A common complaint among the grads of our Welcoming Catholics Home program, for fallen away Catholics, is that they don’t feel “welcome” when they return to the church. They long for the feelings of “connection and belonging.”
Some returnees actually attended protestant or evangelical churches where they were targeted and welcomed heartily and encouraged to attend services. They felt wanted and included immediately.
In exit surveys they describe coming to church like this…..no one acknowledges that I am even there. People come in, sit down in their same spot and look neither to the right or the left. They make no effort to nod or say hello to you. Not even a simple smile.
Father James Mannon in his book Divine Renovation reminds us that “welcoming the stranger” doesn’t mean being friendly with our friends and all the people who look,think and talk like us but to reach out to those who we don’t know at mass.
Pew hospitality is where it all starts, so he suggests that we smile and say hello to those we don’t know. Smiling at each other in church according to Pope Francis is a way that we show our joy in the Lord.
Fr. Mannon says,”If Jesus is in your heart,notify your face.”
So will you will you become part of the Smile Ministry this Sunday and show some pew hospitality by welcoming the stranger?