By Barb Arland-Fye
RIVERSIDE — Pastors and other parish leaders may have been surprised at the especially warm welcome they received during this year’s Annual Diocesan Parishes Corporate Board meetings.
Greeters welcomed them in the parking lot of St. Mary Parish in Riverside for the meetings held in the parish hall Aug. 28 and 30; still more greeters welcomed visitors inside the newly remodeled hall and explained where everything was located. At the Aug. 28 meeting, 22 greeters wearing name tags and smiles strove to make each guest feel valued. Twelve of the greeters are members of three cluster parishes: St. Mary in Riverside, St. Joseph in Wellman and Holy Trinity in Richmond. Ten greeters are members of the Diocesan Stewardship Commission.
“Showing you hospitality was more important than anything we could say,” Dan Ebener, the Davenport Diocese’s director of stewardship and parish planning, explained during the Aug. 28 meeting.
He and Michelle Yetley gave a presentation on “Hospitality in our Parishes” and provided a booklet on Christian Hospitality that the Diocesan Stewardship Commission created. Both Ebener and Yetley serve on the commission.
“Hospitality is a key to evangelization and stewardship,” said Yetley, who also serves on the evangelization and stewardship commission for her parish, St. Patrick in Iowa City. Hospitality is also scripturally based, Ebener noted, referring to passages in Scripture and also to the U.S. bishops document on “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us.”
Yetley shared a welcoming experience she had at Diocesan Support Days earlier this year. She and several others in her car endured a treacherous drive in heavy rain to diocesan headquarters for the daylong event. When they arrived in the front parking lot, they saw Father Marty Goetz standing in the rain holding an umbrella and waiting to escort people inside the building. That display of hospitality, along with the greeters inside who provided directions, refreshments and attentiveness, made an impression on Yetley. “You can be sure I’ll be back for Diocesan Support Days and I’ll tell others about it.”
She and Ebener asked the parish leaders what made them feel welcomed to the parishes’ corporate board meeting. Several shared that they appreciated the welcoming attitude. When people saw the greeters in the parking lot, they were relieved to find out they were not just there to tell them to park somewhere else!
Hospitality “permeates everything we do,” Ebener said. Important aspects of hospitality include an inner attitude (hospitality as a way of life), personal presence (being with people) and paying attention (listening to others with one’s head, body and heart).
He and Yetley encouraged the parish leaders to develop a hospitality plan with ideas from the Christian Hospitality booklet.
It’s not essential to have a hospitality commission, the two presenters said, but it is important for every individual who represents the parish in some ministry or committee to do so with a smile and welcoming attitude toward others.
For more information, visit the Diocesan Stewardship Commission website: www.davenportdiocese.org/stewardship/index.htm.