Dan Loughman: What Does it Mean to be a Parishioner?

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series by the newest contributor to The Catholic Steward, Dan Loughman.

In today’s society, and within this growing secular culture, we find many Catholics who simply go through the motions. They attend Mass, receive the sacraments, become beneficiaries of the services provided by the parish, and seem to have certain expectations about what’s in it for them, yet have minimal appreciation of how things such as the sacraments, education, formation, lights, heating, cooling, cleanliness, supplies, maintenance, support groups, and a variety of important ministries, are being provided.

Along with these expectations, there seems to be an emerging attitude that we/they are entitled to all these services and benefits without any generous, sacrificial, and proportionate commitment response in gratitude on our/their part. Is this growing sense of entitlement trumping our faith obligations, including that of being grateful, in committed action, for our God-given giftedness?

What is the root cause of this growing culture, this expectation of service, absent a commitment, support or obligation on the part of a growing percentage of parishioners? Research and experience within the United States and beyond suggests there is a serious lack of spiritual formation and understanding of what is expected of Christians in response to their Baptismal call to discipleship, where stewardship, that of discipleship in action, is understood, practiced and lived as being “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and received God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” (Catholic Diocese of Wichita)

What does it mean to be a parishioner? What are the expectations?

A parishioner can be defined as: “One who is registered and actively participates in the liturgical/pastoral life of the parish through the generous, sacrificial and proportionate sharing of his or her God-given giftedness of time, talent and treasure.”

As a Catholic and registered parishioner of a parish, I am expected to:

  • Regularly attend and participate in Sunday Mass – preferably as a family
  • Regularly participate in the sacramental life of the Church
  • Develop and practice an ongoing personal/family prayer life
  • Witness to the teachings of the Church by one’s manner of living life
  • Seek to understand and practice what it means to be and live as an active and committed Christian steward in service to the parish and the wider universal Church
  • Commit annually to a generous, sacrificial and proportionate commitment of one’s time, talent and treasure in service to the broad mission of the parish and the wider universal Church without counting the cost or having any expectation of something in return
  • Recognize, understand and accept my need to regularly give and share rather than giving and sharing only when there happens to be a need
  • Acknowledge, as a registered parishioner, that I am to be a participant in serving the mission of the parish rather than being only a spectator.
  • Realize the necessary and ongoing importance of love, generosity, faith and family.

Let us remember, it is only through God’s love that we receive his gift of life. In the course of that gift of life, we are then the recipients of God’s varied grace and giftedness. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are called to serve as God’s disciples, sharing, in gratitude, His giftedness and grace in love and service to God and neighbor.

Our expectations within this gift of life must not be allowed to take precedent over what is expected of us in gratitude thereof. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)