The Ministry of Hospitality
Throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament, we hear stories of hospitality (e.g., Genesis 18:1–15, Luke 7:44b–47a, and Romans 15:7). Certainly, Jesus reminds us that we too are called to be hospitable, especially to the poor and sinner. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hospitality “as the art or practice of being hospitable; the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers with liberality and goodwill.” The word hospitality is derived from the Latin word hopes, which means host, guest, or stranger, and since the Second Vatican Council, this term and its implications in Catholic parishes has flourished. New ministries of hospitality, like ushers and greeters, took form. New principles of design in church architecture and environment were developed to create welcoming and hospitable spaces where the full liturgical life of a parish could be celebrated. Here at St. Thomas the Apostle, we offer “Sunday Hospitality” in the parish hall twice a month and on special occasions to welcome new parishioners and foster community among parishioners. Our ushers/greeters work to create a welcoming environment with smiles and words of kindness as parishioners and visitors cross the threshold of the church.
“In their document, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, the American bishops gave strong notice to the importance of hospitality in worship.
‘As common prayer and ecclesial experience, liturgy flourishes in a climate of hospitality: a situation in which people are comfortable with one another, either knowing or being introduced to one another; a space in which people are seated together . . . [people] are participants and not spectators (11).’”
I love the phrase liturgy flourishes in a climate of hospitality. As the source and summit of our Christian life, the liturgy is the primary school in which we learn the art of hospitality and as we are sent forth from the liturgy, we take what we’ve rehearsed at the Lord’s Table and share it in the world. Each of us in some way is a minister of the loving hospitality of Christ. Why? Because in the liturgy, we have been made more and more into his sacramental body by sharing at the Eucharistic table. Upon leave-taking, the assembly is the very sacramental presence of Christ in the world, which is in much need of love. Just as Christ went to eat with Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and other sinners, we are called to see our neighbors and dine with them. Dine here of course is a metaphor for all the ways in which we are called to be ministers of hospitality in our community and in the world.
Fr. Paul Turner in Guide for Ushers, Greeters, and Ministers of Hospitality says:
Hospitality meant something to Jesus. It was more than a common custom. Hospitality showed respect for the visitor. It demonstrated the humility of the host. It avoided the temptation to sneer at the less fortunate or the less moral.
In concrete terms, being hospitable means learning people’s names and professions, taking care of their simplest needs, and thinking well of them, no matter what their reputation. . . . It means being aware of your own tendencies to sin, and make mistakes, so that you do not consider yourself above your guest. You can thus receive every visitor as you would receive Christ (v).
Here are St. Thomas, we strive to be a hospitable community. As part of our continued efforts to grow in this charism, a new hospitality committee has been formed. This new committee has been tasked with the responsibility of not only hosting Sunday gatherings in the parish hall, but also with developing and implementing an overall vision of hospitality in the parish so that we can be known throughout the archdiocese as a parish rooted in Christ’s hospitality. This includes recruiting and forming ushers and greeters for our liturgies and helping them develop their charisms/gifts. It includes hosting Sunday hospitality and cultivating opportunities for fellowship. In time, it will include the ways we welcome new parishioners and bless those who depart the parish for new endeavors and so much more. The committee, along the way, will also learn more about this ministry and more about our parish family. This new committee will help us evaluate our existing culture and slowly guide us to embrace a more robust culture of welcome, fellowship, joy, and compassion.
This only scratches the surface of the deep theological nuances of hospitality so stay tuned as this ministry grows from year to year.
As part of this new initiative, you and your family are invited to discern becoming a minister of hospitality (i.e., usher, greeter) once a month or once every few months. We also encourage families to discern their call to be gift bearers at Mass. If you have any interest in these two ministries, please contact me in the parish office.
Sincerely in Christ,
 Catechism of the Catholic Church #1766
 Roman Missal, Ash Wednesday
Read it in our Sunday bulletin at https://stapostleparish.org/parish-life/current-bulletin/