I love my parish.
No, you don’t understand, I love my parish.
These people are the best friends I have. I don’t really have many friends outside of the Church, and my parish holds most of these people. I’m the guy who loves to hang out at RCIA and Catechism classes just to be around. I’m a member of the Knights of Columbus just because I think those guys are cool. Old, young, families, singles, these are my people.
My diocese is rather large, and most of my friends were not able to make the long drive to the seat of the diocese for my ordination. So when I was ordained, I decided I should have a little reception after I gave my first homily, a little coffee hour thing after Mass with a cake or something. I just wanted a chance to say thank you to everyone for being such a blessing to me during these long years of formation, and give everyone a chance to share in the event they could not be a part of.
Then the community got involved, and before I knew it, it had become this massive event.
The Knights couldn’t stand for mere coffee and treats, so they decided it should be a full on luncheon. One small cake turned into several that filled a table. There were tablecloths, and place settings, and all sorts of finery I would have loved to have had at my wedding. My small coffee hour turned into a gala event.
I got to give a speech. I got to bless the food. Most of the local priests came to wish me well. Lots of questions, lots of hugs, lots of blessings. Lots of kids hugging my legs. Being Catholic is awesome.
I can’t tell you how deeply thankful I was and am for such a warm welcome into my new role in parish life. It was a perfect day.
My favorite part was the cards. One of my dear friends got the idea to set up a station for people to write me cards of congratulations. They were all very sweet, but the kids cards topped the cake. Endless pictures of Jesus and Mary, pictures of me, with hand scrawled misspelled congratulations. I will keep them all forever.
I serve two parishes, as clergy are in short supply in my diocese, so imagine my surprise when I went to give my first homily at my (new) parish to find they too had set up a celebration in my honor. More cake, more sweets, more congratulations and even more smiles. They made me feel right at home, and welcomed me with open arms.
What a blessing it is to serve God’s people.