Ministry and Missed Chances

By Karla Alvarado

“Perhaps you should give me a call…It seems as though you are unclear about the process of reserving this space…”

We had been engaged for only 10 days, and had started the process of setting the date the day following our engagement.  Needless to say, this was the last response my fiance and I were wanting to receive from the priest in charge of booking the chapel where we hoped to be wed. While we reached out to him initially with fervor, excited to be jump starting a lifetime of making decisions as a team, we both had come to dread his e-mails for fear of what document he might request next: social security card? proof of insurance? …There really was no telling!

Setting the date was not supposed to be the hard part. For us, all we really cared about was that we got to build a life together–it didn’t matter when. Thus, imagine our surprise when what we thought would be a quick e-mail inquiring as to the chapel availability turned into a mountain of paperwork spanning 3,000 miles and involving parishes long closed. Everyone we spoke with shared in our frustration: they had not had to worry about any of this until months into the process when planning their own weddings. Indeed, the countless forms, letters, and phone calls should not have been necessary just to pencil in a date!

For anyone other than Matt and I–a pair who care deeply about our shared faith–the process would not have been worth it. How many other couples, with a desire to nurture their future life together through marriage in the Church, had been turned off by the bureaucratic process of it all? I shudder to think of the lost opportunities.

Working in ministry, we are offered a sacred chance to touch people where it matters: that is, in their relationship with God. Even more sacred is the opportunity to minister to those preparing to receive a Sacrament. It can be an emotional time, and it seems to me this is when it is most important to ensure people feel wanted and welcome.

As a minister in a similar setting to that with whom we were interacting, I’ve found myself paying special attention to the ongoing way in which I may invite people into the life of the Church. Whether it is in passing on campus, or in the context of a more formal business meeting, I think to myself: How are am I communicating an invitation to a shared life with Christ? Our mannerisms, how we carry ourselves; these hold meaning. They can be both affective and an effective way to bring people in. Even in the midst of bureaucracy, of seemingly mindless paper-pushing, how are you working to make people feel a welcome member of the Body of Christ? Indeed, as Catholics we are all called to be Ninjas! Have you been considering yourself one these days?

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One thought on “Ministry and Missed Chances”

  1. Karla, If the church is trying to reach out to young adults, marriage is a golden opportunity to bring them into the life of the church. Instead we frustrate them and unless they are persistent and committed they go elsewhere. Those of us who believe in the sacrametality of marriage end up defending the church’s bureaucracy.

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