Putting an end to ‘parish-hopping’

| October 31, 2009 | 0 Comments

churchhoppingMass at St. Mark in St. Paul ended at noon, but Jeremy and Autumn Irlbeck didn’t get home until 1 p.m. — and they only live six blocks away.

The reason? They were chatting with fellow parishioners in the church, and they ran into a few more on the way home.

After several years of parish-hopping, they’re rooting themselves in their parish home. The experience has deepened their sense of Catholic community and the Eucharist as “communion,” they said.

Jeremy, 25, and Autumn, 23, are newlyweds. Before they dated, both attended several parishes throughout the course of a month, often for the sake of convenience.

Autumn bounced between several St. Paul parishes, she said. Sometimes she went to St. Peter Claver. Other times she went to the Cathedral of St. Paul. And the 9:30 p.m. Mass at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas was always a fall-back, she added.

Jeremy worked as a youth minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings, and he spent many Sundays there. Otherwise, he would attend St. Joseph in West St. Paul or Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul.

When the couple started dating, they based their Mass attendance on what fit their schedules, they said. As their relationship grew, they got more serious about settling down in one parish.

St. Mark wasn’t a regular on their previous Mass circuit, but it was near St. Thomas, where Jeremy went to college. They liked the neighborhood, and they knew the pastor at the time.

They also thought St. Mark seemed “ripe for renewal,” Jeremy said. Many of the parishioners are elderly, but young people and families dot the Sunday morning pews. The Irlbecks joined the parish, and several months later it hosted their April 2009 wedding.

“We just really felt at home,” Jeremy said. “We knew whatever church we got married in, we wanted to be active in. We didn’t want it just to be our ‘wedding church,’ but to be our home.”

Now expecting a baby in February, the Irlbecks are glad they rooted their married life in a parish. They’ve volunteered with the parish’s ministry to homeless people. Jeremy hopes to become a lector, and Autumn wants to join the choir. They might send their child to the school someday, too, they added.

They also love living in the same neighborhood as their parish, they said. They see fellow parishioners in the grocery store and as they walk to Mass. They are slowly recognizing more families and getting to know other young people.

They stay for coffee and doughnuts after Mass, and stand in the aisle visiting with new friends long after the organ’s postlude. They’ve even invited St. Mark’s new pastor to their apartment for a future dinner.

It’s natural for young people to “be all over the place” when they’re figuring out their role in the world, Autumn said. However, being rooted in a parish could be a grounding force while one is in college or starting an adult life.

On the other hand, the ability to attend Mass at different parishes points to the universality of the church, Jeremy said. “As Catholics, we recognize that Jesus is present in every church.”

Category: You belong . . . Here!