What My Parish Does Well

I love our parish. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and the recent posts from Calah, Elizabeth, Also Elizabeth, and Melanie have me reflecting on the simple things that our parish does well to build community.

My personal favorite: Catholic Date Night:

Once a month, a group of several couples puts together date night at the parish. For $10/person, you can show up on a Friday night, drop your kids off at the nursery, enjoy a really good meal, and talk to other people in the parish. There’s plenty of time for chit-chatting, and then we watch an episode from the Catholicism series. Then we talk about it, and then we get our kids from the nursery. So easy.

(I can tell I’m REALLY in need of a nice, relaxing evening because I was actually tearing up watching the video, which I think was made by Gabriel Castillo of Mediatrix Solutions and YouTube Film School for Catholics.)

Here are the components that make this event a great thing:

  • free babysitting (or, well, babysitting is included)
  • you can just show up, although an RSVP is preferred so that there will be enough food. If you are going to use the babysitting, you have to RSVP a few days in advance.
  • no outside commitment or preparation is required
  • the food is good, although honestly you could hand me a PBJ at the door and I’d still be there with bells on if you let me drop my kids off at the nursery.
  • while there is a faith-building component to the evening, it’s also set up to allow you to just visit with other people in the parish and talk about football or wine or whatever
  • Speaking of wine– just sayin’.
  • no forced sharing

The parish also has a thriving moms’ group that meets regularly, although I can’t really speak to that because I never go. It’s mainly geared towards moms with younger children. There are regular mornings of reflection for women in the parish, again with free babysitting. And again, you don’t have to do anything beforehand to prepare; you can just show up.

The parish is not stingy about letting groups use the facilities. This is a big one. I’ve been in parishes where you had to go through extensive paperwork and clear various levels of bureaucracy just to have a meeting in one of the rooms. In contrast, we’ve been able to use parish facilities for homeschool family get-togethers and other events, and it was as simple as calling up the office to see if there was space available.

There are lots of other things I really like about our parish – the music is wonderful, the congregation is very diverse, the pastor is tolerant of eccentricities such as children yelling “SCAPULAR?! What’s a SCAPULAR?!” during a home blessing. But I think the main thing is that it doesn’t feel like the only way anything will get done is if we ALL pitch in and everyone brings a dish and calls five people and reads these chapters. It’s okay to just show up.

I’m in a “just show up” stage right now as far as activities. My business has taken off, which is great, but between homeschooling, work, and trying to keep the house clean enough that emergency personnel could locate us in a crisis – I’m spent. I’ve been That Person who dreams up and then coordinates five different activities, and right now – I just can’t. But I can show up!

I feel a little guilty even writing that, because I’m sure that most of these wonderful things happen because the same ten people make it so. But to those ten people, I say: thank you. Thank you sooooo much.

What does your parish do well? (dig deep, people)

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  1. says

    That’s wonderful that various groups can use the facilities- our homeschool group is not allowed to use the empty covered area at the closest parish to our park day :(

    and my daughters’ ‘Crafters for Life ‘ (a girls’ craft club to benefit crisis pregnancy centers) was deemed impossible to be held in the coffee room of another parish because every adult who entered the room (to pick up a daughter, to stay, etc) would need to be finger printed and take the safe environment classes. We couldn’t guarantee that a non-fingerprinted mother wouldn’t enter the room :(

      • Betty says

        Oh Dorian – remember Safe Environment? It has grown little webbie fingers and it is everywhere. Now any adult that has contact with young people on campus has to have a cleared background check AND that class which is mandated by the Diocese. No if, ands or buts, it has changed us in so many ways and it really makes fun family activities hard because this applies across the board. It is in the best interest of children and I understand and get it but it also so ties the hands of those who would help out once or twice a year if they could just drop in. And sometimes I feel like I am part of the Safe Environment Police making sure no “outsiders” darken our doors. It is society that we live in and somehow we have to adjust. This even applies to the Scouts that just use the cafeteria or the little league teams who want to use a field. Miss you here at OLV. Betty

        • says

          Betty – I was just looking up your address last night for the Christmas card I probably won’t mail this year, either!

          I’m realizing that the things I’ve listed are ones that don’t involve Safe Environment rigamarole for all of the participants, because the kids are in the nursery and the adults are meeting separately. So maybe what we do well is provide opportunities for adults to get together, both for faith-sharing and for social reasons. Hmmm.

    • says

      I am not sure if you mean “the liturgy is especially beautiful at my parish” or if you are reminding me that the real thing a parish should do is the liturgy. Which is true.

