I’ve been in my current parish for nine years (it is my 12th territorial parish, in three countries), and I’m still not “used to” it. Getting “used to” a new parish and feeling “at home” and “welcome” there aren’t quite the same thing. I’ve made myself at home in this parish, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
I spent the first six years of my residence in the parish coming to Mass on Sundays but doing absolutely nothing else. Everything changed when I decided to step out the shadows. How and why this happened is a long story I will spare you the details of.
In six months, I went from being just another face in the crowd to becoming head sacristan. It’s been challenging at every stage: when I was anonymous, I had a lot of privacy but no fellowship; when I first volunteered, I made scores of enemies in the form of other active long-time parishioners who for unknown reasons felt threatened by my presence as well as opponents of the pastor who picked on me due to my association with him; since this pastor appointed me head sacristan, I have managed to form a few friendships and change the minds of some of my critics. I’d say I have more allies than adversaries now, but only just. The parish is by and large a den of vipers. Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons are particularly frustrating. I smile through it all.
While I agree with those who have suggested involvement in parish activities as a way to accelerate integration into a new parish, I would follow that recommendation up with a warning that parish service isn’t a magic bullet and becoming involved could actually make things worse, at least at first.
So why do I stay? -]Three/-] Four reasons:
*]Through the responsibilities I’ve been blessed with, I’m trying to bloom where I’ve been planted.
*]While my relationship with the laity has largely been acrimonious, the clergy and I generally get on quite well. Over time, my association with the priests and deacons in the parish has led to similar associations with priests and deacons outside the parish. My interaction with them has been and continues to be of tremendous benefit to my spirituality as well as to my humanity.
*][added in edit] Because human beings are involved, I have no right to expect perfection. Others have to put up with my flaws just like I have to put up with theirs.
*]I simply will not be chased from my own parish.