Workshops help parishes develop plans for hospitality from all angles

| May 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

hospitality cardsIn his rule, St. Benedict writes, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.” But that was written 500 years ago. How can the Church, and parishes in particular, do that effectively today?

The archdiocesan Office of Parish Services sponsored three Hospitality 360 workshops around the archdiocese to help parishes assess how they are doing in several areas related to hospitality and learn how hospitality can be an effective means of reaching out to less-engaged Catholics.

“In our Catholic tradition, from the very, very beginning, hospitality has not only been there, it was expected,” said Renee Allerheiligen, the main speaker at the three workshops and a member of Our Lady of Grace in Edina.

Hospitality is one of the seeds for growth identified by the GROW pastoral planning process. Coordinated by the Office of Parish Services, GROW builds on the parish visitation process and flows from the archdiocese’s 2010 strategic plan. Through this process hospitality has been identified as a priority.

“Hospitality is foundational to virtually all aspects of parish life,” said Mark Dittman, director of parish services. “If parishioners feel welcome, they are more likely to be open to the message of the Gospel. The Catholic Church has a long history of promoting hospitality — these workshops are about taking the best of that tradition and applying it to parish life.”

The workshops were held in early May at St. Patrick in Edina, St. John the Baptist in New Brighton and St. John Neumann in Eagan.

They were designed as a follow up to Father Jan Michael Joncas’ and Lou Carbone’s presentations on hospitality last month at Spring Formation Day, and enabled parish leaders to develop a concrete plan for hospitality at their parish.

“Hospitality can provide a gateway to the other Seeds for Growth identified in the GROW parish planning process — prayer, study, generosity and evangelization,” Dittman said.

Forming a plan

A large part of the workshop discussion was the “Hospitality Needs Assessment” and “Ministry Action Plan.” Some participants filled out the assessment online before the workshops and were able to begin on the action plan.

“We all need encouragement and practical tools to get the ball rolling,” said Justin Stroh, steward of faith formation at Divine Mercy parish in Faribault who attended the workshop in Eagan.

The information gathered from the assessment will be mostly for each parish’s own internal use, but the Parish Services Office will look through the data to see if there are needs that everyone is identifying across the board.

“That way we will be able to target particular areas for future training and development,” said Julie Meyer of the Office of Parish Services.

If a parish did not participate in the workshops but would still like to complete the online assessment, they can email for instructions.

Offering ideas

Included in each person’s information packet was a deck of hospitality “Quick Cards” — simple, quick and inexpensive hospitality ideas that can be used immediately. For example, one card suggested putting a small basket of thought-provoking questions on each table during coffee and doughnut gatherings after Mass. This would get people engaged and talking about their faith instead of wondering what they should say to the people across the table.

“People need to feel welcomed, appreciated and valued,” said Rozann Reyerson, a volunteer at St. John Neumann. “If the parishes celebrate and implement the program, we will see an increase in participation because people will want to be a part of programs that place value on their presence.”

Plans for Hospitality 2.0 workshops next year are being considered, possibly with a longer format and additional content, Dittman said.

“I want us to acquire the heart of Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost,” Stroh said. “This would become our reason for all we do, especially the first task of hospitality.”

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