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Our parish is supposed to be our home, right? And yet, how many of us attend Mass every week, or even daily, and have no idea what the names are of those in the pews around us?  How many of us have no personal relationship with our fellow parishioners, let alone the pastor and assistants? If the parish is our home, then our fellow parishioners are our siblings. And the priests? They’re our spiritual fathers and, in some cases, our lovable but annoying brothers.

There are many benefits to getting to know the other people in your home church, both spiritual and physical.  Here is my top 5 list to give you that boost you need to start getting to know them:

1) Everyone could use more family.  I say this as the youngest of 16, with 6 of my own here, and over 50 nieces and nephews and great-nephews, not to mention the extended family and the in-laws. Even I could use more from time to time.  Why? Because family helps us in so many ways. They supports us, they help us feel connected, and they are there for us in more ways than one. In times of need, parish families have been known to provide everything from food after the arrival of a new baby, to ALL THE THINGS after a devastating house fire. What could possibly be a downside to having more of them?

2) It’s easier to pray for people when you know their names.  Do you ever listen to the list of sick and recently deceased in your parish during the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass and have no idea who any of them are?  It’s kind of hard to really devote oneself to prayer for another person when you don’t know them.  Knowing your pew neighbors will help you to pray for them, and it will help them to pray for you too.

3) When you ask your pastor for a favor, he’s more inclined to say yes if he knows you.  Like when you ask him in September if you can have your 6 year old son make both his first Reconciliation and First Holy Communion before the start of Advent, he will probably say yes if he knows who you are. If he has seen you at daily Mass, and at Sunday Mass, and if you chat with him in the vestibule, and ask about his health, and let him know how your life is going, then he may feel that he knows you well enough to waive the standard parish requirement of two years worth of CCD classes.

4) The priests may ask you for favors if they know you. This one is actually a double-edged sword, in that they’ll ask you to help, but it won’t always be at a convenient time.  Over the last couple of years, my family and I have gotten to know our assistant pastor fairly well through dinners at my sister’s house and talks after Mass.  He apparently felt he knew my sister and I well enough to “ask” us to conduct an RCIA class.  On Sunday mornings. Instead of us having our usual coffee and doughnuts.   I say “ask,” because, in knowing us as he does at this point, he knew that no matter how we may have protested, we were ultimately going to say yes to him. You know why? That’s right: because we have a connection and a relationship with him and we wouldn’t want to let him down, just like we wouldn’t want to let down our actual brother.  He was right, of course.

5) Parish functions are a lot more fun when you actually know the people attending them. Seriously. Who among us hasn’t sat at awkwardly at a table with her kids, not knowing the name of that woman she sees at Mass every Wednesday who is sitting at the next table? Life in general is more fun when we have people to share it with.  Parish life is the same way.

Bonus: Ice cream. Of course, this one could just be a thing with our priests.  One of them really likes ice cream, and he shares with his friends.  Like after All Saint’s Day Mass, when he brought out ice cream for all 11 of the children in attendance. Isn’t that enough of a reason to get to know your parish family?

So, now that you know the benefits, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start saying making friends with your Mass-mates.

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