In this time of year there are a lot of new beginnings, new people, and new plans. This is the time I always dream a little too big and try a little too hard. But there are some things I really really wanna see in my parish. Most parishes, actually. Note that things like "offering mass" and "having a pastoral pastor" are a given here.
1. Large parish gatherings
We do have large, whole parish, parties every so often, but they are not very predictable. They normally occur either as a farewell party for one of the priests (tears!) or someone just put in a titanic amount of effort.
I love things like St. Patrick's Day party, Mardi Gras/Carnival, and May Crowning. These were the things that really made being Catholic alive for me before I could really understand any theology. Let's stop taking ourselves so seriously and live it up!
2. Lots of faith study options
I am a giant nerd. I will make my own faith study reading program for myself at home because I'm that brand of weird. But part of being Catholic is doing Catholic with other people. Faith study groups are fabulous for reaching a deeper understanding and for developing some closer bonds with people in your parish.
But, if I'm honest, I'm just not into any and every topic all the time. Certain things will grab me more than others at different times. Having multiple different faith study options means you are more likely to get what you are spiritually needing.
3. Meal list/hospitality group
I always think about this again when I have a new baby, or go through surgery, or see other parishioners in need of assistance during transition times. Food is such an easy, tangible, way to show that you care what happens to this person.
Some "bring them a meal" sign ups happen informally, but I think about new parishioners, or people who are so sick they can't come to anything beyond mass, and wish getting help didn't involve such a test of connections. Wouldn't it be great to call up the parish, say you are having a new baby, and they get you in touch with the Meal Coordinator?
4. Solid faith formation for kids and families
I acknowledge that we have smaller side parishes here, but I really believe that if we are not providing resources for solid faith foundation for kids and families then we are really failing at an important function of being a parish. It doesn't need to be a drop off catechism program, but at least making it easy for the parents to learn in order to teach their kids is really the bare minimum for me.
5. A nursery for at least one mass
So there comes a time with every baby when they go through a particularly difficult phase. Something that is near impossible to control and makes mass such an ordeal.
Screeching and screaming are those things for me.
This is not screaming in pain, it's just "this is how I'm entertaining myself right now" screaming. It doesn't last long, but it's a miserable phase for the parents. Getting the option to leave them in the nursery for a mass can do wonders for morale!
It would be such a relief to be gifted an hour with Jesus! An hour of not feeling the ice glares to the back of your head.
I do acknowledge this creates the need to get right the balancing act of, on one hand, having the nursery as an option and, on the other, having the babies in the nursery as a parish expectation. Babies can be in church, not silent, and be welcome!
6. Assumption of involvement and commitment
Sometimes I wonder if the priest looks out and wonders if the parishioners are "seeing other people". Sometimes it feels like many are just waiting for a better offer to come along so they can skedaddle out of this place.
I want my parish to be vibrant enough that new parishioners can easily see a place where they can be a wonderful addition. I want there to be at least one other reason to be at church a week for everyone (if at all possible.)
7. A spirit of fun and community
Finally, I wish for my parish to have a spirit of fun and community. We need to enjoy being with each other! Let's have things that truly just for fun: game night, happy hour, line dancing.