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?