I was a stranger and you welcomed me…
Hospitality is a biblical virtue with ancient Jewish roots. It is of prime importance to the Christian Community as it imitates the hospitable example of Jesus. Christian hospitality is recognizing ourselves as the Body of Christ! “All guests who present themselves are to be received as Christ.” (Mt. 25: 35)
Members of the faith community are chosen to share in this special ministry of hospitality so that all those present – parishioners and visitors alike – may feel at home when they enter this sacred space.
Although all liturgical ministers are called to be ministers of hospitality, those who are chosen as Hospitality Ministers – greeters and ushers – fulfill this role in very specific ways. The main duty of these ministers is to help create an environment that is welcoming and informative and one which encourages people to return, hopefully with a desire to become more involved in the community.
Arrive early – fifteen to thirty minutes before the beginning of the celebration, to provide assistance in preparing the space; to ensure that bulletins and other handouts are prepared (folded, etc.); to familiarize yourself with the content of the bulletin; replenish standard forms.
- Check in with the Mass Coordinator.
- Wear a name tag so that people, especially newcomers, can identify you.
- Have a general knowledge of the location of various facilities: bathrooms, fuse panels, telephone, brochures, registration and PAR forms etc.
- Familiarize yourself with the various committees, programs and services available in the parish so that you can knowledgeably answer any questions that may be directed to you. Make sure you follow up when necessary.
- If you have to miss a scheduled date make arrangements for a replacement.
- Offer assistance in the case of an emergency, e.g., finding a nurse/doctor or calling 911.
- Be available after Mass to greet people as they leave and to answer questions. Check the church for things left behind: bulletins collected and placed at the entrance; hymnals placed in the appropriate spots; clothing items placed in the “lost and found.” Ensure that someone is present to turn off lights and lock up before you leave.
- When those in the Catechetical Program are scheduled to participate in the presentation of the gifts, and/or the ministry of hospitality it is the responsibility of hospitality ministers to make them feel welcome and comfortable with their role.
As much as possible, every person entering the church should be greeted with a warm smile, and perhaps a few words of welcome. This may simply be “hello,” “good morning” or “welcome” but could also include comments about the weather, sports or other activities, a person’s health or family, or other topics known to be of interest to a particular person. It is important not to spend too much time talking to any one person (especially other ministers). Pay particular attention to new-comers and those you don’t know personally, as well as anyone who may have special needs. It is helpful if you are forthcoming with your welcome. Don’t wait for people to come to you!
Distribution of Bulletin
The parish bulletin and/or other handouts should be given to each family or individual. Additional ministers may be sought out to help with this if necessary. On occasion, particular groups, such as the Stewardship Committee, may have materials to hand out and some of their members may be present to help.
Presentation of the Gifts
Greeters may invite families or individuals to present the gifts of bread and wine as well as the monetary offering. Those who present the gifts do so in the name of the entire community. It is important then to ensure that this role does not rest with a small group of people but is truly a representation of the community. Invite people well before Mass begins and present them to the Mass
Coordinator so that instructions can be given. The presented gifts are bread and wine and the monetary offering, in that order.
As Ministers of Hospitality, ushers are called to the same spirit of welcome and Christian presence as are greeters. They carry out their specific duties in a spirit of team-work and helpfulness.
Ushers normally help people to find suitable seating when necessary. Extra courtesy of course is extended to those with any type of special need, such as hearing or sight problems. It is important that they be able to participate as fully as possible. Do not assume that families with small children wish to sit at the back, or in the crying room.
Care should be taken not to seat late-comers during the Liturgy of the Word (readings). Please ask the late-comer to wait until the reading has been completed and then quietly take them to a seat. The main body of the church is always filled before using any balcony or overflow seating areas.
The main duty of ushers is to organize and carry-out the collection of monetary offerings in a prayerful and expedient manner. Ushers must be aware of how many “collectors” are needed in order to make this happen and ensure that these people are chosen and suitably instructed well before the start of mass.
This and other organizational tasks, such as gathering the collected offerings in the basket and forming the procession with the gifts are often given to a “head” usher, although they may be shared, depending on tradition. . . . truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.