Have you ever had an encounter with a total stranger – a person in an airport, a sales associate in a store, or someone on a city street--who went out of his or her way to help you? No doubt that experience made you feel special! Those who assisted you demonstrated some of the qualities of an evangelizer that Pope Francis describes in The Joy of the Gospel: “approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.”The pope points out ways that Jesus is our best model for evangelization. “How good it is for us to contemplate the closeness which he shows to everyone! If he speaks to someone, he looks into their eyes with deep love and concern: ‘Jesus looking upon him, loved him’ (Mk 10:21). We see how accessible he is, as he draws near the blind man (cf. Mk 10:46-52) and eats and drinks with sinners (cf. Mk 2:16) without worrying about being thought a glutton and a drunkard himself (Mt 11:19). We see his sensitivity in allowing a sinful woman to anoint his feet (cf. Lk. 7:36-50) and in receiving Nicodemus by night (cf. Jn 3:1-15). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life.” [EG, 269]
How can we put Christ-like behaviors into practice with people we meet in and around our parish? Here are a few simple suggestions that everyone can try:
- Smile and make eye contact with the people sitting around you.
- Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. It is important to create a personal connection.
- Move into the pew or stand up and allow people to enter. Don’t make people crawl over you.
- After Mass, say good bye and wish your neighbors in the pew a good day. Offer a compliment on a lovely singing voice or their adorable children.
- Be helpful. If someone asks for directions around the parish property, don’t just point. Accompany the person wherever they want to go.
These types of actions send the message that everyone is an honored guest. Encourage your entire parish community to cultivate the approachable and positive attitude of an evangelizer as modeled by Jesus and described by Pope Francis. How we respond and journey with people sets the tone for how they view the parish and the Church as a whole.
For a short video on parish welcome, watch Ways to Welcome