Thursday, July 06, 2006


Parishes offer everyone a place at the table of the Lord. People come to this table with different needs And hopes. Some people have shared at the table for years, and others are newcomers.

No matter who comes, it is our task as ministers to offer hospitality. In this and subsequent blogs, I will offer ideas and reflections based on my experience of everyday ministry in a parish.

The recent scrapbook craze has many people creating memory books of family vacations and school years. Baby pictures, those once-in-a-lifetime soccer goals, and the goofy costumes from Halloween can now be preserved and celebrated ¾ all with acid-free paper. Digital cameras, computer files, websites, and scanning equipment preserve what is most important to us electronically.

What happens to the special moments of parish history? Certainly the parish preserves the sacramental records, but what of everything else? I had occasion to find out this past week when I created a display of historic memorabilia.

The first thing that struck me as I looked through the newspaper articles, group photos of parishioners on various building committees, and old parish handbooks is that as a parish, we stand on the holy shoulders of the people of faith who preceded us. The parishioners of 2006 form just one link in a long chain of faithfulness.

For our parish, the chain extends back through time for over one hundred years.

I was overcome by gratitude for the faithfulness of this faith family.The second thing that struck me in looking through the historical records is how fragile and how disorganized these important documents are.

Tucked into a corner of a basement closet, our photos and newspaper articles and memories could be lost or destroyed so easily. The dapper photo of the founding pastor, records of building projects, the lists of former pastors, and a host of other irreplaceable fragments of another time are, for the most part, stacked in boxes. (One person did make a very good filing box for some of the documents, but there are several boxes untouched.)

It is a little formidable to think about how to organize and preserve the best of the items. A centennial, or in our case, the closing of our parish, make these items important, but day-to-day, the history remains boxed in its cardboard tomb.

What needs to be preserved? What can be scanned onto the computer for a visual record? Whose job is it to care for these things?

Big institutions like libraries, universities, and dioceses have archivists, people whose job it is to categorize and care for the past. Parishioners generally do not have such an official person, but many parishes have people interested in history and its preservation.

Perhaps the history ministry could become a part of parish life. Perhaps the diocesan archivist can offer some help, or your local library or historical society.

The links here to parish historical archives online may give you some ideas:,,

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

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