By BISHOP JOHN TRAN, Commentary | Published May 15, 2023 | En Español
“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” – Js 1:17
On March 25 of this year, I had the honor and privilege of being the celebrant for the Annual Recognition Day Mass for the Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (AACCW). Father Henry Atem, pastor, and the parishioners of St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville were our generous hosts.
A number of the pastors, parochial vicars and deacons from various parishes were also present. The Annual Recognition Day Mass honors outstanding women and senior high school youth from parishes throughout the archdiocese. These are women and youth nominated by their pastors to be recognized for generous contributions to the life of their church community.
Having been a parish priest for 30 years I have always been grateful and admired those who so generously gave of themselves in the service of the church. Parishioners like those recognized at the Mass are the ones who play an important role in the vitality of a parish.
A vibrant parish is one where clergy and laity work side by side to build up God’s kingdom in their corner of the world. It is one where we are all stewards of the gifts given to us, whether in word, worship, through service, to build up community or in any number of ways. There are people who say that even the simplest of tasks in parish life bring them joy in serving the Lord—ironing an altar linen, writing a note to someone who has suffered a loss, stuffing eggs with candy for little ones to enjoy on Easter Sunday, or coordinating coffee and donut Sunday.
And then there are the stories of those who care for the poor, visit the imprisoned, help the homeless and bring Holy Communion to the homebound. These parishioners speak of the profound experience of encountering the Lord in the faces of those they serve.
“I get so much more than I give,” is the often-heard comment. That’s because in serving others, in sharing their gifts, they are nurturing their faith and building up the Body of Christ.
I take this opportunity to thank not only those publicly recognized on various occasions either by the pastor or archdiocese, but also those unsung heroes who daily give of themselves in making the life of their parish church better. Without a doubt, your involvement and collaboration with your parish clergy and parishioners create, in the words of St. John Paul II, “the family of God, a fellowship afire with a unifying spirit.” (Christifideles Laici, 26). In such a church community one encounters the Risen Lord not only in the Eucharist, but in each other.
To those who haven’t been actively involved in the life of their parish church, I beg that you consider giving it a try. You will form lifelong friendships and you and your loved ones will be transformed.
Don’t forget, we have all received God’s gifts, and they are not meant to be kept to ourselves but give in service to the God who made us. “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Pt 4:10)