At the last Parish Council Meeting we spoke about the future of St. Mary’s. There is complete agreement that St. Mary’s will continue its special mission to be a Traditional parish in the best sense of that phrase: we will continue to celebrate the Holy Mass in the two forms of the Roman Rite in the beauty of holiness; we will to continue to preach the Word of God in its entirety, faithful to the teaching of the Church; in our multi-cultural and multi-lingual congregation we will foster among our people a deep sense of Christian community; and we will take our task of evangelization seriously, especially in this time when so many Catholics no longer go to Mass and when so many people have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and have never experienced the power and beauty of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The task of evangelization is important and vital. We must never become a parish closed in on itself. Gone are the days when the priest could go from door to door and introduce himself and invite people to come to Mass. We are located in a section of Norwalk in which large apartment houses are where most people are now living. And as I personally found out when I became pastor, those places are closed to us to visit people. Most will not even allow us to put up a Mass schedule on their bulletin board.
This means that we have to find new ways to evangelize and bring people to St. Mary’s. I have said so many times: Bring friends to Mass at St. Mary’s and have them experience the beauty of the worship of God. Bring friends to our concerts and other special events. But this is not enough. We have to “get out there” and talk to those who are non-practicing Catholics and also to those who have no faith at all.
There are different constituencies we have to reach. Two important ones are young people in general and young married couples. One of the advantages of the post-modern world in which we live is that most young people are blank slates. They are not carrying the baggage of the 60’s and 70’s. They often know nothing about Christianity. St. John Vianney arrived at Ars to find a church that was nearly empty on Sundays. He went to where the people were, and the men were usually in the local pub in town. Dressed in his cassock he went and talked to these men, with kindness and understanding, accepting who they were and knowing who they should be. His parish became a spiritual powerhouse. We have many affable and intelligent young people in this parish that could do what St John Vianney did in the world as it is today. Conversations are relatively easy over a drink or two, or over dinner. We have many restaurants and bars near the parish where “casual” evangelization can take place with our own young people taking on this task. I would not be averse to join them myself—even be-cassocked.
We also have a large number of committed young Catholic couples at St. Mary’s, many with children. If they invited couples they know who are un-churched or have been away from the Church for some time to come to dinner in their homes, or just for coffee or a glass of wine, this would be another way to evangelize in a positive and non-threatening way.
The social media are another avenue of evangelization. We have to be more aware of the importance of our website to interest people in coming to St. Mary’s for Mass and for other services and events. We do not even have a complete email list for our parishioners. This is a task that I hope someone will take on, for all too often our own parishioners are not aware of special Masses, concerts, Bible Study, Prayer Groups—all that this parish has to offer.
I would be happy to be present at as many of these evangelism events as I can. But our laity must step up to the plate and spearhead the New Evangelization that is the future of the Church. Please think and pray about how you can participate in a facet of the task of bringing new people to the Catholic faith and to St. Mary’s church. Contact me by email or talk to me in person if you have an idea of how you can participate in this joyous task that is the response to our Lord’s mandate to go out into the world and preach the Gospel—in your own distinctive way.
Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla