Monday, February 13, 2023
Dolores Hanley McDiarmid
In his book “Love in Action,” Deacon Timothy F. Winters, Ph.D., tells us that the Gospels are not just to be read, they are meant to be lived. When I heard a visiting priest tell the congregation that we have a responsibility to play an active role in our church by using our God-given talents, I thought about that statement. It is when we use our talents and skills that God can work through us, and exciting things can happen. The unexpected can happen. We are invited to actively participate in our church community, not be passive observers. We are invited to share our talents and skills within our family, faith community, and community at large.
The following is a true story, and it is an example of what can result when parishioners come together and share their talents and abilities in their church. The parish’s Social and Events Committee met with the intention of creating an event that would encourage parishioners to socialize and get to know one another. It is too common in many of our churches that people come to Mass without engaging other parishioners in conversation. We are supposed to be family and family speak to one another and are interested in one another.
One of the committee members suggested that the parish have an International Food and Family Festival. Several members of the parish would talk about their culture and prepare a native dish from their country for people to sample after the presentations. This would provide an opportunity for parishioners to learn about each other and different cultures. It would also provide opportunities for people to socialize at the event and in the future.
For this event to be successful, parishioners with a variety of talents and skills needed to respond. The event required an organizer, someone to decorate the parish hall, people to prepare a short and interesting presentation along with a cultural dish, someone to set up the buffet, people to serve the food, and a greeter to take tickets, sell tickets, and welcome everyone. The success of this event was dependent on all the participants, including those who attended the International Food and Family Festival.
Before the event began, a young woman, not recognized as a parishioner, walked into the parish hall asking to use the restroom. With some hesitancy the greeter allowed her in. A few minutes later the stranger reappeared, sharing that she and her boyfriend had just broken up. She looked heartbroken. The greeter told the stranger about the event that was about to begin and invited her to stay. The stranger’s face lit up! She went outside, returned with the money to buy a ticket, and found herself a place at one of the tables.
While the event continued, the greeter went over to the young lady who no longer had a desperate and sad expression on her face. She was happily chatting with another woman. When the stranger saw the greeter, she thanked her several times, saying, “Thank you so much for inviting me to stay.” It was not clear if she said, “You saved my night” or “You saved my life.”
Could the woman who suggested this event and all who participated in the event have been a part of a greater plan of God’s? God knew the young lady would be in this situation that evening. He knew she would need a safe refuge. If she did not come across the church event, where would she have turned? We will never know.
This is what we do know. On the evening of the International Food and Family Festival, parishioners came together as a community, using their talents and skills, learning interesting facts about fellow parishioners and various cultures that can be used as a springboard for future conversations. They engaged in conversations that they never would have had were it not for this event. In addition to this, a stranger found a safe refuge and experienced the love of God working through the parishioners.
It was an example of love in action. It was an example of living the Gospel by parishioners using their God-given talents.
The Gospel was lived. The unexpected stranger was welcomed. And who knows, maybe a life was saved that night, simply by an invitation to stay.