"You have to make a commitment...or else you are not welcome here." Need advice!


#1

That is what my parish priest told my husband this past Sunday, and I’m still reeling about it. I know I’m a newbie here, but I’d like some advice/feedback on this matter, as it’s eating me up inside.

Here’s the background… My youngest daughter was born in December (my first post was actually about not having Godparents lined up for her – that’s been solved, thank God!), and my husband went to the priest a few weeks ago to discuss her baptism. Once my husband finally got a hold of the priest, he was told to wait a week and call him. After a week, my husband went back to him and was told to “give me the courtesy of a telephone call” in an abrupt way. Fine, it’s no secret that this priest lacks people skills. Later that afternoon, my husband called the priest and was immediately met with an attitude. The priest told my husband that he feels used because we only come to church when we need something, and that if we are not making a commitment to the church, then we are no longer welcome there. However, just this once, he would do this “favor” for us and baptize our child.

Now, I have to be honest. We had a lengthy period of time where we were not attending Mass at this parish or at all because of personal feelings. Part of it was because of a negative experience with this same priest at my middle daughter’s baptism, when he yelled at me for something very petty, and part of it was just nonchalance about Mass attendance. However, after doing a lot of talking about how we would like our children brought up in my husband’s faith (he is actually Byzantine Catholic, not Roman rite), we decided we would return – for good – to this parish back in September '07, and at that time, enrolled our daughters in ECF, the equivalent to CCD in the Roman rite church.

I did call the priest and had a heated discussion with him about how offensive his words were to my family, and how I wish he had not just jump to conclusions about our intentions, but I was still met with a passive aggressive attitude even though he gave an apology. He is still agreeing to baptize our daughter, but I cannot help but to continue to feel hurt and to question whether we will stay at this parish after this incident. My husband and I have been hurt at another parish and we DO NOT want to have a repeat of that experience.

One last piece of this puzzle is that my husband and I are in an interracial marriage and I have often been the only Black person at Mass. I am actually the only Black person at our parish and frankly, it’s hard to cope with sometimes. I grew up Protestant, in a predominantly Black church and the feeling of warmth and community was wonderful. I do not have that feeling at this parish, even though some of the people are quite friendly and nice. It’s difficult to know my children won’t grow up with that, and it makes it even more difficult feeling that the priest isn’t exactly welcoming. I always wonder if it’s due to my family and our “differences”.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I would appreciate any advice or thoughts about this.


#2

My thoughts? A lot of priests have GREAT problems (although not all voice it as strongly as your priest) with the ‘cafeteria Catholics’ who only come to church if they want to ‘consume’ something (baptism, wedding, first communion, confirmation, funeral). It’s VERY frustrating to have in theory 1200 or more parishioners and only see a FRACTION (like, 80-100) every Sunday! You do wonder, ‘Why am I doing this?’ They put their LIVES into running their parish, devote themselves to Christ and what do they get? People ignore them until they ‘need’ them for something…

So…try to see it from the priests’ point of view. I don’t think you being black has anything to do with it, purely that he only ever saw you and your husband when there was a child to baptise…and like any ‘normal man’ he feels disappointment at that, at essentially ‘being used’.

Now, I’m not saying this as ANY reflection on you: I don’t know you! But, I do know quite a few priests, and sitting at the dinner table, this is what a lot of them have said! So…try to see it from his point of view, and make the effort to go to church EVERY Sunday, not just when you ‘need’ something. Like everything in life, you get out of it what you put in. And when you start attending church regularly, you’ll get to know people, you get to know the priest, you WILL start to feel ‘at home’. But it’s like anything: it’s not a one-way street, you need to make the effort, too. And after all, what’s a couple of hours a week? Why does God always come ‘last’ on our list?

So, don’t be offended, take a deep breath and remember: a priest is human too, and his feelings can get hurt as much as anybody’s;) !

Anna x


#3

You know, I could see his point if we were there only to have our child baptized, but that’s not why we’re there. We didn’t return for that purpose – if that were the case, **we wouldn’t have been at Mass nearly ever week (except for illnesses) since September, and prior to that for several years. ** Our children wouldn’t be in CCD/ECF either if we were only there for the baptism.

