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.