There are two special points emphasized in the readings.
First is hospitality and welcome; and the second is building God’s House.
In light of those themes, I think this is a great opportunity
to return to the Parish Priorities
I introduced in a homily just before Lent.
As I explained then, these are priorities the Pastoral Council and I,
after much reflection, see as deserving special emphasis.
And to recall, they are five:
(1) Devout worship;
(2) Forming more disciples;
(3) Offering a better welcome;
(4) Seeking out – that is, inactive Catholics
and those who aren’t Catholic;
(5) Paying for it all.
But it all boils down to what the readings talk about.
Building God’s House – which is made of people –
and seeking out those God wants in his House.
In the first reading, the early Church is divided along ethnic lines;
that is, Greeks and Hebrews, with the Greeks feeling neglected.
Notice the Apostles’ solution is very practical.
All seven men have Greek names.
It has ever been this way.
When the Archbishop sent the first priest here,
he chose Father Navarron, who was French,
like the first Catholics in this parish.
There are similar needs today.
A growing number of Catholics in the U.S. are Spanish-speaking.
But do you realize that right now,
Hispanics represent over 40% of all Catholics in this country?
So far, we aren’t seeing this in Russia,
but go to Osgood and St. Mary’s, to Sidney and Piqua, to Troy
– and of course points beyond – you’ll see this here and now.
And who can say but that Russia’s turn may come before long.
Meanwhile, there is another cultural and language barrier
that is real for us, here and now. I don’t mean Spanish v. English.
I mean, the gap between the culture that is familiar to us
as practicing Catholics, as opposed to those around us,
who are not Catholic, or not active.
You and I gather here each Sunday because that’s our habit;
our parents taught it to us, and part of what brings us here
is that this is where we feel at home;
our friends and family are here, too.
We have a familiarity; we “fit in.”
But if you didn’t grow up with what is so familiar to us;
or, if you were baptized Catholic,
but never really developed the habits
that are second-nature for many of us, then there is a barrier.
The terms you and I use,
like “grace” and “sacraments” and “Resurrection”
might as well be Spanish or French
for many who live and work side-by-side with us.
Has Christ prepared a place for them? Of course!
So who has the task of helping them find that place?
My purpose in proposing these Parish Priorities
isn’t about some new project or program,
but a different way of thinking; and even in being Catholic.
A different awareness of what belonging to this parish means.
Not just for the priest, or the staff, or key volunteers,
but for every single baptized Catholic, from age 1 to 101.
So why now? There are trends moving very fast in our nation,
leading us to a post-Christian future.
And I don’t mean 100 years from now, I mean, 20 years from now.
Unless we build a great wall around Russia, this will affect us, too.
Let me offer an analogy.
What if I told you that for each child enrolled in Russia School,
there was another child in this community, not enrolled,
and not home-schooled either, but in fact,
receiving no education at all? Would that shock you?
Well, that’s the situation with our parish!
For every person who attends Mass here each week,
there is another Catholic who is registered in this parish,
but doesn’t show up.
We have 1,564 Catholics registered;
we get about 750 in the pews each week.
And that’s only those Catholics who bothered to register!
Meanwhile, there hundreds more folks who aren’t Catholic,
but who Christ is making room for in his Father’s House as well.
So, this is why we began the Men’s Prayer Walk last June,
and we’ll do it again this June – check the bulletin for the date.
This is why we’ve begun inviting everyone – not just Catholics –
to use Formed.org and to attend our summer Bible Camp.
This is why we will have a Parish Mission this November
with Father Nathan Cromly.
But again, it isn’t about a program or an event;
And sending out flyers alone isn’t enough.
So, here’s something you can do.
Over the next several months, I’d like to meet personally
with each and every parish group,
in order to talk about these priorities, and very specifically,
to talk about how each group can play a role.
After all, this welcome, this bringing people to the Lord,
usually doesn’t begin at Sunday Mass;
it begins in your living rooms or backyards,
over lunch at school or pizza in the bowling alley.
If this was simply a matter of special knowledge
or some sort of “technique,”
I’d pass out cards or booklets; but it’s not.
It’s a change of mindset; it’s an evolution to the culture of the parish.
Just like what the Apostles did in the first reading.
And this adaptation, this new mindset,
will happen not simply because I talk about it on Sunday,
but because it’s something we all help each other learn together.
So if you are part of any group or activity in the parish,
I’m asking someone from your group
to send me an email or give me a call,
and we’ll plan a time to dig into this together.
Today is Mother’s Day, and we give thanks for all our mothers do –
in giving us natural life, and sharing spiritual life with us.
How do they do it?
The answer is not, that it’s something they say now and then,
or some special knowledge or program.
No; our mothers do what they do by being who they are.
Their life, their example, as well as their words, are the “how”;
our moms being who they are is how we become who we are.
That’s how the family grows; that’s how the Church grows.
And that’s how you and will share Christ with our community.