As a mother of three young children, Mass can be a bit of an unpredictable experience at times. I remember one particular time when my pastor, Father Bill, called for a moment of silence during Mass and our two-year-old son Ian shouted at the top of his lungs, “Boo, boo, I scare me!”
Needless to say, that moment of silence was shattered by a couple of giggles throughout the congregation. While I am always thankful for the gift of understanding parishioners, I also know what it is like to be met with cold stares and eye rolling from those who don’t appreciate the presence of a family with small children.
Many of our parishes do a wonderful job of welcoming families to Mass on Sunday and should be commended for this. Many years ago I was struck by a parish pew card which was an explicit message of welcome to families.
It was a simple green card, approximately 5 x 7 inches, printed and placed in the pew with the following words:
To our parish families with young children:
We welcome you to the celebration of the Mass, where we receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The word eucharist means “thanksgiving” and as you celebrate with us and your children, we thank you for your presence here among us.
Children are especially close to the heart of Jesus so don’t feel you have to stifle those wiggles and giggles in God’s house!
Children learn liturgical behavior by copying you, so quietly explain the parts of the Mass, sing the songs, and participate as best you can. Please use the card “The Meaning of the Mass” in the pew to help you.
If you need to leave Mass to calm your child, please feel free to do so but please come back.
Remember, the way that we welcome children in church directly effects their faith, what they think about the Mass, and by extension, Christ. Let them know that they are at home in this sacred gathering.
To the members of our parish:
A smile and a word of encouragement are a joy to parents with small, active children. Let them know that they are welcome here.
On the front of this card is a simple prayer for the family. You can pray it here after Holy Communion or take this card with you to pray with your family at home.
What a beautiful witness for families and a gentle reminder for the parish to encourage families and their children in faith.
What is your parishʼs strategy to welcome families?