I don’t want to be argumentative, but we absolutely don’t put God last in our lives. We also do know people at the parish, I just don’t get that family-type feeling from them. I haven’t gotten it at all since becoming Catholic, to tell the truth, and when I converted, I was VERY active in church.

So basically, if a priest, or anyone for that matter, feels that you didn’t attend Mass as regularly as one would like, you’re not welcome at all?


#4

While priests are human…Is there another parish in your area? Have you set about looking into other parishes? Do you have a criteria lists as to what makes a great parish for you and yours? my second question: You are in a Byzantine parish, or a Roman parish? That’s kind of confusing the way you describe it.

My advice, for what it’s worth: Parishes, also like businesses, have to be as good a “fit” as possible. In some areas, that’s not possible, as there is only one parish. Otherwise, you are not bound by territorial boundaries in the US unless the bishop prefers it that way.

Go to Mass or Liturgy every Saturday evening or Sunday here, for now. .

Unless you can get your husband to drive to the nearest Byzantine church and set up an appointment with the priest there to discuss this, AFTER your younger daughter is baptized and you’ve given this some time, start parish shopping. This place is not quite a good fit for you, it seems. Be ready to leave as soon your older daughter completes ECF this year.

I don’t think it’s due to your race. My last parish was diverse. The priest just had very few people skills.


#5

Sorry if it was confusing – we’re at a Byzantine rite church. Previously, we were at a Roman rite church (where I was more active).


#6

I would try different parishes. My church, for example, is very friendly but I have been told that a larger Catholic church downtown is a bit cold and unwelcoming.


#7

my thoughts are first this priest needs and attitude adjustment and especially if you feel his treatment of your family is racially motivated you should report him to the vicar for priests or his bishop.

my second is that the priest does have a duty, especially if there is a question of establishing or changing rites for the person being baptized, to assure that the parents intend to raise the child in the Church, and is justified in delaying the baptism until he receives such assurance. Objectively, if a priest baptizes the older child, and then for whatever reason the family stops attending Mass, he is justified in assuming, until he receives assurance otherwise, that they have abandoned the faith.

Now there is a pastoral way to explain the rules to the parents, which invites them to return to the faith and inspires them to bring their children to the sacraments. there is also a personal manner of affrontery and entitlement that afflicts some priests, sadly, and prevents them from being true pastors. let us pray for him that he gets help. fast.

quite frankly if this was my parish I would have changed parishes after the first instance, at least until they got a new pastor


#8

First, pray for your priest. Thank God that he is there (for all his flaws and troubles.) Tell him you will pray for him. Second, your return to the Church is about your relationship to Christ, not the priest. You may find all kinds of barriers and troubles as you return home. Unite these troubles with the sufferings of Christ. Rejoy in all these trials and overcome them with the help of and for the love of Christ!


#9

If you’re open to a Roman Rite church, I would definitely think about changing parishes, and I would let the priest know why. You’ve mad a commitment to attend Mass, presumably received reconciliation, and are making a life change. Your priest should be willing to see that.


#10

I’m sorry for your struggles.

Our parish has many black families, and frankly, I’m happy to be part of such a diverse group. (lots of hispanics as well :slight_smile:

The Catholic Church is universal. I hope you find a home soon!


#11

Pray for this priest! He needs some serious help, and it could be that God is allowing you to go through this situation in order to prompt you to pray for him. I know I pray much more fervently for priests who offend me than for those who I just love to bits. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

I advise you and your husband to also prayerfully discern where God wants you to be, as far as a parish community goes. This could be a prompt to get your family into a different parish.

Depending on the situation I would also write this priest a letter explaining your involvement in the parish and explaining your situation from your point of view and why what he said was unfair and hurtful. Try to sort things out and get a positive response from him. If that doesn’t work, you should consider writing a letter to your bishop. Your pastor has no right to tell you that you are not welcome. The Catholic Church is the Universal Church, and all are always welcome.

