During the first week of July, I began my ministry as pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Mary and St. Ann in Charlotte and Bellevue. A few weeks prior to my arrival in Charlotte, I received my keys to the parish complex. I also began the process of moving my belongings into the rectory and getting settled into the parish community that will be my home for the years ahead. I also started the very important process of learning the names of parishioners. I have asked folks to continue introducing themselves to me at each Mass because, as I have reminded them, there are many of them and only one of me.
The importance of learning the names of parishioners was made a priority for me and my classmates at Mundelein Seminary. The rector at the time, Fr. (now Bishop) Jerry Kicanas, is known for his legendary memory for names. He impressed upon all of us the importance of knowing the names of as many parishioners as possible. As he reminded us, knowing a person’s name connotes relationship as well as a sense of care and concern.
It should come as no surprise to any of us that, in both baptism and confirmation, the one to be baptized or confirmed is actually called by name. “Amy, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” “Adam, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Calling a catechumen or confirmation candidate by his or her name is a reminder that God wishes to have a loving relationship with the newly-baptized or -confirmed. It is also a reminder that the life of faith is lived out in the context of a community of faith – a family of faith-filled Christians who are part of a larger family of faith called a parish community, which exists in the context of an even larger family of faith called the Church.
That our newly-initiated are called by name is a reminder that each of us is called to have concern for one another and the unfolding of the life of faith of each. We are called to relationship – with God and with one another. If there is one thing that we know about relationships, it is that they require constant effort in order to nurture them so that they might grow. This is where knowing one another by name is key. What a difference it can make as we walk the journey of faith with one another to actually know one another – to know something about the joys and struggles that are a part of the lives of those around us. It can all begin by simply taking the time to learn someone’s name.
God knows each of us and calls us each by name. In calling us by name, God is calling us to a deeper, more loving relationship. Taking the time to learn the names of those who are seated near us at Mass opens the door to grow in relationship with one another.
And so, our journey in FAITH continues.