5 Nonessential Ministries No Parish Should Go Without

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Technically, there isn’t much outside the Holy Mass that a parish is obliged to offer its congregants. Within the Mass the mandate to provide for the catechetical, pastoral, and sacramental needs of the parish are essentially covered. There are many ministries that often get overlooked, underestimated, or taken for granted that if they no longer existed would leave a large gap in the overall health of the parish community. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

1. Youth & Children’s Ministries

If your parish has a youth group, vacation Bible school (VBS), a youth religious education/formation program, or even a children’s liturgy of the word ministry consider yourself blessed. While most parents can’t fathom how they’d get by without one (or all) of these ministries none of them are technically ESSENTIAL. It is strictly at the discretion of the pastor to either initiate or continue the offering of these ministries. Coming from a place of experience as a parish youth minister I can tell you that these ministries do a great deal for the parish, namely, they fill in the gaps. In an ideal world, children and youth would receive their catechetical instruction exclusively at home and through the liturgy. Unfortunately, this is only an idealistic (not unrealistic) thought. The reality we live in is one where children are receiving their foundational understanding of God from whatever the parish is offering to their age group. And in general these ministries can help alleviate the stress of any parent who has ever felt overwhelmed by the idea of raising up a faithful catholic when they, themselves, have struggled in their own journey of faith.

2. Perpetual (or at least Frequent) Eucharistic Adoration

A vast majority of parishes in the US have somewhere in their church a tabernacle used to house the Blessed Sacrament. The most common location of the tabernacle in parishes (that have one) is directly behind the altar upon which the Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place. Again, if we want to get technical here, nothing further is required for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to take place. There is something to be said, however, about parishes that have either a dedicated chapel for perpetual adoration or assigned times for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist is, as Church teaching articulates, the source and summit of our faith. Our western culture of complacency has adopted the mantra ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and time spent in prayer at the Blessed Sacrament is not immune to such thinking (or lack thereof). Eucharistic Adoration brings about reverence and more importantly, it brings about opportunities for conversion.

3. Bereavement Ministry

Death causes many otherwise faithful Catholics to begin questioning their faith. Dealing with the death of a close friend or relative without any form of support leaves the grieving along with their thoughts, their pain, and any and all thoughts of doubt. The Bereavement Ministry in a parish and what its function is varies from one community to another. Typically, this ministry assists in certain aspects of the funeral such as: catering the reception, facilitating the Rosary service during the visitation of the deceased, set-up and clean-up of floral arrangements, follow-up visits and phone calls, assistance with errands for widows, and so much more. We grieve for no other reason than the fact that we once (and still) care for the deceased. Caring for those dealing with loss is, indeed, part of the life blood of any thriving parish.

4. Rosary Group

It can be said that anyone can pray individually and on their own time. Scripture, however, reminds us of the certain promise that Christ has given us when it comes to our unity. We have the assurance that when we begin to gather as a parish and petition heaven together Christ is in our midst. Out of all the prayers that can be invoked among the faithful, the Rosary has been given more attention and more devotion than almost any other ‘learned’ prayer. The significance of the Rosary group is in its composition as well as its mission. The Rosary group is typically comprised of parishioners who have made a sacrifice of their time to intercede with Mary for the needs of the parish community and beyond. Their willingness to gather on a regular basis is a living testimony to the intercessory power of the Rosary. What might overshadow the composition would be the very mission they have gathered together to achieve. Most Rosary groups gather in between regular liturgical times, that is, they pray privately; they do not seek an audience so as to put on some sort of display of false piety. Most ‘Sunday attendees’ aren’t even aware of the Rosary group in their own parish, but this certainly doesn’t exclude them from feeling its effects.

The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times. -Saint Padre Pio

5. Hospitality Ministry (Ushers)

Never underestimate the power of first impressions. It has come to light that many of those who have left the Catholic Church for one of our Protestant counterparts have done so due to lack of hospitality. The ushers, as they are commonly known, are there not only greet you at the door and pass around the plates during the offertory, but to make sure your liturgical experience is free from discomfort and confusion. In a nutshell, the Hospitality ministry serves to make God’s house feel more like a home. We can all reflect on the moments where a panicked, stressed parent doesn’t know what to do when their child is throwing a fit or in need of a diaper change. This is where an usher might direct them to the nearest restroom or quieting area. Or perhaps the first time visitor arrives just after the opening procession and can’t seem to find a seat, an usher might direct him or her not only to an open seat but a seat close the front, if available. While it is important to remember that the Mass isn’t about us, we ought not forget those men and women who volunteer their time to ensure a most comfortable liturgical experience. What’s the point of singing ‘All Are Welcome’ if we don’t make them feel that way?

 

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