Earlier today on various social media platforms I quipped:
- Catholic Extrovert: Catholic parishes are unwelcoming and need to change.
- Me a Catholic Introvert: Catholic parishes are awesome, never change.
As someone with introvert tendencies I like it fine not to be bothered at Mass. Still I also realize the seeming coldness at Catholic parishes I have experienced is not something we can brag about. So my quip was definitely tongue-in-cheek.
Having listened to so much Catholic radio I realize how many out there are totally turned off by this as if they are totally unconnected to their parish. People who have left the Church have mentioned this as one reason why since they found fellowship in Protestant churches. There are many cultural shifts responsible for this.
I have been in some parishes where there is an attempt to be more welcoming, but aspects of these attempts fall flat for me. Friendly ushers that welcome you should be pretty much default. Still I find attempts at faux-community such as the request at the start of Mass to introduce yourself to your pew-neighbor, extended Kiss of Peace, and a litany of birthdays, anniversaries, “our choir is great” (usually not), and asking visitors to acknowledge themselves. All connected with rounds of clapping.
Seems to me if the central axis of a welcoming effort is the Mass, you are doing it wrong. It is understandable since the parish is no longer a rallying place for Catholic community, but a place where you go to Mass once a week. Punch that Sunday ticket and move on. Or the idea that a vibrant parish is one with amplified music lifted from the sixties.
One parish I sometimes attend seems to understand this. There seems to be a real network of parish involvement as they provide a wealth of activities and access to continuing education in the faith. They had to build a larger parish hall since they had been successful at this. A nice balance of things like movie nights to more substantial dives into learning the faith. Along with the importance of apostolates and serving the poor.
Getting people involved must be a continuing difficulty for most parishes since the volunteers are often the same small core of people. Still I imagine this can grow when paths to involvements are offered. I have no experience with CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) and similar programs. No doubt it is a step in the right direction (depending on who is facilitating the program). There are also programs like rebuilt parish which I also don’t have experience with. Still it seems to me we should be following the models of diocese who have increased Mass attendance, adherence to the faith, and vocations without gimmicks – for example the Diocese of Lincoln and Archdiocese of Denver.
The fact seems to be from anecdotal evidence that most parishes are the anti-Cheers “Nobody knows your name.” That is not a good thing.
Still as an introvert I especially like Eucharistic Adoration for reasons other than just being able to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet I also long to be in community with other Catholics.