Parishes fill a ministry need no charity group can fill

| Father Paul Jarvis | December 16, 2010 | 0 Comments

Father Paul Jarvis

This may sound odd, but one of the more moving ministries for me and other priests is ministering to dying parishioners, as well as family members of recently departed parishioners.

People are just more present around the sacred departures of disciples.

With our society’s high mobility, it has become increasingly common that the deceased person being honored often is the lone remaining parishioner within the family . . . with children and grandchildren having moved to other parts of the region, the Twin Cities or across the country.

As our elders may recall, it used to be customary to list in a loved one’s obituary that his or her parish or parochial school would be the preferred recipient of memorials.

But with children and grandchildren moving far away from their ancestors’ home, and, alas, many descendants leaving the faith, a strange thing is happening.

A departed loved one’s parish is now considered on par with other nonprofit organizations.

Just within the past six months, I experienced some survivors opting not to list the deceased’s parish in the obituary because, they said, “[their loved one] supported so many different organizations; it’s better not to list any one organization.”

Times have changed

Wow. Have times ever changed.

Don’t get me wrong, charitable organizations and other nonprofits are incredibly important for our society. They do so much good.  That’s why thousands, if not millions, actively support them already.  Especially those without a parish or religious affiliation.

But no other nonprofit does more good throughout one’s life than one’s parish, and, when relevant, one’s parochial school.

No service organization, no medical research organization, no university is as present at the really important times in one’s life as is one’s parish: at baptisms, first Communions, confirmations, weddings, anointings, confessions, funerals and anniversaries.

Every year, the parish is there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption and Immaculate Conception.

And those are just particularly special highlights in one’s sacramental life.

Then there are the innumerable nursing home visits, the hospital visits, the hospice visits, the home visits, even visits with family members in jail.

Don’t forget the 52 Sunday eucharistic celebrations in a given year; the personal counseling, marriage counseling and family counseling; and support for those struggling with addictions, for the unemployed and underemployed and for families recovering from disasters.

That’s not even including the ongoing formation of children and adults in the faith.

Who is there for you?

Again, no offense, but a university hockey program’s coach is not going to visit many in the hospice.

The head of a civic organization is unlikely to witness your marriage.

The vice president of development for a medical research nonprofit is not staying up with you at the hospital.

We are blessed with many nonprofits doing great work in The Valley and in the Twin Cities. But there is a difference between a Catholic parish and nonprofits that have a hundred or a thousand times the number of financial supporters.

Christians, please tell your children and grandchildren of your love for your parish, and if you have one, your parochial school. Let them know that you would like your spiritual family remembered after you’ve fallen asleep in Christ.

Include your parish not only in your estate, but in your funeral planning.

There is a difference, and it’s that your parish is “family.”

A Catholic parish is also the most comprehensive nonprofit anyone could ever support.

Father Paul Jarvis is pastor of Guardian Angels in Chaska.

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Category: Christmas