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July 20, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 19

COMMENTARY

Welcome is a two way street

On Saturday August 1, many Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond who attend the Vigil Mass will come face-to-face with a new pastor. Parishioners in larger parishes may have a chance to welcome a new parochial vicar.

This transition in pastoral assignments gives us an opportunity to be warm and welcoming to a priest who likely knows few people by name and needs to adjust to his new surroundings. The new pastor, like all who enter a new environment, wants to make a good impression on those who will be part of his new flock — to coin an old fashioned word. He is the new kid on the block and, like all of us in a similar situation, wants to make new friends.

How can we be that new friend? One way is to greet the new pastor with a warm smile and introduce yourself upon leaving your pew after Mass and heading out the door. Most priests today stand at the main doors after Mass in an attempt to meet others and have a few words with them. It is also a time when parishioners and visitors can thank the priest for what was likely a good homily. But this is not the time to engage the priest in a lengthy discussion or pressure him to make changes in liturgical practice.

Along with the arrival of a new pastor might be implementation of doing things differently at Sunday or daily Mass. For those who don’t like change, this can often be difficult. Some will likely resist any change and do so by saying to the new pastor, “We have never done it that way before. There’s no reason to change.”

Well, maybe there is. Some newly assigned priests may now have two or three parishes in which they celebrate Mass on Sunday. Obviously it takes time to travel to the next parish and have some time in which to say goodbye to worshippers at the first parish and then greet those at the next parish. Priests who have had such a tight schedule on Sundays have sometimes received speeding tickets as they travel up and down the highways to celebrate Mass.

Priests — both young and old — have been ordained to offer the Church’s sacraments. In their promise of obedience to the ordaining Bishop and his successors, they are open to being reassigned to meet pastoral needs of people in the pews. For some priests, leaving a parish in which they are comfortable is hard.

Let us warmly welcome our new pastor and make him feel welcome in his new home.

And the new pastors also have an obligation to be warm and welcoming to those they meet in their new assignment. Showing welcome is a two-way street.

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