This week our parish is hosting two Sisters from the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. These Sisters have a charism (spiritual gift) for going out into the community to find fallen-away Catholics who have unmet spiritual needs.
What they are doing in our parish is going door-to-door and asking if anyone in the household has been baptized Catholic. If there are any Catholics, we ask about their needs— if there are children who haven’t yet had religious education, if there is a couple in a mixed marriage who might like to get their marriage blessed by the priest, or a sick person who needs a visit from the priest.
The Sisters take members of our parish out with them on this mission so that we can learn to go out into the community as they do. I’ve gone out twice so far— once with each Sister.
We have talked to several people. Some of them are older, sick people who just seem to welcome someone to talk to. In one household we encouraged a man to talk to his adult son about having a child baptized. This man talked to us for close to an hour. I think he was lonely, and I think reaching out to him— to let him know that the Church cares about him personally— was a good thing.
Yesterday we were warned by a lady not to bother going to a certain house because the man who lived there didn’t like organized religion. Sister Mary Lucia went and knocked on the door anyway. It turned out that the man who lived there had become Catholic when he married, had raised his children in the faith, but after his wife died of cancer did not go to church and considered himself agnostic. Yet he was willing to talk to the Sister for quite some time. She made it clear that he would be welcomed back at the church if he chose to go back.
What impresses me is how a small thing like going to visit with a person in their home can be a help to lonely people. I know that when I am suffering from lack of human contact, I don’t always go out of my way to do things like go to church or ask people for attention. It’s hard to do that. But if someone comes out to such people and is willing to listen to them and shows concern— well, even if you don’t believe there is a God you can see how this can help some very lonely people.
I’m going to be going out with the Sisters again today. This will be the last time, and the Sisters will be leaving soon. But I hope other members of the parish will continue with the work of home visits. We just don’t know how many people there are in our community, suffering from loneliness, that we could help.
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