PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish

________________________________________________                                                                                        May, 2022

Relating Over Time

            David Brooks’ column in the New York Times last month was entitled, “The Secrets of Lasting Friendships.” (NYTimes, March 24, 2022)   He refers to a recent book, Friends, by Robin Dunbar, “The average human mind can maintain about 150 stable relationships at any given moment.  These 150 friends are the people you invite to your big events.”  He goes on to state, “Most have a circle of roughly 15 closer friends. These are your everyday social companions – the people you go to dinner and the movies with.  Within that group there’s your most intimate circle, with roughly five friends.  These are the people who are willing to give you unstinting emo-tional, physical and financial help in your time of need.”

Old Scouts Together

            Four Scouts, Jerry, myself, Chuck and Jim, were part of Scout Troop 88 in Minneapolis from 1950 to 1954.  It was a time for exploration – camping, swimming, hiking, advancing through the stages of scouting.  In the summer of 1954, twins Jim and Jerry moved to Los Angeles with their family and the connection was lost.  Then in 1990, we reconnected for a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.  Since that time, we have been in regular contact with one another, first through an annual one-week “expedition” somewhere in the United States, and more recently, through a weekly Zoom meeting together.  We’re close friends, in other words.  Where did it all begin?  At Visitation Parish at the age of 11. 

Providing Opportunities        

            A typical parish is made up of hundreds, if not a thousand or more parishioners.  As the Covid threat recedes, the largest gathering is once again at the weekend Masses.  People become accustomed to seeing one another at church, offering a simple nod as they enter, gesturing to each other during the Greeting of Peace, standing in line with others as they receive Communion.  Taken as a whole, this is not a circle of friends, but lasting friendships do arise from the experience and at various smaller parish gatherings throughout the years.  It is at these groupings – sewing circles, book clubs, sporting events, volunteering, social outreach – where close relationships can arise, ones that might last for decades or more. Such relationships cannot be forced, they just happen, but the soil from which they grow and flourish can be prepared, cultivated, tilled and watered.  Such parish occasions might include:

            Instead of the Petitions at Mass being read from the Ambo, people could be invited to turn to the ones close to them, preferably those they might not know, and ask them to pray for a need, person or situation.  They, in turn, would listen to what the other person’s request might be.  It often happens that at a following Mass, people make contact with their “prayer partner” to learn what had happened.

            At smaller gatherings, a custom of identifying participants with name tags and sign-up sheets help people remember those who were present.  Reports and meeting summaries could include the names and contact information of those who attended so that a further connection might be made if so desired.

            Where possible, keep groups small, splitting those that have become too large, no more than 15, as David Brooks suggested.  Make it easy for new people to join by maintaining an image of openness and acceptance of new members.  Friendships among the staff and leaders serve as models for other close relationships among people throughout the parish community.  It is pure gift whenever it happens.