  2. says

    One thing our Parish does that I love (except when I’m really tired and don’t want to leave the house) is that every Wednesday night, we have Religious Ed for the whole family. It begins with dinner in the Parish hall. Free dinner. Sometimes it’s really good. Sometimes it’s anemic hotdogs, but it’s dinner, and the kids eat it, and the adults get to visit with one another. Then everyone goes to class. I teach the adult ed. There’s a nursery for babes up to age 3, which my youngest wouldn’t go to for a long time, because it was manned by the DRE’s elderly father, and another old man (but it’s FREE!). So for awhile I taught the class with a baby intermittently on my hip and crawling around on the floor. But pretty soon, he started going to the childcare and really warmed up to the old dudes, and now he loves them. After class, there’s prayer, which is sometimes Adoration, sometimes Rosary, sometimes MAss, sometimes Benediction. Then we all go home around 8 or 8:30. It’s late for a school night, but oh well.

    Religious ed has been the best way to get involved with other moms at our Parish– the other ones teaching/attending classes, that is, since a lot of the parents still just send their kids in and don’t stick around for adult ed. But it’s made the after Mass experience much better as well, since people tend to stand around outside the church and visit for a few minutes now.

    It takes a lot of volunteers to put it all on. There’s a dinner committee every year, plus catechists, and childcare, so I give extra credit to our DRE for getting everyone roped in and budgeting the dinners for us. She does a really good job. Also of note: we’re a small Parish with a balanced budget–which is why, I imagine, it can afford to provide free dinner for 50 or so people every Wednesday. I’ve never belonged to a Parish that always had a balanced budget before, and it makes a big difference in what kinds of ministries they can provide.

    An aside: My husband–introvert and misanthrope as he is–hates all of it, the standing around after Mass, and eating dinner with people from church. Our solution is that he sits in the car like curmudgeon while I make sure I’m the last to leave Mass. And he never goes to the Wednesday night things. His loss.

    • says

      Also, all those volunteers have to be VIRTUS trained, which is the Indiana way of clearing people to work with kids. So I give our DRE credit for making sure that happens too.

    • says


      That’s awesome. You know last year my sister and I brainstormed almost exactly that program when we were imagining what kind of thing we’d like to see in our parish. Those three elements were what we thought would make a good program. Having dinner there means you don’t have to scramble to feed the kids and nothing creates community better than a shared meal. The quote from Ratzinger I used emphasized that that was how the original Christians came together and I’m convinced that it’s hard to beat. I’m definitely in favor or whole family catechesis, just teaching the kids without catching the parents seems to me a losing proposition. If the parents aren’t passing on the faith there is little chance an hour a week with a catechist will stop the gap. And prayer should definitely be a component of any Catholic communal event.

  3. says

    Dorian, I think our parish has done a sort of date night thing before watching Fireproof and maybe another movie too; but it was only a movie without the dinner and babysitting components. That makes a huge difference. We still might not have gone to one even if both of those additional pieces were there simply because of toddlers and bedtimes. But it’s the kind of thing I’d be interested in when the kids were a bit older. I do think adding the meal adds a huge value.

    One question: it looks like the meal is just for the adults. Do they feed the kids too? Or do you have to figure out the logistics of feeding them before you drop them at the free babysitting? Even if it were just sandwiches or hot dogs or something, providing that would make a big difference to me.

  4. says

    I also love that you are willing to admit you are in a “just show up” stage. To me that’s just what it is, a stage. When we didn’t have little kids I would have been up for helping out at things. Not that anyone asked. I was never one of those ten people who organized things except in that Dom was DRE at our parish for a while and I was a behind the scenes role in talking over the things he was doing. But I do think there is an intense stage in parenting when all your kids are little and you just need to be able to show up to things. There are seasons in life when that’s the best you can do and there are seasons when you need to step up and do more. Part of my frustration in some of these conversations has been that some people don’t seem to recognize that.

  5. Cordelia says

    I’m deep in the “just show up” stage of life, too, which is compounded by the fact that we live an hour away from our chosen parish. And both I and my husband are introverts – myself possibly even a misanthropic introvert like Mr. Elizabeth Duffy (with whom I deeply sympathize about standing around chit-chatting after Mass). So I don’t know much about the social life of our parish… But we drive an hour, through four “lesser” parishes, for the amazing beauty of the century-old Cathedral – and the reverent liturgy – and the glorious pipe organ and choir – and the reliably orthodox teaching. And really nice old-fashioned confessionals open three hours a week (which still isn’t enough, but at least they’re trying). We also appreciate, and contribute to, the small ministry our parish offers to pregnant women in need of support. Although our bishop is highly opposed to homeschooling (pray for him!), there is still a vibrant and long-standing group of a dozen or two families from this area of the diocese who meet on a regular basis; that’s the group many of us around here turn to for friendships.

    This has been an interesting comment-thread to read – I’m so glad you asked the question!