Hal Brown photo
Hal Brown photo

New Year’s resolutions represent the most hopeful, determined and generous aspects of one’s character – the best part of oneself. This year, why not make a resolution to share some of your best self with your faith community by getting more involved in parish life? A vibrant parish life makes for stronger parishes . . . and there is much more that a strong parish can do in Building the Kingdom of God. Don’t sit on the sidelines, assuming that active parish life is for someone other than you. Find a way to get involved today. Here are five ideas to help you get going.

JUST GET STARTED

If you want to serve your parish, then just do it! Training is available for those looking to join a liturgical ministry (i.e., becoming an usher/greeter, reader or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion). If you want to help with religious education, adult faith formation or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, perhaps start out as an aide to a catechist or volunteer as a sponsor. And take advantage of the training and catechist certificate programs offered by the Diocese. More information as well as online resources may be found on dioceseoftrenton.org/catechesis. If you see a need for a particular ministry, present your plan to your pastor or member of the parish staff.

BE A MARTHA AND A MARY – VOLUNTEER AND PRAY

Lending a hand is always welcome and a great way to put our faith into action. Parishes respond to many needs in the community through various outreach ministries. Look at your gifts and talents and see if there is an outlet for you to serve. If you’re not sure, ask! (And as always, please work with your pastor to ensure that all requirements for volunteering are fulfilled and details correctly managed.)

• Parishes and schools are always in need, even with COVID-19 protocols, in the fields of technology, marketing, photography and more.

• Many parishes host St. Vincent de Paul chapters, which actively serve the poor as well as offer programs to respond to needs by coordinating donated goods and food for people in their communities. If your parish doesn’t have an SVDP chapter, additional opportunities include collecting items for or volunteering time at a parish-run food pantry or meal service ministry.

• Offer support and time in caring for and helping maintain the parish grounds, like helping decorate the church for different celebrations and seasons throughout the year.

• A beautiful, but often unseen, ministry is service to the homebound and elderly, whether it is bringing Communion or just being present to listen or chat for a while.

Finally, if you can’t be present in person, whatever the reason, be there in spirit. Select a person or organization from your parish to remember in prayer. Dedicate your Rosary to the intention and work of a group or committee, that their efforts may be fruitful and bring others to Christ.

CONSIDER JOINING THE PARISH MUSIC MINISTRY

It’s amazing how a group of imperfect voices can come together in church and sound wonderful. As part of the choir, you will gain a new group of friends, be an important part of the liturgy, learn more about the Mass, the Catholic faith and the Church’s liturgical season. Plus, singing is a tonic for heart and soul. Credited to St. Augustine of Hippo, the quote “he who sings prays twice” highlights the importance of sung praise in liturgical worship – so helping to lead the congregation in song is truly a prayerful ministry. Don’t have the chops for singing? You might play an instrument that would be appreciated

in your parish’s music ministry. Many churches have handbell choirs, which need multiple members who can read music – no singing required!

FIND OUT WHO IS MISSING

Look around your church at Mass and see who is absent – then ask your pastor what you can do to help reach out to that missing demographic.

• Is it the elderly? Maybe there is a need for a “rides to Mass” ministry or a friendly telephone call to those unable to attend for health reasons, letting them know they are missed.

• Are young people of high school and college age not present? Maybe you can set up a monthly or weekly social gathering at the parish that includes food (always a winner with youth), games and activities to break the ice and provide common ground, and a short reflection (emphasis on short) with time for discussion.

• Do you hear young children? The sound of babies crying signifies a growing parish. If your church is oddly quiet, maybe you can coordinate a childcare ministry during Masses or an evening of reflection for parents with on-site childcare volunteers – parents can be spiritually fed while children are looked after.

FOLLOW YOUR PARISH ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Many parishes use this tool for catechizing in addition to advertising, including daily readings, saints of the day and daily programs. Stay in the know to help your faith life grow – and re-post or re-tweet items from your parish so they receive more visibility in the digital square. Do you have tech skills that can help expand that outreach? Evangelization in the digital age demands technical know-how, camera skills and creative advertising to assure the word of God and the local Church are as visible and striking online as the latest viral video. Talk to your pastor or parish communications head to see how you can help. Bonus: Young Catholics often have the edge when it comes to digital communications, and this could be an attractive way for them to contribute and affirm their much-needed participation in parish life.

Whatever your chosen ministry or resolution, don’t assume you have to take on each task individually. Sometimes you may be called to be a catalyst for bringing together like-minded folks from your faith circle. Often all it takes is a willingness to get the ball rolling and be a point of contact to organize a group, and then the responsibilities can be shared. Above all, parish life is an extension of family life, with parish members – like those in a household – sharing tasks, assisting one another and working toward a common purpose.