Wednesday, August 16, 2006

RISKY BUSINESS by Kathi Scarpace

The other day a parishioner gave me a bit of good news. My parish has recently grown from over two thousand families to just over four thousand families and, from my point of view, feels a little overwhelming.

Commenting on our large parish, she said, “I like having a big parish. That way you don’t have to do everything.”

She offered me a change of perspective and the good news. There is more than enough work for four thousand families , and she had the wisdom to recognize that we can share the load among each other.

Good news can also come from new parishioners. New parishioners come with great ideas from other parishes. For example, a parishioner may know how to run a food pantry because he or she has helped run a pantry in another parish. Or a parishioner might know about bereavement ministry or how to organize a fiesta.

Often forms for new parishioners invite them to participate in ongoing parish ministries. I have never seen a form for a parishioner to share his or her ministry experience.

Sometimes being on the receiving end of ministry can move people to become more involved.

A woman who received communion in the hospital and recovered her health, wants to volunteer for this ministry. A parishioner who came to a funeral reception as a guest wants to help provide future meals for grieving parishioners. A new parishioner wants to be a greeter so that he can meet the parish community.

Parish life is dynamic because it is the life of the Spirit. Openness to the Spirit’s movement, a willingness to try new things and to look at things in a new way make for a lively, attractive, and loving community.

“See, I am doing something new” (Is 43:19), says the Lord.

God’s creative energies surround us, bring us hope, and lead us to joy.

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

Monday, August 07, 2006

PARISH HERMITS by Kathi Scarpace

A parishioner I visit is dying. He is battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy every couple of weeks. His hair has fallen out, he is weak, and life is hard.

He decided to plan his funeral. He wants certain readings, a few favorite songs, and some say in how he and is family remember his life and commemorate his departure.

It is not easy to visit. I bring him communion each week. We pray the readings and share our comments. This man was a friend long before he was sick. As the days and weeks go by, the inevitability of death becomes more transparent. We share a few laughs, some long silences, and talk about whatever seems important on that particular day.

I want to grasp these days, but they seem to be slipping away like the days of a special vacation. Each conversation is measured and held, examined like a shell found on the shore. Fortunately, my friend has been given the grace to live at home through his illness.

In my mind, the homebound members of our parish are like the hermits of monastic communities. The hermits live alone and yet remain connected to the monastery; the homebound are connected to the parish through their prayers, their financial contributions, and through the sacraments.

They live their lives “hidden in Christ” and their work is to pray. They do pray for the priests, the sick of the parish, for family and friends. When they die, they become part of the communion of saints and continue their work as advocates for the parish.

The inability to leave home and sit through a Sunday Mass is only a physical limitation. Creaky legs, congestive heart failure and cancer does not limit the life of the Spirit. Homebound parishioners serve the community.

I count on the prayers of my friend to see me through. He can count on me to see him through as well.

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