You want to go where everybody knows your name

WILLIAMSTOWN – “If I came to church today for the first time, would I feel welcome enough to come back again, and invite others?”
This was the big question of the evening, posed by Deacon Anthony Cioe at a hospitality workshop here on June 18 at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown.
Deacon Cioe, of St. Stephen Parish, Pennsauken, helped provide practical tools to parish priests and lay ministers on how to help visitors and members of the church feel welcome and become part of the faith community.
Also participating were Andres Arango, diocesan director of Evangelization; Greg Coogan, director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries; Deacon Larry Farmer, director of the Office of Planning; and Deacon Jim Hallman, of Our Lady of Peace,
Sponsored by the Office of Evangelization, a similar hospitality workshop was given at St. Joseph Parish in Somers Point the previous week.
Folders handed out to the attendees included parish self-assessments, where priests, pastoral councils, and parish evangelization teams could discern how they were performing in certain areas, such as welcoming (greeting new visitors before Mass); signage and grounds (can visitors easily locate church buildings?); communication (are visitors effectively informed of important church information?); and diversity (do the parish’s liturgical functions reflect the backgrounds of its members/visitors?).
Coogan emphasized the importance of serving youth and young adults, realizing their abilities, encouraging them, and incorporating them into the life of the parish.
“Are the youth and young adults part of the liturgical ministry?” he asked. “We need to accept them, and their gifts.”
Arango said that, in some cases, an effective welcome is a personal phone call, postcard in a mailbox, or a simple greeting after Mass.
“The best welcoming committee, is the whole parish,” he said. “We have to perform ministry with all of our love, and all of our heart.”
The evening included “a lot to learn,” said Fran Sieber, vice-chairperson for the Pastoral Council at Parish of the Holy Cross, Bridgeton.
He came with six other members of his parish, and is hopeful and excited for what is to come at Holy Cross.
“It’s up to us, as a pastoral council, to take these ideas back to the parish, talk to the pastor, go forward, and make our parish much more welcoming,” he said.

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