Sunday, September 7, 2014

(141) Your Presence Makes a Difference, a Big Difference.......the Power of One, You! Building a Solid Parish Community


       This article was originally written as a September 7 bulletin insert for St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Ohio.  It is the only Catholic Church in rural Gallia County, which is in the foothills of Appalachia in the Bible Belt that extends to southeastern Ohio.  However, this article is applicable to any Catholic parish in the United States, especially a small one. 

The Power of One, You!  Building a Solid Parish Community

St. Louis IX Church Gallipolis, Ohio with a statue of St. Louis de Montfort in front

          When YOU are present and there’s a good turnout at a parish function, SUCCESS!  Spirits rise!  Families come together.  Many people are having a good time.  They’re getting to know each other better.  Out of that comes a certain love; that is a greater concern for the welfare of the people they meet.  The parish community becomes more solid and more vibrant.  Friendships develop and become stronger.  That’s what Christian community is all about along with, of course, the Mass, the sacraments, devotions, etc.  When a parish function goes over well, it’s like the parish team won a game and of course we’re all part of that team.  It makes all the work in putting on the event worthwhile.  Volunteers who worked hard on it are animated to volunteer again.  They’re having a great time working together for something meaningful.

                Case in point…….the Lenten Fish Fries and the Parish Festival Spaghetti Dinner have gone over very well.  So well that many non-Catholics from all over Gallia County also come.  It’s contagious!  Success breeds more success and people talk up the next function.  In this way you can bring more people with you.  Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

The Parish Hall is ready for the annual Church Festival Spaghetti Dinner in August
A Lenten Fish Fry

When YOU don’t come and others don’t either, then that wonderful process described above starts to go into reverse.  People start to ask themselves: “Where’s so and so?”  Your absence often stands out.  People miss you, you beautiful you …….your jokes, your interesting conversation, etc.  It’s not quite the same without you because YOU add something to the function.  You’re special!  Every person I know in the parish is special to me as well as most everybody else in our Catholic community, each in his/her own unique way.  Your presence adds something; your active participation adds to that; your leadership adds even more......i.e., the power of one, YOU.  Don’t let indifference and apathy run you over. 

Without you and a few others, a certain demoralization sets in.  Even less people show up the next time.  There’s less motivation to work hard on another function as the Parish New Year’s Party.  There’s a danger of stagnation and even disintegration.  We have a few large extended families in the parish.  If everyone in one of those clans come, the parish function is assured of success.  Your presence can indeed make the difference between a modest success and a flop.  In a large parish, you might be able to get away with letting George do it.  In a small parish as ours, you’re George.

Next Sunday the Knights of Columbus will make another try with one of their after Mass breakfasts.  They do as good a job or better than McDonalds, the Golden Coral, Tudor’s, etc.  We have the best pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, coffee, and more.  There’s one ingredient that the knights put into the meals they prepare that the competition cannot match……A LOT OF LOVE is put into it.  The men are at the Parish Hall by 6 am to be ready to serve by the end of the 8 am Mass.  They mobilize help and buy the food days ahead.  A lot of work and love go into it and they get nothing out of their efforts except the joy and satisfaction of serving YOU and God.
Make it worth their while.  Bring your family.  Instead of going to a fast food place or a restaurant, come to the Parish Hall after one of the Masses next Sunday.  Enjoy the food and the fellowship of the others in the parish; get to know them better; make new friends; help to bring our parish together and make our parish more vibrant, cohesive and solid.  Any money you give for the breakfast will help to finance a Memorial to the Unborn in our cemetery.  The knights deeply love and care about our parish community.  Don’t let them down!  Whether their monthly Sunday breakfasts continue depends upon your participation.                                                          

A flower garden for Mary to the left of the church with St. John Paul II the Great Parish Hall in the background.
Being part of the parish community isn’t simply showing up for the most important and very serious Sunday obligation, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and then being indifferent to everything else going on in the parish and not caring about each other.  We encourage each other; we support each other; we help each other; we care about each other; we enjoy each other; we have fun together; we grieve together; we rejoice together.  All of that makes for a Christian community of love as God intended.  He loves each one of us directly and through others (us) in the parish community. 

Your participation in the Catholic Women’s Club, CCD (Catechism for Children) the YACHT Club (High School Youth), the Knights of Columbus, the choir, or the Newman Club at the University of Rio Grande add strength to each group.  There’s a certain power in numbers, especially if they are united and work together.  Your participation and your apparently little contributions to parish activities really add up over time and becomes very very significant and important……again, the power of YOU!.......with God's help of course.  On top of that, any leadership you can provide is a big bonus!

We as a parish community are making progress.  Many people work together in order to make our parish a dynamic and vibrant Christian community as shown in my Blog #121 “WE ARE St. Louis Church” at  We have the largest RCIA class in years, where non-Catholics in particular and also cradle Catholics learn about the faith.  Ken Payne was only with us for less than five years, but he observed: “I have never been at a parish with such great people”.  His brother John listed in Facebook St. Louis Church as his favorite place to be at.  There are many others who have grown spiritually in our parish as well as socially.  For many our parish is an anchor of stability for their lives in a tumultuous world.  To gain the most from the many benefits our parish can give, you have to put much of yourself into it. 

Over the years generations of people have been part of our parish community.  They have made many friends.  They have shared joy and grief, good times and bad, support and encouragement on their way to eternity as each pastor is part of the process of hatching, matching, and dispatching so to speak.  That is from Baptism and Matrimony to the last rites and the funeral while we grow through the sacraments of Reconciliation, frequent spiritual nourishment in the Eucharist, and Confirmation.  It’s all about making it to Heaven and the Church gives us everything we need to get there while we help each other along the way.