Welcome to Our Parish
The Catholic Church in the United States today deeply affected, particularly on the parish level, by the economic and cultural movements that characterize our nation. Families are being uprooted and moved to other areas due to economic circumstances to a greater degree than the great migrations of the dust bowl and gold rush days.
Moreover, emigration adds to the phenomenon of family mobility and transfer so many experience from time to time. This challenges the Church on the parish and diocesan levels to bring God's word to an increasingly mobile society.
A family moving from one area to another must seek not only housing, schools, and shops, but also a new parish. While there are some slight differences from diocese to diocese, and parish to parish, ordinarily every Catholic parish functions according to norms for the general and particular welfare of its families and single persons.
Just as when one moves, planning and follow-through are a necessity, so too, when a family arrives at a new parish, planning and follow-up are paramount. There are many facets to be considered when entering on a new parish seen for the first time. Our purpose here is to provide helpful, straightforward guidelines that will serve you well as you plan to join your new parish.
First Things First
When a family or individual arrives at a new parish, registration in the parish community is most important. Generally speaking, directives for registration will be provided in the parish Bulletin. The first Sunday you attend liturgy in your new parish, make sure you read the Bulletin, not only to get a feel for the parish community, but also for registration directives.
Importance of Registration
Registration clearly announces your arrival in the parish and enables the parish priest(s) and staff to communicate with you as soon as possible. Opening the lines of communication between parish and family is very important. At the same time, it assures the family and/or individual of full status as a parishioner. This enables parish(s) and staff to make available rights and privileges guaranteed by Church law. Canon Law and diocesan policy in some instances require full parish membership before some sacraments may be administered. This is particularly true of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Holy Orders. Registration, then, can be effective initiation into the life of your new parish.
Calling The Rectory
The parish office today has become the center for communications in most parishes. Modern technology allows parishioners to be in touch with clergy or staff almost immediately. When calling the rectory, it is best to do so during parish office hours. Posted office hours are ordinarily found in the parish Bulletin. Large parishes often have people answering the phones from morning til late evening. Once a parish operator closes for the evening, automated systems are placed in service. (Some parishes also have email and website possibilities.)
If you are calling in an emergency, patiently and calmly listen to selections given and instructions provided. Follow the directions that apply to your situation, and, if possible, remain near your phone so that the priest or deacon can get through to you as soon as possible.
On weekends, most parishes will have Mass and Confession schedules recorded for your convenience. Again, if you call for another reason, listen to the menu provided to find the correct choice for your situation.
Regulations for Eucharistic Fast
Since 1953, the regulations for the Eucharistic fast have been modified several times. Today the fast is for one hour from foods, solid and liquid, including alcoholic drinks. Medicine and water are exceptions. One could calculate the time from actual reception of Holy Communion, not the beginning of Mass. For the sick, aged, and those attending them, the fast does not bind.
When Receiving Twice a Day
All the above regulations hold in the case where one receives Holy Communion twice in one day for any reason. According to Canon 917, persons who have reason to participate in a second liturgy on the same day, e.g., a wedding or funeral, may also receive Holy Communion a second time. They may not receive a second time outside of Mass.
Support For Your Parish
While it is true that supporting one's parish is a precept of the Church, when one thinks of it, being fair or even generous to one's parish makes good sense. We should remember that the local parish functions under the same economic conditions as the parishioners.
One can easily gauge where one should be on the issue of the amount of parish support. The rule of thumb based on biblical foundations is that parishioners should tithe, namely, budget a percentage of take-home income for the parish (ten, five, or even two percent).
Half of the percent would go directly to the parish in the weekly collections. An additional half would be budgeted for the diocesan-sponsored second collections for a variety of charitable domestic and overseas projects. This latter is, if you will, a very convenient and effective way to exercise our fundamental option for the poor. This second half would also include local and neighborhood charities of choice.
We are all used to church envelopes. However, in many cases they are suggested, but ordinarily not absolutely necessary, to be a registered parishioner. Still, use of envelopes helps a family plan its giving. It is also a good record for the parish when required to provide information for tax purposes. What is more, envelopes can be very helpful to volunteers who tabulate the weekly collections.
Catholic Schools Discount
As a parishioner who regularly participates in weekly mass through the use of church envelopes, and who has children attending Catholic school in the area, you have the ability to receive discounts on your child's school tuition. The amount given towards tuition is decided based on the amount donated each year to the church by the parishioner's family.
The Poor Box
The poor box is indeed a symbol of life and a reminder of the Church's mission. It enables one to give a little extra while, at the same time, proclaiming our fellowship with Jesus. Through word and action during His public life, our Lord clearly demonstrated that His followers should be most considerate, caring, kind and generous to the poor.
