Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Christmas Hospitality ideas from Saint Lucy

Fr. Dave Mercer, Parochial Vicar at Saint Lucy Parish, sent me the following ideas based on what they have done at Saint Lucy's Parish during the Christmas season. Kudos to the parishioners and staff of Saint Lucy for welcoming Christ in all who seek him!

For the second year in a row, we surrounded the Christmas liturgies with a strong focus on hospitality, especially for the alienated/inactive Catholic and for the visitor. We did this in various ways:

Special Christmas Greeters
  1. Like last year, we recruited “Special Christmas Greeters,” using recruitment cards in the church during the weeks prior to Christmas and last year’s list of Christmas Greeters. We held two short training sessions for the special greeters.

  2. In total, we had 61 greeters spread out over 7 Masses, with a “captain” at each Mass to help facilitate. Greeters had special name badges, were at the doors before and after Mass, and distributed special prayer cards to everyone after Communion.

  3. Using the list of Christmas Greeters, we anticipate recruiting greeters for every Sunday. We hope they will serve as “spotters” of visitors and newcomers as part of a ramped up Newcomer Ministry.

Prayer Cards

  1. Like last year, we designed a special prayer card. In October, we posted in the parish office four pages of prayers that are ascribed to saints, plus a few from the Bible. Staff members commented on which ones they liked, until we decided upon words by St. Thomas More. We did not look for a Christmas prayer and did not consider writing our own prayer, but looked for words that tie people to our spiritual heritage.

  2. We then recruited a parishioner with computer and graphic layout skills to design the card before taking it to a print shop for reproduction.

  3. When distributing the cards at Christmas, we strove to get as close as we could to a personal presentation to each person in attendance. Rather than hand them out as people left or have them on tables at the doors to be picked up, we distributed them right after Communion, with the special Christmas Greeters passing them down each pew and to people standing in the back. The priest said that the cards were a gift from the parish and explained the significance of St. Thomas More.

  4. We produced 6,000 cards in English and 1,500 in Spanish, so we have many left over for distribution throughout the year (e.g., by visitors to the jails, mailings). We hope a prayer card in people’s homes will be a reminder of the parish, that they were at Church on Christmas, and serve as a subtle invitation to return.

  5. This year’s prayer: Father in heaven, you have given us a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Be with us today to in all that we do, so that your light may shine out in our lives. (In Spanish: Padre Nuestro que estas en el cielo, Tú que siempre nos has dado la capacidad para conocerte, la voluntad para servirte, y un corazón para amarte. Acompáñanos en nuestras labores, y que tu luz brille en nuestras vidas para siempre.)

Children’s Gift

  1. We distributed a simple craft-style gift to all the children at the Children’s Mass and at the Spanish Mass. This year, it was an angel and fashioned as an ornament.

  2. They were made by a team of parishioners and labeled with the parish name and year.

  3. At both the Children’s Mass and the Spanish Mass, children joined the priest in front of the altar for a dialog homily, after which the priest let the children know that we had a special gift for them. Several parishioners then stepped forward and gave each child a gift.

  4. We hope the gift serves as a subtle reminder that they were at Church on Christmas and as an invitation to return.

Words of Welcome

  1. In the introductory rites, we welcomed all visitors using words by Fr. Joseph Champlin, who uses them at the beginning of his Christmas and Easter homilies:

  2. “Most of you are here today (tonight) (this evening) because you are believers. You have faith that the child called Jesus is really the Savior, the Messiah, the Son the Father sent into the world and that he would go to the cross and save us. You’re here to express your faith with others and to deepen it.

    “I also know that some of you are here, not because you believe this, but because someone you love wanted you to come—someone: your spouse, your children, a friend. I call you lovers.

    “Whether you are believers or lovers, we’re delighted you are here.”

  3. We discussed the above words beforehand, wondering if they would appear natural to the priest. However, what is more important is how the words sound to people in the pews. The feedback has been very positive.

Request for Forgiveness

  1. Because some people come to Christmas Mass reluctantly due to having been hurt by someone in the Church, we also incorporated into the penitential rite a request for forgiveness. Again, the words come from Fr. Joseph Champlin, who uses them at the beginning of his Christmas and Easter homilies:

  2. “There may be someone here who hasn’t been here for a long time, and, sometime in the past, you perceived that you were hurt by someone in the Church—by a lay person or a priest. In the name of our Church, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Brochure in the pews.

  1. Given that many people at Christmas Mass are not familiar with Liturgy and can find it confusing, we placed in the pews a simple brochure that explains the Mass. Drafted by a parishioner and entitled “Understanding the Mass,” it always disappears quickly.

I’ll be happy to forward to anyone any of the above materials: greeter recruitment cards, prayer cards, brochures, instructions to greeters, etc. (Unfortunately, I cannot forward the gifts we gave to children, because we need the few remaining angels for future reference.)

Contact Fr. Dave Mercer at Saint Lucy Parish for more information.

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