Pastor's Points: "...A Stranger and You Welcomed Me"
In Matthew 25:35 we read:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.
This section of Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that when we disregard the hungry, the sick, the prisoner or the stranger, we disregard Christ. For this reason, it is so important that we are always in search of how we might reach out to those most in need in our midst.
On a Saturday evening in March, there were a convergence of events that caused me to think about one aspect of Matthew 25: Welcoming the stranger.
As I was finishing with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a man came to see me. He was clenching a rosary. From the appearance of his clothing, he had obviously not changed them in a while. He called me “Father” and explained that he had been trying to hitchhike from Atlanta to Burlington, VT. A truck driver had dropped him off though in Burlington, NC. He had a job lined up in Vermont but had no way to get there. He wondered if I could help him. I invited him to stay for Mass and to speak with me afterward. He did stay for Mass and participated along with his fellow Catholics. After Mass, I wound up being able to help him get to where he wanted to go. Something he said to me though really struck me. He said, “Father, I was in the back row and the people around me shook my hand before Mass when you invited everyone to welcome those around them and at the Sign of Peace. They meant so much to me.” The man then began to cry. He found, for that brief hour or so, a home at our parish. He found people willing to shake his hand and extend Christian hospitality to him.
That same night, we celebrated the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Rite of Welcome for the Candidates for Full Communion. We welcomed into our family those seeking the saving waters of baptism and those already one with us through their baptism seeking the fullness of initiation into the Catholic Church. The senses of the Catechumens were signed with the cross so that they would be able to: hear the voice of the Lord, see the glory of God, respond to the word of God, bear the gentle yoke of Christ and walk in the way of Christ. We prayed, too, that Christ might dwell in their heart by faith and that Christ might be known in the work they do. Through these ritual actions, we said, “You are welcome here.” “You are now part of this community and our profession of our belief in the risen Christ.”
Later that night, I received an email from a new parishioner, which read in part:
We are also very excited to be part of this dynamic and diverse parish community. As we continue to learn more about the various ministries and to those with which we can best offer our stewardship, we do plan to become actively involved within the parish going forward
the various members of the parish whom we've met have exemplified the gospel mandate of 'welcoming the stranger' and for that we are most grateful.
It warmed my heart to know that new parishioners feel welcome in our midst. We are all in this together. We have the responsibility to be hospitable. It is even part of our mission statement.
On that night in early March, there were signs all around me of the stranger being welcomed in our midst. Be sure to do your part in this effort. If you are sitting next to someone at Mass whom you do not recognize, introduce yourself. When I ask for visitors or new parishioners to stand and introduce themselves, make it a point to speak with them. Perhaps you could even give some of your time before or after Mass once or twice a month to serve as a St. Benedict Minister to welcome folks as they come to Mass. If you are interested in this, please contact Deacon Bob Troy at
From time to time, we sing a song at Mass called “All are Welcome.” Let’s make sure those words ring true.