By Patrick Schmadeke
Evangelization in the world today
A significant portion of parish and school representatives requested to receive weekly emails with resources related to welcoming and belonging. Last week was the first of such emails. While these communications are designed primarily for the reps, they are available to anyone who would like to receive them. Some parish councils and other groups have asked to receive the email and you can, too. Just email email@example.com and we’ll get you added to the list.
The first resource shared last week was a video of Pope Francis from his participation in World Youth Day in Fatima, Portugal in August. During his visit, Pope Francis said, “this is the house of the mother, and a mother always has her heart open to all of her children, everyone, everyone, everyone, (todos, todos, todos) without exception.” The message of “todos, todos, todos” resonates with our focus on welcoming and belonging.
A few people have expressed concern that a posture of welcoming all people is, instead of the Church being her true self, a dilution of the Church’s identity. However, I wish to press deeper here. Instead of a dilution, perhaps the Spirit is calling us to find sources of connection and belonging that we have not yet recognized. We are made for one another. A posture of curiosity towards our brothers and sisters and an openness to the Spirit may generate surprise. If we believe that God is present and among us, then we cannot count God out.
The second resource shared last week is a parish accessibility survey. The introduction states: “As a welcoming Church, called to model the hospitality of Jesus, we are charged with reducing the barriers that many parishioners and visitors encounter when they attempt to access our buildings and take part in our worship and programs.”
This survey, or tool, helps focuses on auditory, mobility, visual, health and general considerations. It is comprehensive and can help identify specific as well as systemic challenges worth addressing. To use this tool most effectively, gather a small group and work collaboratively with the pastor and parish leadership (e.g. parish council, building and grounds committee). Our diocese introduced this tool in 2010 and it is time to brush the dust off. Even if your parish used this tool when it first came out, it would be worth using again.
Finally, another element of the email is the “Good News Corner” (GNC). Last week, we learned the name of the document that is the second part to “Laudato Si’” (the papal encyclical released in 2015). My favorite line from Laudato Si’, included in the GNC: “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”
This is not only good for our relationship with creation but it is probably instructive in how we think about welcoming and belonging. If we turn the loneliness and un-belonging of others into our own loneliness, if we can find ways to bear it with them, we will better discover what we can do about it.
Through the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis has called the Church to journey together. We are still figuring out how to do that well and it’s a project that exceeds a lifetime. In this particular season of attending to welcoming and belonging, this weekly email is one way to aide our journeying together. You are more than welcome to join the conversation.
Links to the resources mentioned above:
Video of Pope Francis at this web address: https://tinyurl.com/yyfjvj9n
Parish accessibility survey: https://tinyurl.com/3vcc676e
Suggestions for using the parish accessibility survey: https://tinyurl.com/mr22bmbz
PDF version of the first weekly email: https://tinyurl.com/yrej5prf
(Patrick Schmadeke is director of evangelization for the Diocese of Davenport.)