June 10, 2022

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Mission parish a reminder that God’s family worships in all sizes

Richard EtienneWe were traveling last winter and my wife, daughter, son-in-law and I attended a small mission church on a Sunday morning.

Because the Mass time posted on the Internet was incorrect, we walked in 15 minutes late—instead of 15 minutes early.

The presiding priest announced, “Welcome! Come on in and sit down!”

I was mortified to have a spotlight put on our obviously late arrival. And to make it more embarrassing, we had rushed in quickly when we realized that the liturgy was already in progress and a parish member rushed to our pew—as all eyes in the congregation watched—to distribute face masks to us because we inadvertently left ours in the car.

After Communion, the priest asked, “Where are our visitors from?” He motioned toward our pew. After we reported our hometowns, members were asked to identify by name the sick and hospitalized of this mission parish. As each person was mentioned, parishioners were asked if there was any update on those individuals’ medical condition. It was nice to see the level of personal attention that the parish gave to every member of its congregation.

It must have been a similar experience in the early Church when communities of believers were small and intimate.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

We later read, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale … and they were distributed to each according to need” (Acts 4:34-35).

The universal Church is a large and diverse group, and we have been taught that there is room for everyone.

But ultimately, it is smaller groups within our sometime large parishes that can provide personal attention to members.

If you are a member of a large parish community, are you connected to a smaller group in your parish (choir, men’s group, women’s group, etc.)? If not, why not become part of a smaller group to assist you on your journey of faith?

(Richard Etienne has a degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and resides in Newburgh, Ind.)

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