiny church that I had received my First Eucharist.
Family plays a key role in how we develop as people. I recognize now just how fortunate I was to grow up in the environment that I did. I also recognize that many people are not this lucky. As the summer winds down, I know many people will be heading back to school or back from vacations with their families. I challenge you to take time to remember your family. Say a prayer for those you’ve lost, call your mom, call your grandparents, text your sister or brother, or any other way you can think of. During my senior year of college, my dad started writing me a letter every week (and continues to do so!). In today’s world of online everything, getting those letters each week was a physical connection to home and to the family I have there. Our families can be complicated and tricky, and often are the people who can infuriate us the most. They are, though, the people we love the most.
Let me share with you this prayer for a harmonious family:
Lord Jesus, be with my family. Grant us Your peace and harmony, an end to conflict and division. Gift us with compassion to better understand each other, wisdom and love to assist each other, and trust and patience to live peacefully together. Grant that through the intercession of Your Mother, Mary, and St. Joseph, our family may become a holy family accepting each other, working together in unity, selflessly dedicated to one other and to You. Amen.
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Growing up in a stereotypical American Catholic family, my parents always kept our faith at the center of family life. While we didn’t go so far as nightly recitations of the rosary together, I did have a very faith-centered childhood. My weeks generally pivoted around two regular Church activities: Sunday morning Mass and Tuesday night Religious Ed. We always ate dinner together as a family and prayed before the meal no matter what. When my sister and I were young, they read us stories out of our children’s Bible, and as we got older, they encouraged us to receive the sacrament of Confirmation and continue our faith journey as adults when we each went to college. Overall, I daresay they were successful: my sister and I still attend Sunday Mass on our own, and I’ve maintained further involvement in Church through the Knights of Columbus.
While my mom and dad had very different approaches to sharing the faith with us, they consistently worked as a team to make sure we had a Christ-centered upbringing. The reason for this, as I look back, is obvious: they have always had a Christ-centered marriage. Both came from Catholic families of 5 or more (Dad was one of 12!) and have always relied on their relationships with God to guide them through life’s difficulties and joys. There is always a Bible on hand, and numerous crucifixes and pictures of Mary are scattered throughout their home. The presence of God in our daily lives is something regularly acknowledged in everything we do as a family.
I don’t know what kind of marriage prep they went through before their wedding, but it is clear that they understand marriage for what it is: a Vocation, a calling from God. Everything my parents do, they do for each other. Whether it was Dad helping with the laundry on Sunday mornings, Mom keeping a plate warm when Dad worked late or had a Scout meeting, or giving each other breaks from me and my sister, their lives have always been focused in on our life as a family. I once heard that the home should be like a “miniature Church”. My parents have gone above and beyond in making that a reality for our family, whether any of us realized it or not.
In the Church, we always make a point of praying for Vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but I believe we’re often forgetting the other all-important Vocation to married life. That is not to say that we don’t need to pray for more holy priests, brothers, and sisters; we do! But I propose that we pray just as hard for true, faith-formed Vocations to marriage. With all the broken families we see in our society, it almost seems a miracle to meet couples who have remained faithful and totally in love. Those are the couples who, whether religious or not, view their marriage as a higher calling to give themselves totally to one another.
In Gaudium et Spes (aka The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World), promulgated by Paul VI during Vatican II, we hear that “married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again.” This speaks directly to the self-giving nature of a true Christian marriage; spouses are called to mimic the love between Christ and the Church, the bride which He died for. Any happily married couple can attest to the great deal of self-sacrifice needed to maintain a healthy marriage. What our world so desperately needs is right in front of our faces: with families splitting up left and right, marriage has been devalued to no more than a “feel good” reaction. The understanding of marriage as a calling to daily self-sacrifice must be emphasized if we are to reverse the trend of so many broken families and such a high divorce rate.
My parents, who celebrate 25 years of marriage today, are one of the millions of couples throughout the world who strive to answer their daily call to empty themselves for one another as Christ did for each of us. Please join us in praying that their collective example will inspire young couples to focus their intentions on creating that same kind of self-giving love.
Jay Schaefer is the Webinar Associate of the Catholic Apostolate Center, in addition to his full-time career as a Civil Engineer in Baltimore, MD.