Don’t let this priest turn you away from the Church! It is very unfortunate that he was so unkind to your family, but you go to Mass and get your children baptised for Jesus, not him. It really doesn’t matter what he thinks, it’s only what God thinks that counts.


#12

flutemama - I can understand your frustration. I too went through times where I was not that active in the church and coming back seemed to be meet with struggles. Changing parishes is also a challenge.

Although many of the posters on here will probably not agree with me. Almost every parish I have been a member of is very cliquish! No matter what your race is I believe it takes time and energy on your (as the new member) part to become involved. From my experience, Catholics (in general) are not one to walk up to someone after mass and say, would you like to join our study group or social group. It is more on the lines of we put it in the bulletin and if you want to join that group you call the leader and ask to join or you show up at the next meeting.
I posted a note on here a few weeks back about how do I find a group in my parish. I got a total of about 4 responses and all of them advised me to start my own group and go around asking people if they wanted to join me. Well personally, that advise is not good for someone like me who tends to be shy around new people.

Another point I am sure other posters will not like me saying.
I also believe that many Catholic churches do not know how to recruit or welcome black people. I have seen it personally in many parishes, both large and small. When a black person walks in, everyone stares. May not be any relief to you, but during Mass in smaller parishes, people tend to stare at anyone new. I know I caught myself doing it one Christmas Mass when a German Baptist couple was at mass (for those of you who do not know, GB are similar to Amish, thus the reason it was noticeable) I have had friends that were told by ushers at a Catholic church that they might feel more comfortable at a church down the street. The church down the street was Baptist! Now thankfully, my friends were very devout in their faith and would not change religions just because they might feel more comfortable sitting next to someone of their same race. They did approach the priest of the parish that the usher told them this, he apologized on behalf of the usher and they have since been there for about 3 years now. They still get looks now and then, now it is usually just at Easter and Christmas when the “Holiday Catholics” show up.
We also had a black priest for awhile. I will really say I was ashamed of some of my fellow parishioners when they made comments that showed lack of understanding of the african culture (he was from Nigeria).
So anyway, even if it is because of your race that this priest is acting like this, it might be his burden that you will have to carry for awhile. If you truly believe in your faith though you should not let it prevent you from practicing your faith.
From what I have seen, the Catholic Church is not the best in evangelizing our faith to black communities in the United States. (side note, in African countries the Catholic Church is doing great, Africa is the fastest growing region for Catholicism).
I think it is difficult to compare a primarily black protestant church to a Catholic Church. I have been to a few black protestant churches and I know that you are not going to find a Catholic Church that is as charismatic. I will also say that many heads turned when a white person walked into their services.
Again, I guess I would repeat, if you truly believe in your faith you should not let that prevent you from practicing your faith.

Before some of the other posters chide me for being wrong about this, I encourage you to look back at a post that was put up about a week ago titled “Rescue/prevent broken families in the black community” there were all of 7 replies to this thread, one reply that still stick with me is reply #6. Furthermore, it was easier for most on here to just ignore that thread than post their thoughts on it. Seriously if someone post a topic about premarital sex it will have 5 or 6 pages of replies, but if someone post a topic about blacks and the Church there are only 7 replies!?!?!

Last note to flutemama – again I will stress to you, if you feel that you are being treated differently in the Church because you are black, don’t let that prevent you from practicing your faith. There have been many people over the years that have left the Church because of sins of others. I personally believe that your faith is more important than the sins of others! Feel free to PM me any time!


#13

It sounds as though the pastor is burned out. It happens to the best of men/women. Don’t stop going and be as active in the parish as family commitments allow you to be.
I applaud your decision to raise your children in the rite in which your husband was raised.

