How We Found a Church Community

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today I wanted to get out how we found a church community. Complete with pictures of all of the churches I have ever regularly attended.

I grew up in a big parish in Dallas. It looks like this on the inside:

It's big. This is one mass on Sunday. There are people standing because there are not enough seats. They have 6 Sunday masses. Yeah, it was awesome.
Downside of growing up in a big parish, with lots of involvement options, is that becomes your normal. I assumed that lots of other parishes would be like that where ever I ended up living. 


When I went to college, I found the one other practicing Catholic on campus and made her my mass buddy. We rode the shuttle to the Newman Center over at UC Berkeley to make the 5pm Sunday mass every week. 
Newman looked more like this. Not my cup of tea. Other people seem to enjoy it though.

This had a few issues: 1) I'm not a Berkeley student and so I constantly felt like I was going to be "found out" and I don't know what I thought was going to happen but it wasn't good, 2) it was too far to attend other events during the week and actually make community, and 3) the last shuttle of the day left at 6:15pm. If we didn't make that shuttle we could hope that someone would drive over to Berkeley to get us, or just be stuck in Berkeley for the night. That meant that we had to book it immediately after mass, which meant missing out on meeting other people every week.

When I met my future husband, he attended St. Mary Magdalen in north Berkeley since the one other Catholic in his program at UC Berkeley went there with his family. 

This is St. Mary Magdalen. It's cute. This is when it was set up for our wedding. There are not normally ribbons on the pews.
Now it felt more like going to a real parish where I could help out and meet other parishioners. It is where we got married, where our second child was baptised. 

Our first apartment was in Oakland so we moved over to attending the church around the corner.

So pretty!
We liked it there, but it was an aging parish that lacked some of the young adult/family comradery we were seeking.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was in my final year of college and ended up with only two classes in my last semester. This meant I was only on campus one day a week. The rest of the week I was largely stuck at home feeling enormous. 

So I started going to the 12:10 daily mass. While I was now in mass a lot, it felt like very much a solo endeavor. 

When John was 4 months old I decided something had to change to get us more ingrained in the parish, so I joined the choir. Matt was awesome and volunteered for baby duty every Sunday. That was great, but it still lacked the closeness of being with people closer to your own life stage.

When the opportunity came to move SUPER CLOSE to St. Mary Magdalen, I jumped all over it. I was now pregnant with baby #2 and really feeling the need to make a stronger church support network.

I remembered seeing lots of families with young kids when we were attending St. Mary Magdalen as a dating, then engaged, couple. I assumed there must be many things for families, but I just didn't know about them because we didn't have kids yet.

Well, apparently those things had largely faded away in the two years or so we were in Oakland. 

I was bemoaning how I was just NEVER going to find Catholic women within 15 years of my age who would be my friends when a woman got up to read an announcement the next Sunday to say that a young adult group was just starting up. There would be a kick off in two weeks. Dialed the dramatics way down.

But it was JUST starting. Getting community to happen was probably going to take me being active and making such a thing happen before I gave birth.

So I suggested things, and hosted things. Come to find out, people will totally come if they are invited!
Part of the Holy Thursday dinner spread. The labels on the wine bottle candle holders were changed to Good Friday for the Fish Fry the next day.
It seems really easy to fall into the bad habit of not getting to do what would really feed your spiritual community just because it is not already prepackaged and ready to go. It's messy, and scary, and intimate to invite people that you have maybe never met into your home or even to something you have put your name out as "host" for something that is held on neutral ground. 

But the results can be pretty fantastic.

Last night we hosted a first ever St. Mary Magdalen Mass, Meal, and Merriment (we're still taking name suggestions there). It's a recurring fourth Tuesday event for young adults. I thought MAYBE four or five people would show up. It's a 5:30pm mass on a Tuesday. We had about fifteen people show. 
Most of those were people that I have never really met before. I would never have met any of them had I not taken a chance on putting myself out there a bit.

There is always going to be a reason not to do it. I had just moved, was seven months pregnant, and had a two year old. But I did it anyway. And life was so much easier!


  1. This is really great to read, since my husband and I are very new to our parish (like, less than a month, I believe) and are still in the process of meeting young adults. (Thankfully, a Young Adult minister was recently hired, and she's really cool, so that helps out, and we've been able to make it to an event or two so far) I'm definitely starting to see what you point out, that we need to bravely take the incentive to make things happen. I've also realized that community takes time and patience, because a thriving community doesn't magically happen overnight!

    1. It's true that it can take a while. The original planning team for this young adults group had all individually asked the priest about the possibility of a young adult group. He turned it around and put them all in touch with each other. Now it's just over a year old and doing well!
      You never know what can happen from just floating the idea.

      That's awesome to have a dedicated person for young adults!


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