Welcoming Visitors to Our Parish

Last night, my family attended the Houston Second Baptist annual Krazy Kids Christmas Show at their Pearland campus with friends.  The show is a mix of dancers, live actors, and singing puppets, celebrating the message of the true “Reason for the Season”.  The kids thought it was great, and I even caught my husband laughing pretty hard at the ZZ Top singing Wise Men. This fun, crazy, entertaining Christmas show featuring the Holy Family, shepherds, wise men, angels and some spitting camels, focused on the Birth of Christ was a perfect opportunity to share time with the family and a beautiful way to reach children with the Spirit of Christmas.

In addition to spreading the Christmas message, the church uses the event for outreach and recruitment  by offering multiple invitations for us to speak with their members about attending their services. They also requested all of our contact information, including birthdates, simply for attending their free children’s performance.  While I found the continued pressure uncomfortable and distracting from the show, I have to give them accolades on really going out of their way to welcome visitors and making those who seek Him feel welcome to their church. I recognize that there is a big difference in how Baptists, most Protestants, and Catholics evangelize, even within their own worship space.

It makes me wonder how my own Catholic parish evangelizes and welcomes visitors, both Catholic and non-Catholic?  We have greeters to welcome each person through the door with a kind word and great smile, Father John and Deacon Kevin stand outside after Mass to speak with everyone as they leave and shake hands, and St. Angela Merici offers coffee and donuts in the gathering room after each Sunday Mass.  These are all things that I, as a member, appreciate and look forward to every week.  
But what about Catholics visiting the parish?  Do they feel welcome and invited to join our growing community?  How about the non-Catholic who may have questions or are seeking answers about our faith?  Are they welcomed in a way that is comfortable and loving, encouraging them to discover the Fullness of Truth the Catholic Church has to offer? 
St. Angela Merici has a friendly and vibrant parish family, but how often do we, as individual members, turn to those we don’t recognize and welcome them? I can’t remember the last time I personally spoke to someone before or after Mass that I didn’t already know or at least recognize from the pews.  Is it just me?  So, in the Spirit of Christmas, I intend to make an extra effort this weekend to smile and say hello to someone I haven’t met, introduce my family, and ask if they have any questions about our parish.  
Though I would not advocate the aggressive evangelization I witnessed last night, the question remains, should we and can we do more both as a parish and as individuals to be more welcoming to our guests? 


Lisa Henley Jones