You’re ready to answer the call. And here’s the great news up front: You can bring your experience in evangelization from campus straight to a very logical place — your parish.
The parish is a place for us to listen to God’s word, to celebrate the sacraments and to share in life as a community of the faithful. It’s also a place for us to be healed, where we encounter Christ’s saving power and learn how to be His witnesses for the world. What better place to start for lifelong mission?
6 Steps for Diving into Parish Life
1. Register at a parish!
Why? Because when you register at a parish, typically the priest or parish office follows up with you. What a great way to hear about everything that’s going on there! Registering also makes it possible for the priest to get to know you more personally and to pray intentionally for you as a member of his congregation.
2. Attend a regular Mass and go to parish events.
Attending a certain Mass weekly allows you to meet the other “regulars” who go to Mass at that time. Introduce yourself to them after Mass and get to know them.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to pick up a weekly bulletin or to check out the parish website. Find out what’s going on and dive in! There are plenty of ways to get involved at the parish: go to a Knights of Columbus meeting; drop in at the parish picnic or the after-Mass donuts n’ coffee; attend a choir practice; volunteer to help with youth group; so on. Make contacts and enter into the parish’s life and community.
3. Meet with the pastor and parish priests.
As the shepherd of the parish’s flock, the pastor knows the needs of the parish the best and has certain goals and hopes for supporting his congregation. Ask him about those goals and needs and offer to help out. Also, share with the pastor your experiences with evangelization and the parish. While he might ask you to help with something that isn’t directly involved with spiritual multiplication, helping out will grow his trust in you and give you an opportunity to meet even more people at the church.
Get to know “key players” in parish ministry.
The pastor isn’t alone in guiding and supporting the parish community. To build a discipleship model in the parish, you should find out who the main influencers of the parish are. It could be the other priests and deacons, leaders of certain ministries, the parish secretary, directors of religious education/formation, etc. Connecting with them can help you better understand the state and organization of the parish.
Pray for the priests, the staff and your fellow parishioners. Ask for the Holy Spirit to intercede and to guide you as you enter into the parish community!
6. Be patient!
Making disciples in a parish takes a lot more time than on a college campus. Parishioners are often busier with work and families, and it is difficult to find time with them — therefore, expect the timing and process of making disciples to be a bit different than on campus. But there’s no need to be discouraged. Don’t rush it by trying to make disciples in the first few months; instead, invest your time in building trust and friendships with your fellow parishioners. That patience will ultimately pay off in the end.