This is “Part 10” of a fifteen part series called “The Vision of an Ideal Parish” based on an article by Dr. Peter Williamson. The first 8 parts spoke of the parish as: Trinitarian, Christological, Communal, Missionary, Kerygmatic, Pneumatological. Charismatic, Sacramental and Catechetical.
Can you guess where these lyrics come from: Sometimes you want to go / Where everybody knows your name, / and they’re always glad you came. / You wanna be where you can see, / our troubles are all the same / You wanna be where everybody knows / Your name. If you can then either you are joyfully middle aged or an avid watcher of reruns.
It’s the Cheers theme song. For eleven years this theme song played weekly, if not daily, on our TVs. These lyrics capture an essential human desire: to be openly accepted by people who share the joys and troubles of life and know you by name. So many TV sitcoms (Frazier, Friends, the Big Bang Theory) have echoed the same theme because people desire to be accepted for who they are…as they are.
Does this happen in our parish? Are you known by name by another parishioner? Have you sought to learn another parishioner’s name? Is St. Francis a place where people are glad you came? Where your troubles find understanding? In other words: Is St. Francis a family to which we belong? Or is it merely a huge “sacrament factory” that rotates a faceless mass of humanity through its doors as if on a conveyor belt?
No. We are a family… a parish family. We are made up of young and old, white collar and blue collar, men and women. We include children, teenagers, young adults, single, married, single parent, widowed, divorced, retired, struggling, addicted, exhausted, isolated, deaf, injured, and disabled. We are from the United States, Mexico, Vietnam, Philippines, Africa, Europe, and India to name just a few. And as a parish family we must welcome the familiar and the unfamiliar, the introvert and extrovert, the saint and the sinner.
A true Catholic parish is familial. This not only means that we support the Christian family and the domestic Church by teaching on marriage and parenting, which we do. It also means that we strive to include all people, no matter their situation of life. Just as a family is a place of welcome, relationship, teaching and admonishment, so too, St. Francis parish must be just such a place. In other words, to be ‘familial’ means that we both support the family and that we are a family in which all parishioners find a home.
You see the Cheers song captures a truth: sometimes you do want to go where everyone knows your name. St. Francis must a place where others are glad you came… a place where we know our troubles are all the same. So let us strive to make our parish such a place; except we’ll use pews instead of stools.