Hospitality is Everybody's Responsibility


When we are welcoming visitors to our home, whether family, friends or strangers, we normally tidy the house, greet guests at the door, provide enough food and drink for everyone and make sure that all are comfortable and included in the conversation. For some reason, however, this accepted and expected behaviour is sometimes forgotten when it comes to the worshipping community.

We have all heard stories of people coming to a Sunday parish Mass - perhaps visitors from another State or country, or someone who has been estranged from the church, or an enquirer wanting to find out about Catholic faith and practice –and are totally ignored by other worshippers. Rest assured, this would never happen at one of the so-called mega churches!

Things have changed in recent years, however, and many parishes have established a ministry of hospitality and roster people to be greeters at the church door. Having parish ministers of hospitality is not a “cop-out” for the rest of us however. Everyone at Mass has a ministry of welcome and warmth to the community and is called to be present to others as fellow members of the Body of Christ.

It is up to each one of us to be attentive to those who are with us at Mass and to make everyone welcome. Christ is present in the assembly and we are called to reverence this presence in the same way that we acknowledge Christ’s presence in the presider, the word and the consecrated elements.

While hospitality is everyone’s ministry, some within the community have a particular role to play in creating an atmosphere that is inviting and welcoming:

· Celebrants through their manner of presiding and preaching. It is important that those who lead liturgical celebrations use voice and gestures in such a way that all present are clearly included and encouraged to participate in the liturgical action.
· Readers by proclaiming clearly. Ministers of the word need to ensure that all can hear the readings and that their use of eye contact and silence conveys to all present that the word of God is being addressed to them.
· Organists and other instrumentalists by giving clear introductions so that people know when to start singing. Cantors by drawing everyone into the common sung prayer through their welcoming manner and inclusive gestures.
· Sacristans, cleaners and environment ministers by creating a welcoming worship space. People will feel comfortable and included if a church is clearly signposted, parking and entrances are easy to find and the church is attractive and comfortable.
· Ministers of communion by serving graciously at the table of the Lord. Communion ministers make space for each communicant as they share with them the Body and Blood of Christ as fellow members of Christ’s body. They need to be respectful and caring and to be comfortable making contact with other people through their eyes, words and hands.
· Ushers/greeters by providing a warm welcome at the church door and offering information to visitors. Hospitality ministers need to be friendly people who remember names relatively easily and know key people in the parish to whom they can direct enquirers.

A parish which works at forming all its members as ministers of hospitality can transform a group of Mass goers into a welcoming and life-giving community that generates faith, hope and love.


Elizabeth Harrington