71 Central St. Stoneham, MA 02180

Browsing Pastor's Notes

01/31/24 - Belonging to a Parish

From the PastorDear Friends in Christ,

Recently I received a letter from a married couple who belong to our parish. They are both in their eighties and experiencing some of the physical limitations that come with age. In their letter to me, they spoke about how much Fr. Mario meant to them, how much St. Patrick Parish means to them, and a bit of their history with the parish over many decades. In their letter, they also mentioned to me that having reviewed their finances, they were reducing their monthly and annual donations by a bit.

Their letter really was very striking to me. By taking the time to write me that letter, it said something about their connection to this parish. They really “belong” to St. Patrick Parish. Their letter reminded me of something that is a bit missing in younger generations, a sense of true belonging to a parish.

I think it is true that in many ways, people my age and younger often approach church with a bit of a consumer mentality. We can go in order to “get something out of it,” but we do not always have a sense that we also go in order to provide for others. Somewhere along the way, we lost the sense of “joining a parish” and “belonging to a parish.” A friend of mine is pastor of a parish with tons of young adults. He loves them, but he often says that it can be difficult to run a parish with young adults as your major base. He says, “If you have an event that they like, they come out in full force, but if you need to put a new roof on the church, they’re not interested in that!”

That was what was so striking to me about the letter from that couple. These people took the time to write to me to explain why they had to give a little less going forward. They’ve been supporting St. Patrick Parish longer than I have been alive! Their generosity–and the generosity of so many people of their generation–is why we have our beautiful church, why we have our school, why we have a roof, why we have a parish.

Their letter was so beautiful to me. They feel this sense of responsibility to the parish and they think carefully about what they can give. I hope that some pastor thirty, forty, or fifty years from now will receive a similar letter and think to himself, “What incredible parishioners! They started supporting this parish way back in 2024 and they have this incredible sense of truly belonging to the parish.

I want to thank our many parishioners who have generously belonged to St. Patrick Parish for decades for all you have done and all that you continue to do. Your “belonging” is an inspiration. I’d also like to encourage those who are younger and who continue to benefit from the generosity of our elders to intensify your belonging. How? I can think of three quick ways:

Actually Register for the Parish. You can do that online or in person.

When you see or hear of a need in the parish, step up and offer help.

Contribute consistently and generously to the parish. (Online giving is a huge source of help to the parish because it helps us to budget well.)

Whether you have been a parishioner for eighty years or eight days, whether you are wealthy or poor, whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between, I invite you to imitate the authors of that recent letter and intensify your belonging to a parish. We belong here. And, I am grateful to belong with you.

Your Brother in Christ,

Fr. David Barnes