This and That: The Touch of God
by Dr. Jack Buchner
Often we gather for parish meetings and discuss what we are going to do for God’s honor and glory. This is necessary and commendable. However, the first order of business for any parish is not what we are going to do for God, but the discernment of what Christ is doing for us, right here, right now, in the parish setting (for me, Our Lady of Grace [OLG], in Parkton, MD). I share with you three heart-warming moments of grace, in the hope that others will recognize how Christ is at work in parishes around the world.
1. Many months ago, a seventh grader in OLG school told a teacher that he thought he’d like to become a Catholic. The teacher told someone else, who then contacted me. She asked if I would work with this young man. I told her that I’d be honored! After months of Monday after school meetings, Austin made his Profession of Faith (and thus became a Catholic), on April 12. Austin later made his first communion, and was confirmed at the Easter Vigil.
2. One Sunday during Religious Education sessions, a woman came up to me and asked if she could speak with me. I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ She told me that she was a non-Catholic, but her son was in our first communion program. She decided to attend a first communion parent meeting. When she came to the meeting, she heard me say things about the Eucharist that she didn’t know, and left the session excited to share these ideas with her son as they worked through his book. She told me it was a wonderful experience for both of them. Then, she asked, ‘Who would I speak with here about becoming Catholic myself?’ (Can you see my smile?)
3. A young woman called me recently and told me that she had been baptized a Baptist, raised Pentecostal, and married a Catholic. They had recently moved into the area, and just showed up for a ‘Sunday service’;’ (her words) at OLG. As she and her husband were leaving, she said to her husband, ‘That was nice.’ He responded, ‘We’ll be back!’ She said they’ve been coming here each Sunday for several weeks, and then asked, ‘How do I become a Catholic?’
So, if I were to tell you that Christ is really present in our parish school, I’m not expressing my personal opinion. I’ve EXPERIENCED His presence in our school. If I tell you that Christ is present in our efforts in religious education, again, this is not wishful thinking. If I tell you that Christ is present in our worship community on weekends, I KNOW, first hand, that it is true, and makes a real difference in the lives of people.
I also realize that people who are not actively engaged in our community of faith, don’t have the opportunity to experience these REAL PRESENCES of Christ. How very blessed we are as a community of faith What can you do to help someone experience the hospitality and love of Christ?
Dr. Jack Buchner has done parish ministry for 30 years, the last 15 of which have been in evangelization. He is currently the Pastoral Associate for faith Formation at Our Lady of Grace in Parkton, MD. He received an M.A. in Moral Theology and an M.Div. from Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He also holds a D.Min. from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore, and serves as an adjunct professor in theology at Loyola College and the College of Notre Dame both in Baltimore. He has authored seven books, including How to Welcome Back Inactive Catholics to Your Parish and the St. Monica Ministry.