Hospitality: From the Curb to the Pew
by Ian Ford
If you have ever walked through the King Street doors before a weekend Mass, there is a good chance that we have encountered each other. I, along with our pastoral team, our ushers, and members of our parking crew are part of an important ministry at St. Patrick Parish. This ministry’s mission is to create a warm and inviting atmosphere so all current parishioners and newcomers can experience a welcoming environment every time they set foot on our property. This ministry is called “From the Curb to the Pew”, and it is at the heart of our mission value of Hospitality: “We believe that a warm, welcoming attitude is a first step to building fellowship and meaningful relationships within our community. We acknowledge the variety of cultures and backgrounds in our community and strive to treat every person with respect and care, as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
During the winter months, as I stand outside the door to the church, I am often asked “Aren’t you cold?” The answer is, “Yes, I’m cold.” And while I could easily go inside and stay warm, I’d much rather be outside greeting the wonderful people who grace our doors. Why? Because I feel that we can fill this church at every Mass, by sharing the warmth of our smiles and greetings.
If you have visited Quebec, there is a good chance that you have seen the huge minor basilica, called the Oratory. It is the largest church in Canada, and the 3rd largest in the world. It was built in large part by the work of Brother Andre Bessette (now St. Andre of Montreal). Brother Andre was said to be very spiritual but wasn’t seen as someone his order could use effectively, so they assigned him the simple task of greeting people as they entered his parish. Brother Andre became synonymous with a warm welcome, and people would return again and again because they had felt they had found a friendly church. The parishioner numbers increased so much they were bursting at the seams; so much in fact that they needed to build a church so large it could contain everyone coming to church. That is my goal. Fill the church with so many people that we are bursting at the seams.
Our Pastoral team has an on-going focus during our weekly meetings. We read together our Parish Mission Statement to remind us why we are here, and what we are doing. We then proceed to talk about “The Weekend Experience”. How did our Masses go? Where do we need to improve? Did everyone who came to St. Patrick church have a positive experience? When people come to St. Patrick, whether it’s their very first time, or they are long-time parishioners, they should feel welcomed by the smiling faces of our staff and volunteers, and know that they are safe and at home in God’s house. Maybe they have not been to church in a long time. A warm greeting might set them up for a great experience. Thus, it is our mission to ensure that everyone feels God’s love the moment they set foot on our property. During our busier Masses, our parking team will ensure you get parked safely. At all Masses, you will be greeted at the door, and then again when you get inside. Our welcome team is ever-present to answer any questions you might have. After Mass, you should find a similar experience on your way out. You will find a volunteer or staff member manning the Information Desk to answer any questions, or arrange a Mass intention. You’ll find someone wishing you well as you leave the church, and again the parking team will be there to assist you. At the same time, a team works to ensure the pews are clean, the hymn books are upright, and the bathrooms are clean, ready for our next Mass. All this so you might have a great “Sunday Experience” at St. Patrick Parish.
I am blessed to be a part of an amazing team who want to meet people wherever they are in life, and help them find the gift of God. 4 years ago, this was a church that was mediocre at best, so I’m happily stunned by the steady growth of this church. It is alive and full of spirit. We need people who want to see our church membership rise so high we can hardly contain them. All we need is your smiling face, and pleasant demeanor. Please consider being part of this important ministry.