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Lack of Community in Catholic Communities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 18 January 2010 12:50
A couple of comments on my post about the Grayby boom led to a long reply comment from me, which I thought I might as well post for the rest of you to see.

Here's the first comment:
I believe that the Catholic Church today suffers from a lack of community, and I believe that telling the stories of God's grace and miracles in today's world could help build that community. Don't tell me that Jesus loves me, show me.

And a comment to that comment:
You said it! My elderly parents faithfully attended Mass and financially supported their church for many, many years. When they became infirm and unable to attend church, no one noticed. Not a single priest or parishioner called or visited. Being the good Catholics that they are, they haven't complained. ( they've never really known what they were missing in terms of community).
If the Catholic Church isn't careful, they will not only lose the young people, but the elderly as well.

And here's my quick and dirty reflection on these comments!

Some of the Catholic churches I visit in my work with the Institute pride themselves on being a "welcoming community." Usually, however, the people who are saying that are "insiders," that is, people who are very involved and feel welcome.

They may be people like my friends who moved from Tucson to Colorado Springs recently, and began attending the parish near their home. It's a young parish, with lots of young families, like them. They have four darling children under the age of 8, including a 2 year old. It's hard NOT to notice them. Our parishes are often family oriented. But if you're a single person, or just attending Mass by yourself for whatever reason, you may well feel anonymous - and be anonymous.

Also, with regard to your parents - I'm sorry, first of all. Secondly, on a couple of occasions when I was a pastor someone came up to me and complained that I hadn't visited them in the hospital. I hadn't noticed their absence, to be honest, but then the parish had over 1000 people attending each weekend (not a huge parish, mind you). I wonder if they felt miffed if others that they knew (and perhaps under more intimate circumstanced) hadn't visited them. It was frustrating for them that I hadn't noticed, and it was frustrating for me that they, or someone in their family, hadn't told me. I really treasured visiting parishioners in the hospital or their homes, especially if they asked to receive the anointing of the sick, and was sorry when opportunities were missed.

As a pastor, I got to know some of the people in the parish well - usually people who were already "insiders" when I arrived. They would often stop to talk after Mass, while everyone else passed by. That was often frustrating for me - that the people I already knew were the people who engaged me after Mass. But even if I thought I hadn't seen them on a weekend, I wouldn't know if they had just slipped past me while I was talking with someone else. My own experience of the post-Mass handshakes was that with some regularity someone would ask if I had a minute and then ask for advice on how to patch together their marriage (or something that would take much more than a minute to respond to).

But how should a pastor respond to someone's absence from Mass? If someone is gone from Mass for a few weeks, and IF I noticed, I would not know if they were on vacation, going to Mass someplace else, skipping Mass, or in the hospital unless they contacted me. Now, in a good Christian community, I would hope that someone would tell me that another parishioner was in the hospital (especially if it was due to accident or sudden illness, rather than a planned visit). The fact that that rarely happens is a testimony to the lack of community in our parishes.

So, in summary, if you know you're going into the hospital and would like a visit from the pastor, make sure you let him know. And to be safe, let your family know that if you're ever the victim of an accident or sudden illness, and are taken to the hospital, that you'd like a visit from your local priest - particularly if you'd like to receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. And if you know a parishioner is sick, don't presume the pastor knows. And if you know a parishioner is skipping Mass, in charity, you should invite them back, and let them know they're missed - by YOU!

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