Last week, I spent some time at the University of Mary in Bismarck and at Black Hills State University in Spearfish visiting and inviting some of our college students to pray about being part our Duc In Altum summer program. In the past, we have had two teams, hopefully this year will have three or perhaps even four, so please pray that our college students will respond generously to this invitation.

            I stayed at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. On the nightstand was a welcome letter giving me the pin number for the rectory, password for the Internet, an invitation to help myself to the food and beverages available in the kitchen and the schedule of Mass times. At the end of the letter was this line, “We are happy to show our hospitality to you as a way of welcoming Christ. Enjoy your stay!” What a great line.

Even though I spent most of my time at U Mary, Msgr. Richter, the pastor of Cathedral, called me Saturday afternoon and asked if I needed anything. He wanted to make sure that I was being taken care of.  He also asked if I wanted to concelebrate the 5 PM Vigil Mass with him and the parish community of Holy Spirit.

As we approach the Christmas season and prepare to welcome, not only our parishioners but their families, friends and all the visitors that will grace our Christmas liturgies, I am mindful of that line that welcomed me to the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit: “We are happy to show our hospitality to you as a way of welcoming Christ. Enjoy your stay!”

In our Diocesan document, Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish, the section on Generous Hospitality — Welcome, Invitation Fellowship begins by quoting the Rule of St. Benedict: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest and you received Me (Matthew 25:35).’” At our Christmas liturgies, we will have ample opportunities to welcome the friends and families of our parishioners, as well as guests and strangers who have come to encounter the newborn King the one we call, Emmanuel, Wonder Counselor, God Hero and Prince of Peace.

Here are some of the key characteristics of a welcoming Parish laid out in our document. In the next several weeks, let us remind our staff and our parishioners of these key points as we prepare for our Christmas liturgies.

  • Our parish has a welcoming atmosphere where both parishioners and visitors feel welcomed, comfortable and valued.
  • Our parish is clean, well-kept and attractive. Items used for mass are appropriately cared for and meet liturgical norms.
  • Our parish regularly evaluates our building and grounds for how welcoming they are to the stranger and makes changes as needed.
  • Our parish has hospitality ministers on Sunday and at other parish events who are joyful, kind, and attentive to the needs of all guests and parishioners.
  • Our parish finds ways to thank people who give of themselves in discipleship.
  • Our parish pays attention to details, i.e. all doors unlocked, microphones are used properly, hearing devices are available to the hearing impaired, etc.

On another note, I wanted to congratulate Fr. Andrzej Wyrostek and the parish of Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont on behalf of the Offices of Stewardship and Vocation for being the first parish to be to be recognized as a Foundational Parish by Bishop Gruss. Again congratulations, Fr. Andrzej and thanks for leading the way.

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