Matthew


#14

**
I want to second this:thumbsup:**

**I completely understand your frustration but you can’t let it get in the way of your faith. Even though Church is a community, faith is a personal thing. I would like to think that community is there to help build us up and encourage our faith journey…but that is not always true. Many times it seems as though we are “going it alone”. And from your posts it seems like your race makes you feel that even more intensely. Please don’t despair. Trust that you are right where God wants you to be. Stay strong! (and post here lots, I have found much fellowship and support here:))

malia
**


#15

I am only the Methodist-in-Residence here at CAF, but Puzzle Annie’s post (especially the parts I have highlighted) is **exactly **what I was thinking as I read this thread…

:twocents: I would not rule out racial motvations…I have seen too many people who are seemingly lovely folks, who have prejudices against other racial & ethnic groups than their own…I do know, from my own observations, however, that predominantly black churches seem to (around here at least) to have especialy close fellowship. I don;t discount that at all…Its just that, when you are (like :slight_smile: me ) a blue-eyed redhead/blonde, that I have heard some really :eek: appalling things out of some :o seemingly nice Christian mouths…and if that is happening, it needs to be addressed as Annie says!!
Your family has my sympathy & my prayers.
God bless.


#16

Thank you ALL so much for your insight into the situation.

JustAnotherThou, I agree with so many points that you made. Honestly, there are cliques everywhere, not just in the Catholic church, but since I converted almost 8 years ago, I’ve seen some, um, interesting interactions. Most notable was when my husband and I were at a priest friend’s ordination party and we were trying to find a seat. A friend of ours was sitting with a bunch of folks who were representing that parish we attended at the time (the party was held at a completely different parish), and we asked if anyone minded if we sat with them. One of the women shouted no at us and no one else at the table stuck up for us, but they all continued their conversations as if we weren’t there. It was an odd situation for sure.

I have to admit, there are friendly people at our current parish, but I wonder if I set my expectations too high to expect the warm feelings all around, like I felt at my childhood church. Regardless of ethnicity, I think Catholic culture and Protestant culture do differ in the fellowship department. I need to continue to change my expectations.

One very good thing happened yesterday as a sort of update to this situation: I called my priest friend from the parish where we used to go and explained my frustration about this. He prayed for me and my family over the phone and gave me some very good advice to try to get through until my daughter’s baptism, then decide in 6 months to a year if this parish will suit our family’s needs. He stressed the importance of praying for our parish’s priest, and to ask for Mary’s help in this. Kind of off-topic, but he gave me an interesting analogy – he likened Mary to a GPS system, saying that normally, he knows how to drive fairly well, but often he might get lost without directions or a GPS system. Mary is the “GPS system” to talk to Jesus when we feel lost, or when we haven’t brought the directions with us. :slight_smile: Interesting point of view, huh?

I do have a small update to my original post from yesterday


#17

I like his analogy :slight_smile: I forget my directions quite a bit.

I agree with you in that we will probably not see within our life time the fellowship in the Catholic Church like you do in the Protestant Churches. I see it kind of like the singing. In almost every Catholic Church throughout the US you will hear a choir director questioning how they can get the parish to sing more. I believe you would find it difficult to find a hand full of protestant churches with the same problem. (with the exception of those who don’t sing during their services)

Catholics tend to be subdue in their worship. As Feanaro’s Wife pointed out, I think Catholics view faith more as a personal journey and coming together as a community is 2nd. Well with the exception of weddings and funerals, you see a lot of fellowship from Catholics at those events.

As far as with your current priest, I encourage you to put on your biggest smile and say “good morning and thank you” every time you see him.

I also agree with you on the cliques, I was one of the people that never really fit into any cliques, I just wonder in and out of many of them hoping to shine a different light in all of them.


#18

Flutemama,

I’m so sorry that you have been treated so poorly. It stinks to have that “not welcome” feeling at your own church! I too am a black woman who converted as an adult (although there were other Catholics in my family in previous generations). I’m single, so I started out at mass alone. However, there are faces of all colors and people from pretty much every country at my parish. You may not see them all at first, but go to Ash Wednesday mass and whooeee everyone comes out at once!

I was blessed to come into the church at a very diverse suburban parish where people were ridiculously friendly and welcoming. People asked if I was new to the parish or just going to a different mass than usual (we have many masses and over 7,000 families now). They introduced me to everyone sitting around me that first week and spoke thereafter too.

Now, I must say that I had a (white) friend tell me that he disliked my parish because he found it too large and impersonal. I found this outrageous because he only set foot at the parish for mass about once per month (when he was not out of town on business). How would anyone meet people or get involved in the real “life” of the parish in that manner? We are all busy, but I met people on a real level outside of mass.

