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What door-to-door ministry taught me about availability
On the First Sunday of Advent, I followed a line of fellow parishioners into a back room near the sacristy. We were instructed to pick up a cardboard box and a driving route. Once we coordinated with our parish secretary which route we had grabbed, we returned to the railing near the altar where boxes of books were laid out and labeled in alphabetical order.
Now, you are probably wondering what we were commissioned to do on that particular Sunday. Well, throughout the year, my pastor and many parishioners have been working tirelessly to produce two resources. First was “Mass Every Sunday,” a liturgical resource for the domestic church that contains the Gospel for each Sunday and Holy Day throughout the year, as well as a brief explanation of a part of the Mass, a recipe to try that week, a saint of the week and discussion questions for families. The second was our parish’s five-year plan, “Cornerstone,” written by our pastor himself.
While many people, including myself, have been healthy and comfortable enough to return to Mass for many months, not all parishioners at our parish have been as fortunate. And many more who were still registered only attend Mass on the occasional Sunday or for Christmas and Easter in a typical year. So our pastor sent anyone who could volunteer to do something Catholics typically avoid — door-to-door ministry.
Masked up and prepped with an ample supply of hand sanitizer, we grabbed a route, the books and bottles of holy water and hit the road to bring these resources to our fellow parishioners.
Most people went in small groups — usually family members. But being a young, single woman, I hit the road alone, going out of my Catholic comfort zone because I had no excuse not to.
The first couple of houses on my route did not answer, so I left the gifts on their doorstep. Others were a bit confused as to why someone was coming to their door from their parish — something that would have been strange even before COVID.
But there is one encounter I will not soon forget. Near the end of my route, I drove to an independent senior living community and knocked on the door of the woman on my list. She answered the door, and when I told her I was from St. John the Baptist, her face lit up. Since the pandemic hit, she has only been back to our parish once. She was around my grandparents’ age, and at the request of her children, she has stayed home and participated in Mass via TV each Sunday. This was a woman who had volunteered at the parish in a number of ministries — everything from cleaning the pews every weekend to helping with different parish events. She explained that other neighbors had been visited by people from their churches, but this was the first time she had heard from our parish.
While our conversation was not long, I knew the time talking to someone meant so much to her. And it reminded me of the importance of encounter and being available to neighbors. This was what Christ did. And this is what we are called to do.
My New Year’s resolutions often fall through the cracks, but over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed choosing a word to reflect on over the following 12 months. This year, I have a few words swimming through my head. But today, I’m going to focus on one: availability. How can I be available to others — and God — this year?
This doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as the suggestion made by the Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board a few weeks ago to write a letter to someone who is lonely. It could be continuing the trend of 2020 and being intentional with the people you live with. And maybe it means examining how much time we have set aside for prayer and learning to be more available to God throughout our day.
Just because our interactions are limited does not mean we can accept isolation. If 2020 was a year of distance, let’s make 2021 a year of availability in whatever way God is calling us to do so.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.