I hear people say all the time that they wish more young families would attend Mass regularly. That’s not going to happen unless regular attendees are more welcoming to those young families who venture forth to test the waters of our parishes. For too long, Catholics have arrived/settled into their pews in church in a manner similar to passengers boarding a certain airline: once you get your seat, you try not to make eye-contact with anyone else in hopes that they will move along and leave the seat next to you empty. Becoming a more welcoming parish is not something that can be relegated to the pastoral staff or to hospitality ministers; it needs to be a pervasive attitude.
Recently, I took to Facebook to offer the following challenge: “I challenge every Catholic who goes to Mass this weekend to identify a young family at Mass, go up to them after Mass, and engage them in conversation, compliment them on their beautiful family, and tell them that you look forward to seeing them again. The New Evangelization starts with us and starts right under our noses. Do me a favor and share this post if you have a lot of Catholic FB peeps!”
The response I received was tremendous. Here are a couple of comments I received:
- Joe, just wanted you to know that I took your challenge from last week. After Sunday Mass I intentionally engaged three young families in conversation. They seemed genuinely happy that I had done this. I am chair of the pastoral council and will challenge all of them tonight at our meeting! Peace and Hope, Anne
- After Mass, I saw this young guy with six little ones all under the age of six. He had two in backpack-like carriers (one in front/one in back), and four standing at the edge of the sanctuary, ready to run on up there. He kept them in check easily. I said, “I just want to tell you how great it is to see the young ones here at Mass. Thank you for bringing them. I know it’s not easy.” He laughed and said they’re happy when they can get everyone here before the Gospel is read. We chatted a few minutes and then he had to chase a couple of the loose ones down. But as he ran off, he turned his head and called out over his shoulder, “Thanks for the welcome. It means a lot.” So thank you, Joe, for the great idea. I’m actually quite an introvert, but I realize it’s up to me if I’m going to connect beyond the usual folks I say a few words to before or after Mass. Tom
I extend the challenge to all of my readers: this Sunday, go out of your way after Mass to welcome a young family and to engage them in conversation. And let me know what happens!
Why just young families? It should be anyone new and all should feel welcomed.
Yes!! And how about reminding folks that there are no assigned seats! Just because you usually sit in a particular place does not mean that place becomes “yours.” Lots of people go for the very first time, but stop attending when they realize that they were once the subject of outrage for someone else, simply by showing up once.
Great point, Maggie!
Welcoming families is great, but in my experience, it’s single people who are almost completely invisible, even when they stand there intentionally looking lost…
Very good point, LBZ!