I had an excellent discussion with a brother priest this morning (Sunday, July 16) over breakfast concerning what it means to have a welcoming parish. My experience of doing 5 years of in-depth parish pastoral visits revealed to me that most regular parishioners think their parish is a welcoming parish. My experience also revealed that many of those people, when asked why they think theirs is a welcoming parish, have no idea how to respond. It comes down to a feeling, more than facts.
When you are a priest, you never know when you'll be called upon. There are things you can plan, such as a meeting I had in Toronto on June 13-14. But then there are things that are just surprises from God. On my way back from Toronto I wound up sitting next to a lovely couple from Arizona who were on their way to Wabush in Labrador (quite a trip!). After some typical chit chat they asked me to pray with them for a member of their family who is sick. So the three of us, sharing row 16, leaned in and prayed. It was a lovely (and surprising) moment of ministry.
I had the opportunity today to celebrate mass at Saint Michael and Saint Anthony parish on the occasion of the feast of San Marziale Martire. He's the patron saint of Isca sullo Ionio in Calabria. This was the 50th anniversary of the feast in Montreal, and my chance to discover it. Several blocks of Saint Viateur were closed off for a street festival, and after the mass there was a traditional Italian procession with the image of the saint through the neighbourhood.