When you are part of a family, you help the family.
This is one of the lessons Greg and I try to teach our children here in our own house. Why do we ask them to do the dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathrooms (fill in odious chore here)? It’s because they are part of the family. In order for any family to function at its best, all of the members need to participate and help and generally pitch in. None of us do things around here because we’re payed to. Nobody gets an allowance for jobs completed. We help out because we live here and we want the best for the family. Period.
But this is a lesson that can be carried over to our parish life, as well.
Help the Family
We’ve been at our current parish for over 14 years now. Wow! That just seems crazy to me, having grown up in a construction family that moved around every couple of years. Not anymore, though! Three of our four kids have been baptized here. My husband joined the Catholic church through the RCIA program here. Our children have godparents and I have godchildren made from the friendships we have forged. Our relationships in our parish bring new meaning to the idea that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We aren’t just friends…we’re family!
But none of this happens overnight. Nor does it happen without some concerted effort! Our parish is huge…about 4,000 families kind of huge. It would be insanely easy to get totally lost in that kind of crowd and to survive for years flying under the radar. In order to make any parish feel more like home and the people in it more like family, you can’t do that, though. You have to put yourself out there and get involved.
Each and every one of us is given gifts and talents. What are yours? How can you use them at the service of your parish? What is it that you in particular can do to “help the family,” as it were? Take a look at your bulletin or parish website. What groups or circles or ministries speak to you? If there isn’t one that jumps out at you, maybe that’s your sign from the Holy Spirit! Maybe there is a YOU-sized hole that needs to be filled. And maybe just maybe, you’ll help someone else in the process.
You Get What You Give
When we encourage our kids to get involved in the activities and life of our parish, what are our goals? Is it just to keep them busy? Are we hoping that, by immersing them in church activities, some glimmer of faith will stick with them? Are we trying to teach them what living your faith looks like? Or is it just something our family does, like other families play board games or attend sporting events?
Well, how about yes to all of the above?
I am the daughter of a lifetime choir member. On my mom’s side of the family, my grandma was the church organist for decades and my grandpa was a Knight. My dad’s parents were true supporters of the priesthood and gave tirelessly of their funds and their time for whatever the church needed. My husband, while raised in the Methodist faith, had really similar foundations. His family was very active with the youth and women’s ministries and his dad held leadership roles in their congregation and was always willing to help wherever help was needed.
So, really, when we encourage our kids to be altar servers…to join the choir…participate in the nativity play…volunteer at Vacation Bible School…sit with the old lady who can’t quite make it to communion on her own…what we are really hoping is that they will see that they matter. When Greg takes the boys to help clean up the cemetery early on a Saturday morning or they join the youth selling sodas at the fall festival, we want them to understand that even little things make a difference.
Our Faith Home
Our faith can’t just be something we do. It has to be part of who we are. By making our parish our second home, our “faith home” if you will, maybe we can accomplish that.
See, I want my kids to grow up knowing that we don’t just go to Mass on Sunday out of obligation, but look forward to going because they know that they belong there. I want them to witness the love of Jesus to others just as it’s been shown to them their whole lives long. I want them to take ownership of their faith at as young an age as possible so that it gets good and grounded in their hearts and souls.
And on those days that Greg is proclaiming the Word from the ambo while Adam and I are performing with the choir and Josh is learning to run the soundboard? When Leah and Lucy are sitting with friends they’ve known literally their entire lives, praying and singing together with the congregation? If you would look at me, I would hope that what you would see in my smile would be a great big welcome to our home. And then? Well, I sure hope you’d feel called to join us.
Feature photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church