Sarah occasionally attends Sunday Mass in a small Catholic church where almost everyone knows one another. She’s been going to this church about eight times a year for seven years. The parishioners are friendly enough. They say “hello,” when she enters church and at the sign of peace. After Mass, they greet each other and the priest wishes them well. No one, including the pastor, has ever gone out of their way to talk to her.
In all the years that she has celebrated with them, no one has ever asked her name.
Often, Sarah wonders why this is the case. Parishioners in large suburban churches have told similar stories. One couple said, “We’ve gone to the same parish for seventeen years, but few church members know our names. Parishioners hang around after Mass speaking to their friends but do not seek us out. It seems like a vibrant parish, but we wonder how much they really care about us. They never ask our names.”
A person’s name is an intimate aspect of one’s identity. Recognizing it is a great way to make someone feel welcome and important. Pope Francis has called for a new evangelization that is personal and engaging, especially with the poor and strangers. One simple, yet excellent way to respond to his challenge to become missionary disciples is to acknowledge a person’s presence and ask their names! It’s amazing what happens when others know we care. How different from the impersonal world where we live!
Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.