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.