Updated: Oct 8
I must admit, as I sat down to write my letter this week I kept attempting to think of some catchy title, but despite my best attempts at brainstorming, no special insight came my way. So I decided to title this letter using the most simple message I want to extend to all of you reading it: welcome! I’ve been thinking about this theme of welcoming to a large degree because this weekend, for the first time in over 18 months, we are able to welcome people in to the newly repaired and restored St. Mary Church. So to our “old” parishioners who have been missing being in our church on Hillhouse during the closure, welcome back! And to all of our new parishioners who have joined the parish in the last 18 months and who have never had the experience of praying in St. Mary Church, welcome to the “other half” of our parish worship space. This is also the time of year when our parish traditionally starts seeing many new faces. So to all of you who are new to the New Haven area and are looking around for a parish to call your own, welcome to our parish! We have two stunningly beautiful churches and a very vibrant parish family. On behalf of myself and the other Dominican friars who serve the parish, I can say that we look forward to having you in our parish communion of faith.
To all the many undergraduate, graduate, and professional students beginning the academic year at Yale, University of New Haven, Gateway, and other nearby colleges, welcome to our parish. In the midst of a school year that is going to look unlike any other, and no doubt present many challenges, we hope that you can find some measure of peace, comfort, and strength within our two parish churches and through the sacramental and ministerial life of our parish. To whatever degree we can supplement the Catholic formation you are receiving on your campuses to help you grow deeper in your relationship with Our Lord and with the Church, we are eager to do so. To cradle Catholics who have in the past, for one reason or another, fallen away from your Catholic faith and who, whether because of COVID or some other reason, find yourself starting to consider “coming back to church”… welcome home. As someone who, earlier in my own life, drifted away from any regular Mass attendance or practice of the faith for a period of several years, I may understand (more than you might expect from a priest) what that experience is like. If you find yourself uncertain about what it means to “come back” and are looking for some guidance, please contact myself or any of the priests. We are more than happy to talk with you and help you navigate the decision about reengaging with your faith.
To those who are nonCatholic and who have found your way to our parish, I would like to extend a very special word of welcome. Perhaps you’ve never experienced anything Catholic in your life and have walked through our doors simply out of curiosity. Or perhaps you’ve been studying Catholicism as much as you can on your own and find yourself interested in learning more about this big, beautiful, and sometimes (at least to an outsider) really weird thing that is called the “Catholic Church.” We are always happy to answer questions. For those who are considering the possibility of becoming Catholic, there is a process by which that happens (called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or R.C.I.A. for short) which involves weekly meetings over the course of several months where the basics of the Catholic faith are presented in lectures and discussions. Those who begin these “classes” have the opportunity to learn about the Catholic faith in a systematic and organized way. At the end of the program, those who wish to officially enter the Catholic Church are then able to do so. If you would like to enroll in this program, please contact the parish office and we can provide additional information.
To anyone and everyone else reading this, no matter what your relationship with our parish might be, welcome! We are happy you are here. If myself or any of the parish staff can do anything for you, please reach out to us. I would also urge everyone, both old and new, to sign up for the parish email list, download the parish smartphone app, and keep a close eye on our bulletin and on our parish webpage. Despite the COVID restrictions, we are going to do our best to make this the best year yet for St. Mary Parish.
Fr. John Paul Walker, OP