Change is hard, change is beautiful

By Mary Ann Otto | Special to The Compass | September 28, 2016

I recall sitting in one of my master’s classes with the late Bishop Aloysius Wycislo as he explained what our church was like as it was going through the many changes of Vatican II. He had a front row seat in Rome during that time as an appointed Council Father and was a friend of Pope John XXIII. Bishop Wycislo also knew the reality of trying to bring to life the hopes and dreams of the council within the context of a diocese, parish and even with his own family.

Bishop recalled visiting his father in Chicago as the many changes to the liturgical space and Mass were taking place. Sitting next to his son, prior to Mass, his father exclaimed: “Aloysius, what are you doing? I don’t want to greet people or shake their hands during the sign of peace. It is my time of prayer. Everything is changing and I don’t like it!” Can you imagine being such a key player in such an important event and being scolded by your dad?

I think I recall his story so clearly because it made me think how difficult that time was for my parents and grandparents. (I was a young child then and remembered how much I enjoyed being a part of watching the changes take place as the altar was turned around and the Mass was celebrated in English.) I also thought that Bishop Wycislo not only had to hold his father’s hand through this time of change but also had to support and encourage the Body of Christ that was his diocese. My guess was that he spent quite a bit of time on his knees.

Now you and I are the grandparents and parents in our church and the Holy Spirit continues to challenge us. Though our changes may not be as dramatic as those that took place during Vatican II, we are being called out of our comfort zones to a new and more hospitable way of being parish. For our children and grandchildren it will be a blessing, but for us it might be difficult.

Consider the weekend experience. You and I have the unique opportunity to gather as brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and to pray and care for one another. Sulpician Fr. Eugene Walsh, in “Practical Suggestions for Celebrating Sunday Mass,” describes it well when he says:

“Hospitality is a form of caring enough for others to give them space in your life right now and to welcome others in. It asks for presence and attention from each member of the community for the duration of the celebration.”

The beautiful message from Fr. Walsh says that hospitality is the responsibility of everyone on the weekend. We may have wonderful greeters and amazing coffee and cookie ministries, but in the end, the real work of hospitality belongs to every member.

Practically, what does that look like? Though it seems so simple, it means to move over in the pew so others can join you. We need to watch our body language so our arms aren’t crossed. It also means to look others in the eye and smile at those around you without judgment. (I believe that God created the motley crew that is humankind for a reason!)  If we do not know the person, we should introduce ourselves and welcome them to our parish. We need to participate in the fellowship offered after Masses and invite those around us to join us.

For those of us who tend to be an introverted (I’m on the borderline), we may have to find our comfort zone and remember “all things are possible.” Most importantly, we have to remember that in all things we do, we have to mean it! It is a change of heart and habit!

What is the gift of individual hospitality on the weekend? We get to know the joy of becoming more Christ-like. We have the privilege to be a member of a community where everyone can love and be loved. We are helping to create a space for others to come know Jesus and our great redemption through him. We become evangelizers and our neighborhoods and world will be blessed! And yes, we will grow as a parish community.

I want to thank Bishop Wycislo for the story he told in my ecclesiology class so many years ago. The message seems to hold true for every generation. Change is hard. Change is beautiful!

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top