Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Building a pro-life parish

As Catholics and people of goodwill, we have a duty to promote a culture of life, beginning in our own homes and parishes, and then spreading to the larger community. Here are some concrete suggestions for putting this into place

1. Make parents of small children feel welcome at Mass. Trust that they are doing their best to form their children, even if that means there's some additional accompaniment to the liturgy. It is in everyone's best interest for children to learn that screaming will not get them what they want. It was a great surprise for me to learn from Catholic periodicals of the time that 60 years ago, parents didn't have to bring their children to church until their First Communion. The presence of babies and children at Mass is a testament to a culture of life and a means for our own sanctification.

2. The same is equally true for the elderly and people with special needs. Is there a neighbor who could use a little extra help getting to Mass? Someone who needs some assistance up the steps? Follow the airplane rules, and be patient with anyone who needs a little extra time. The difference a simple gesture can make is often astounding. In addition, it can be doubly beneficial for children to learn the value of helping others.

3. These options for growth don't end with Mass. Keep your eyes open at coffee hour- is there anyone who would appreciate being brought a beverage or snack? This is especially important for breastfeeding mothers, who can become easily dehydrated. (This hint was taught to me by a local La Leche League member.)

4. Make your parish events more family friendly. For example, a local parish holds the coffee hour in the gym, giving kids plenty of space to run around and shoot baskets while their parents can socialize yet supervise. Make families feel welcome at spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts by holding them at convenient times. Involve the children so they enjoy being there.

5. Encourage parents of small children to participate in parish activities by offering nursery services (an excellent service opportunity for the confirmandees). Be especially sensitive to the isolation that stay at home mothers may be prone to by offering a weekday program (CLOCHE tip to Margaret Mary).

6. Draw on the richness of our faith, such as the Churching of Women, the Anointing of the Sick, and Mass for the deceased: babies and children, including those lost through miscarriage and abortion as well as others of our beloved dead.

7. Don't underestimate the importance of pregnancy outreach. Make sure there is plenty of crisis pregnancy and post abortion resources and literature available. You never know when it might be needed.

8. Consider starting a charity craft group to make hats and blankets for those in need.

9. Ask around to see if the elderly or those in ill health could use extra assistance around the home. This is another opportunity for your confirmandees or youth group.

10. Consider extended outreach to those with chronic health conditions or the bereaved. Let them know they are not forgotten.

Do you have any ideas to share?

[image source]

1 comment:

Margaret Mary said...

We are abundantly blessed to belong to a parish of about 1,200 families with an average parishioner age of about 25 – that means lots of practice opportunities in this area for us. Obviously, some of these will work better with people you actually know:
 Offer to hold a baby so a new mother can receive Holy Communion and pray afterward in what may be the one peaceful moment of her day.
 If there are children around you who have behaved well during Mass, tell them so afterward. It’s often meaningful for them to know someone else was watching.
 Resist the temptation to look back at a crying child in a pew behind you. Chances are the parents are well aware of the meltdown and don’t need the additional guilt.
 Pray for those parents during that moment. Lucy’s right – they’re probably doing the best they can with the situation.
 Say something kind, if you can, to that parent after Mass. You certainly want them back next Sunday and your sympathetic words may make all the difference to them. Even parents of the most compliant children get their turn in this humbling position.
 The availability of trustworthy nursery care makes a huge difference in good attendance at church-sponsored events. Volunteer at your nursery so they can be open, not only during Masses, but for other events also.
 Quite often our parish will offer child care vouchers for events like the Lenten Mission, retreats, etc. Basically, we pay their babysitters. This frees some parents to come to evening events like these that coincide with their children’s bedtime.
 Our parish used to be organized geographically into neighborhood groups. These served a number or purposes, including support in the form of meals brought to families with a newborn or a death in the family. The model has changed in recent years for some of the original purposes, but organizing meals in this way is still going strong.