Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shopping for a Church

Over at Faith and Family Live!, they are having a discussion about whether or not to "shop" for a parish. I went to put my two cents in and came out with a comment that deserved its own post.

Ideally, I think you should attend your home parish. If it's broke, then you be the one to fix it. Or at least get the solution started.

Having said that, I think I have "shopped" for every parish I've belonged to in my married life and have been greatly blessed by doing so. When we were stationed in Utah, just finding a Catholic church was difficult. We really only had 2 options. The church off base turned off my then Protestant fiance with the very senior priest's fire and brimstone homilies. We ended up becoming members of the base chapel, mostly because my husband worked with the woman who was in charge of the RCIA program on base which he became a part of. I will always cherish that chapel because that is where my husband entered the Church and because of a very important couple we met there.

We then moved to Boston and encountered the exact opposite, having a Catholic church on every block it seemed. Of course, the Church in Boston is facing great challenges which has affected its attendance. We attended Mass at our "official" parish that first Sunday in a large, beautiful church. It did not feel welcoming, however, with only a few parishioners in attendance and most of them elderly. We eventually became members of the next closest parish, still only 5 minutes away. This parish was a blessing because of the priest who was very personable and great with children. He even attended our oldest daughter's birthday party once. I have yet to see another priest so involved with his parishioners, especially the children.

Moving once more, we took a different approach this time. We "shopped" for a parish before we decided where to live, in hopes of influencing our decision. Having decided on a parish (a large factor was the number of young families with children in attendance) it is still not our "official" parish because we decided to live on base. But, for some of the same reasons as Michelle stated in her comment, we have stayed with the off base parish. It still isn't perfect, I don't care for the architecture and I don't know if the priest recognizes us (despite baptizing one of our children and our very regular attendance at Mass), and we didn't put our 4 yo in CCD/Faith Formation this year because of some negative comments we heard. But this is where I can step up for this parish and help to strengthen what may be a weak link. Maybe that is why God put me here. And again, the blessings are many. A new family sat in "our pew" a month ago and we are fast becoming good friends. And remember that special couple from the chapel in Utah? They were already parishioners here (the Air Force is a small world) and have since become godparents to our youngest child, not only blessing her, but spiritually supporting our entire family.

This is all not to say that we won't be switching again. I have already thought about it due to our oldest attending Catholic school at a different parish because this church does not have a school. If we were to move off base, a possibility in the not so distant future, this would be a HUGE consideration.

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