As we walk into or out of church, we really ought to think of Lazarus lying at the rich man's gate. It is a reminder of who God really loves, and how easy it is to give a. cup of cold water in the Lord's name.
Finally, it is important to remember that all monies given to your parish are tax deductible for both federal and local taxes, as long as donations are not given for services received. Parishes keep records of donations in envelopes that are placed in the collection, and usually send statements at the end of the year. If this is not the case, statements may be requested through the parish office.
Religious Education And Youth Ministry
Religious education and the youth ministry constitute one of the most important evangelical functions of the modern parish. Enough cannot be said about the serious responsibility for parents to educate their children in the ways of the Faith. This stems from the promise parents and godparents made at the child's baptism.
Responsibility of Parents
Parents are obliged in conscience to take advantage of parish religious education programs. When it comes to youth ministry, this can be a challenge because of the many sports and social activities taking place in their neighborhoods. Nonetheless, youth ministry in any parish becomes successful in direct proportions to the amount of time, interest, and concern displayed by the parents of parish young people.
Begins at Home
Parish religious educators form a partnership with parents in the formation of their children. Religious formation begins from the earliest years by teaching children how to pray. They should be introduced very gradually to the protocol of Sunday worship at an early age, but parents should not expect children to be perfect. However, it is not a good practice to bring toys, cereal, and other items to church to distract them. Parents should not feel embarrassed to take children to a separate room or chapel when they become restless.
Religious education for students in grades six through twelve is usually part and parcel of Youth Ministry. From sixth grade on, classes usually meet at different times from grades one through five. A more mature approach to religious instruction is utilized, characterized by more self-direction and discovery skills, outreach activities, and social responsibility. These educational approaches likewise include religious instruction at a greater depth.
Again, as youngsters move on to the secondary level, greater responsibility for spiritual growth and increased knowledge of theology and Church are encouraged. Classes are usually held once a week, and are followed by late evening inter-parochial youth gatherings and sporting events.
Adult parishioners are encouraged to play a significant role in these activities as the young men and women prepare to go off to college. Parents should encourage young people to keep in touch with the local parish throughout their college years.
A Worshiping Community
Sunday worship is intentionally convened in an atmosphere of praise, community, and fellowship. Community is paramount in that we, as a worshiping people, together acknowledge with praise and thanksgiving God's active presence in our lives. Insofar as Sunday Mass is a community celebration, we come to realize how important it is for the welfare of all that we be on time for Mass. Better still, it is always wise to plan to spend some time in preparatory prayer and recollection before Mass, thus almost assuring our on-time arrival.
In this time of highly developed technology, nearly all churches have comfortable heating and air conditioning systems. Moreover, when one thinks of what transpires during Mass and Communion, we should want to dress for the occasion. Our non-Catholic brethren put us to shame in this area. We really should come to church in our proverbial Sunday best. We should be well groomed and properly clothed. Even in vacation areas, flip-flops as footwear, jeans, cutoffs, shorts, t-shirts or tank tops are out of place. What is more, chewing gum and baseball style hats are inappropriate. Finally, given the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, hands should be cleaned, and any kind of decal, sticker or styling accessories are also out of order.
Holy Water and Genuflection
When we enter the church, an age-old, worthwhile custom is to bless ourselves with holy water and genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament before entering pew or chair. If the Eucharist is reserved elsewhere, a profound bow to the high altar or crucifix is appropriate. Although these may seem to be small and insignificant customs, nonetheless, they serve effectively to help us recollect ourselves as we enter, and come to an appreciation for our surroundings.
Join In Singing
Once the procession begins the congregation should stand and join in the singing where customary. During Communion approach the priest, deacon, or eucharistic minister with profound respect. Be cooperative with ushers who are there to guide and maintain reverential order.
In the United States, since it is our custom to kneel during the Lamb of God, this adoration time, according to the American bishops, replaces a need for genuflection immediately before receiving Communion. This latter genuflection is used in many countries where the congregation stands during the Eucharistic prayer and the Communion service. Finally, to maintain good order and a prayerful ambience in church, all should remain in their places until the priest and altar ministers process out of church.
Illness in Church
If you or someone in your family or group experiences distress during the service, inform the ushers and follow their directions. Where ventilation may be needed, ask the ushers for their help and allow them to open appropriate windows and doors at the same time courtesy for those who will attend a following Mass dictates that no disposable items, wrappers, etc., be left in church.
Conduct When Leaving Church
Take church Bulletins with you or return them to their proper place in the vestibule. When leaving the church property exercise caution where children, the elderly, and others are making their way through the parking area. If and when feasible, give way with a smile and gesture of good will to other drivers, and above all, exercise great patience after just received our patient Lord and Savior.