As we arrive at Labor Day weekend, it is a time when students of all sorts are returning to classes and academic years are beginning. This is also the time of year when our parish traditionally starts seeing many new faces in the pews. So to all of you who are new to the New Haven area and are looking around for a parish to call your own, welcome to our parish! We have two stunningly beautiful churches and a very vibrant parish family. On behalf of myself, Fr. Joachim, and our entire parish staff, I can say that we look forward to having you as part of our parish communion of faith.
To all the many undergraduate, graduate, and professional students beginning the academic year at Yale, University of New Haven, Gateway, SCSU, Albertus Magnus and other nearby colleges, welcome to our parish. In the midst of a school year that is still being impacted by the pandemic our world is facing, we hope that you can find some measure of peace, comfort, and strength within our two parish churches and through the sacramental and ministerial life of our parish. To whatever degree we can supplement the Catholic formation you are receiving on your campuses to help you grow deeper in your relationship with Our Lord and with the Church, we are eager to do so.
To cradle Catholics who have in the past, for one reason or another, fallen away from your Catholic faith and who, whether because of COVID or some other reason, find yourself starting to consider “coming back to church”… welcome home. As someone who, earlier in my own life, drifted away from any regular Mass attendance or practice of the faith for a period of time, I may understand (more than you might expect from a priest) what that experience is like. If you find yourself uncertain about what it means to “come back” and are looking for some guidance, please contact myself or Fr. Joachim. We are more than happy to talk with you and help you navigate the decision about re-engaging with your Catholic faith.
To those who are non-Catholic and who have found your way to our parish, I would like to extend a very special word of welcome. Perhaps you’ve never experienced anything Catholic in your life and first walked through our doors simply out of curiosity. Or perhaps you’ve been studying Catholicism on your own for a while now and find yourself interested in learning more about this big, beautiful, and sometimes (at least to an outsider) really strange thing that is called the “Catholic Church.” We are always happy to answer questions. For those who are considering the possibility of becoming Catholic, there is a process by which that happens (called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or R.C.I.A. for short) which involves weekly meetings over the course of several months where the basics of the Catholic faith are presented in lectures and discussions. Those who begin these “classes” have the opportunity to learn about the Catholic faith in a systematic and organized way. At the end of the program, those who wish to officially enter the Catholic Church are then able to do so. If you would like to enroll in this program, please contact the parish office and we can provide additional information.
To those who aren’t new… yes, I am talking about all those who already call St. Mary’s their home parish, I also have a message to you: please join me and Fr. Joachim in welcoming all of the new faces you see. I would ask everyone, especially over the next few weeks, to look around you before and after Mass and if you see a new individual, a new couple, a new family… please go out of your way to say hello and make them feel at home. Even a small gesture of welcome can make a huge difference to someone who is new and in an unfamiliar place.
To anyone and everyone else reading this, no matter what your relationship with our parish might be, welcome! We are happy you are here. If myself or any of the parish staff can do anything for you, please reach out to us. I would also urge everyone, both old and new, to sign up for the parish email list, download the parish smartphone app, and keep a close eye on our bulletin, our parish webpage, and all of our many parish social media outlets. Despite the presence of COVID restrictions which may impact some of what we would normally do, we are going to do our best to make this the best year yet for St. Mary Parish.
Fr. John Paul