In a world missing its neighborhoods, parishes offer a spiritual home

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | April 6, 2017

In our newly relocated archdiocesan offices, I have often looked out one of the southern windows and, to whoever is around, pointed to a church on a hill, announcing: “The Church of the Sacred Heart. I was baptized there. And my father was baptized there. And my grandmother was baptized there. And the wedding of her parents, my great-grandparents, was one of the first celebrated there, shortly after it was founded in 1881.”

On one hand, my family has quite a history at Sacred Heart. On the other hand, as I continue on in my seventh decade of life, I seem to have come full circle, having basically slid down the hill from the church of my baptism.

Back in those days, the older East Side parishes served established communities of European immigrants and their children. Sacred Heart was for the Germans. St. Casimir for the Polish. St. Ambrose for the Italians. The Irish had two choices — St. John or St. Patrick.

Before I started school, my family moved farther east, and I attended St. Pascal Baylon Catholic School. There were more than 1,000 students in first through eighth grade. As was true for many of the parishes founded after World War II, there was no ethnic designation for St. Pascal, just parish boundaries.

After school, we still went home to our own neighborhoods. My first Communion party was with several other first Communion children at the home with the biggest backyard. Many of us were the first generation without ethnic distinction, and we ate food unheard of in Europe. By the 1960s, even the Italians were eating booya, and the Bohemians spoke with an Irish lilt.

Over the decades since, house by house, street by street, the neighborhoods of my childhood went through dramatic changes. It was not just on the East Side. For more than a generation throughout our nation — along old streets with historic names, in the new cities of residential avenues and malls galore, in duplexes and around cul-de-sacs, in multi-storied apartment buildings and among condominiums, and even in the center of old towns surrounded by farms — people are saying there is no longer a sense of true neighborhoods. There can seem to be no real connection among those who live on the same street.

Perhaps it is because of our mobility, unimaginable a generation ago, that a life of family, friends and co-workers leaves no time in busy lives and no room in crowded brains for a “neighborhood.” There are always notable exceptions, but in general, the question persists: Where are today’s neighborhoods?

We might have the answer.

In each parish there are the bonds of friendship and a shared mission. There is a sense of belonging to a community. At each Mass, people are united in worship and transformed by the Eucharist. Through the workings of the Holy Spirit, complete strangers become one family in the body of Christ. In the ever-changing cultures of a free society, parish life remains a culture of its own.

Ushers with name tags, family greeters, hospitality toolkits and welcoming banners are all the outward signs of the invitation to today’s disciples of Jesus Christ to build the relational community of the parish and to create an intentional culture of faith. It is each parishioner’s responsibility to help make a spiritual home — a place where children can safely learn and be formed in the faith, where families are engaged in a meaningful participation in the life of the Church, and where the gifts of each individual are valued and called forth for the good of the parish and in the service of the mission of Jesus Christ.

As we prepare for Holy Week and the sacred Triduum, we renew our identity as an Easter people. May the grace, gifts and blessing of our Easter season inspire us to build and deepen the relationships between our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we recognize that today’s neighborhood is found in our parishes, and may we truly love our neighbor.

En un mundo que está perdiendo sus vecindarios, sus parroquias le ofrecen un hogar spiritual

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Category: Only Jesus

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