Decades ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we helped out at our parish church. I had known the pastor from my home parish in Chicago. He saw me through my dad’s death and numerous other tragedies which resulted in a lifelong friendship. My husband was in high school when he met Father O’Connell. Father had been assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish which served a very large Hispanic population. As president of the Spanish Club, Mike invited Father to come to speak to the members. Father did a great job which eventually led Mike to join St. Joseph’s. As a result, another life-long friendship began.
Before our children came along, Mike and I spent time at the parish overseeing the religious education program and assisting wherever else we were needed. This allowed for occasional opportunities to chat with Father O’Connell on a variety of topics. Sometimes, we laughed our way through these conversations. Sometimes, we commiserated in response to world events, trauma within the parish or our own concerns. One evening, as Mike and I prepared to go home, Father returned to the rectory after a rather contentious meeting. He smiled in spite of his headache and asked, “What was it that Jesus said? Where two or three are gathered in my name, there will be a fight?” Though I laughed in response, I sensed Father’s weariness. In an effort to help, I reminded him of what he often told me when I was frustrated with others. “Just remember, Mary, they’re all God’s kids,” Father would say. “Yes, they are,” he added. “Yes, they are.”
Over the years, though I experienced a measure of Father’s frustration, I also came to another amazing realization regarding parish life. I think Jesus would put it this way: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, they will accomplish much good!” In the early days, Mike and I would never have succeeded in managing and growing our religious education program if others had not stepped up to teach. Volunteers staffed every activity in our church, and they flourished because of this concerted effort. I suppose it is no wonder that when a new parish was founded nearer our home years later that it so quickly became home to Mike and me.
Before this fledgling church had a name or anything else, the my husband called the new pastor to offer his services. Astute pastor that he was, he recognized a good volunteer when he saw one and another friendship began. Throughout those months of planning, Father went on to welcome numerous others who made themselves known and who made our first weekend of Masses a huge success. With that, Father Farrell set the welcoming tone which remains the hallmark and the life of our parish family. Father proved without a doubt that where two or three are gathered in God’s name, we do accomplish much good!
Next weekend, this home parish of mine will celebrate Ministry Weekend. Though Father Farrell handed the baton of leadership over to our current pastor long ago, his initial invitation to be a part of our parish family remains. The numerous ministries and activities which continue in our parish indicate that Father Ray echoes this invitation loudly and clearly. To celebrate our accomplishments and to extend that welcome once again, our parish Ministry Directory will be available to our parishioners this weekend. As they browse through its pages, I hope they will find that our parish family is indeed alive and well. Perhaps they will also find a ministry or cause which appeals to them. Perhaps they will hear the photos of our ministry chairs calling their names? If they listen carefully, perhaps they will hear the Spirit who urges them to become one of the two or three or hundred who will gather in God’s name to accomplish much good.
Over the years, my husband and I have adjusted our schedules often to accommodate our family and our evolving responsibilities. At times, we pulled back. We needed to step up as dad, mom, spouse, child or friend to do what only we could do. At other times, we found the time to do more. This coming week, consider your own situation. Remember, a benefit of volunteering is making your own hours. Is there some ministry or cause out there that is tugging at you? If something appeals to you, learn more. Though you may not be available regularly, perhaps you can offer your services on an “as needed” basis. If you cannot spare a minute away from your other responsibilities these days, pray. Pray with us and pray for us that, however we participate in this life of ours, we continue to gather in God’s name to accomplish much good.
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