20th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends in Christ,

If you regularly attend Mass here but are not registered, then you are not an active parishioner. If you are registered but do not attend Mass here each Sunday, then you are not an active parishioner. If you are registered and attending Mass but not supporting the parish according to your means through the parish contribution system, then you are not an active parishioner. If you are contributing to the parish but not coming to Mass here, then you are not an active parishioner.

All three of these components — Mass attendance, registration, and support — are essential to being considered an active parishioner in any parish, and when someone asks for something from the parish which can be given only to active parishioners, these are the three criteria we verify in order to provide the proper answer. Only active parishioners are eligible to ask for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, service as a sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, and parishioner tuition in the school, and yet we regularly receive requests for exactly these things from those who do not meet all three criteria for being considered an active parishioner.

All of these things are explained regularly in bulletin columns, letters to the parish, and the school handbook, and yet the people who most need to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest these instructions never seem to get them. Which is why I am asking for your help. If you know someone who needs to hear and understand these facts about being an active parishioner at any Catholic parish, please find a way to approach the subject with kindness and clarity and explain the consequences of these principles. For example:

+ No Catholic can belong to two parishes. Claiming to belong to one parish while attending Mass at another is simply impossible and is a form of self-deception.

+ Grandparents have no standing to ask for sacraments for their grandchildren or to provide parishioner tuition status for their grandchildren in the parish school. Only parents of children are eligible to do these things, and when parents are not practicing the Catholic Faith but the grandparents are, this can be particularly hard to accept.

+ Serving as a sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation is not a social honor, though it is too often treated as that. Such service is a sacred duty which may not be undertaken by anyone who is not truly practicing the Catholic Faith, and the birth of a sibling’s or friend’s child is too late to qualify for the privilege of serving as a sacramental sponsor.

Put most simply: there is no place for minimalism in the Way of the Cross.

Father Newman