Some activities encourage closer relationships than others. Christ Renews His Parish gave me a group of 35 “sisters” of all ages, colors and backgrounds with whom I’ll share the journey for the rest of my life. This is the group that brings meals to other sisters when they are ill or have a new baby. This is who I called to take me to the ER late on T-giving night when I busted my stitches! This is who came over to straighten up my house for me after my surgery and comforted me when my mother died. This group feels more like what I was used to growing up in a vastly smaller Baptist church. It is my church within the larger church.

RCIA was my “first family” within the church with the ministry team, sponsors and other candidates in my class. I got to know many of them much better by being a sponsor myself for 5 years. Carnival planning let me work with another group of people who I could call on for something but who are not as close as RCIA or my CRHP sisters. The choir is another group as is our high school ministry where I volunteered for a couple of years. All in all, literally many 100s of people in the parish now know me well enough to at least say hello and have conversation after only 7 years! I think of a parish as many smaller, more intimate circles within the larger circle of the entire parish.

I have to echo other posters who advised it might be prudent to find a different parish (at least for a time) where the priest is not having major rudeness issues. Whatever you decide, please try to get to know other people through being active in the parish.

It stinks being the “first” or “only” person of color who has to “teach” people how to get over being insular, but this may be your cross to bear for now. I’ve been doing it for much of my life at school, work and church. Now, I’m finally blessed with some diversity and genuinely nice people at work and church. I think that if you find a Bible study or something else where people get to know you and vice versa that the atmosphere may change. I hope that it gets better for you soon!

You should not have to change parishes, but I drove across a metro area 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic) to my current parish for 2 years until I could move nearer. I had started going there for RCIA because it was my sponsor’s parish and closer to her home. There may be some Catholic groups with more diversity that you can join within your diocese. Mine has a diocese-wide gospel choir that is based out of one parish but draws singers from all over.

Also as a black Catholic, you may find the following sources of interesting info:
bcimall.org/

blackcatholicchicago.org/

nbccongress.org/

query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DE4DF133FF930A25753C1A9679C8B63

uncpress.unc.edu/FMPro?-db=pubtest.fmp&-format=a-detail.html&-lay=layout2&-op=eq&BOOK%20title%20id=T-5518&-Script=visited&-find

Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t belong in the church because of your race. There is a long history of black Catholics in the US and in the church in general.


#19

jc-servant, thank you SO much for your perspective and for the links. It’s been a while since I’ve seen (and been to) some of those links, so I’m so happy to revisit them now.

I’ve done some thinking about this and decided that even though the priest was clearly wrong, there is room for improvement with my attitude, and I’m going to use this as a catalyst for looking at my relationship with God and the Church. Not sure where that will eventually put me, but it’s a start to really think about it, once again.

And funny enough, my husband spoke with the priest once again to finalize a date for my daughter’s baptism and my husband said it was like talking to a different person! :slight_smile:


#20

I can certainly appreciate your situation. I wish I could defend the priest, but I can’t. A few years ago I actually had a priest scream and actually curse me on the phone because he did not like the NFP bulletin insert I created. I had been verbally abused as a child and this situation was so similar that I had nightmares and it caused serious stress in my life. For years, I avoided that parish and priest, because it was so upsetting to me. I could not see him without emotionally cowering like a child! But I never let him come between me being in the Church and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. I went to the Maronite church instead. In the meantime, I prayed for this priest and for the ability to forgive him. Now I can attend Mass with him, but I nonetheless avoid his line when receiving communion. I also don’t go to confession with him; I can’t feel vulnerable with someone who hurt me so badly.

So my question is, is there another parish that you could attend? If not, then you simply must pray for forgiveness for this priest. It will probably take some time for you to feel comfortable around him, and it may never happen. But most priests get moved around and he likely won’t be there forever! :slight_smile:

As for being the only black person, I imagine this is difficult, too. The best remedy for feeling left out is to get involved. Is there a committee or group you could join at the parish that aligns with your interests? It will take effort to get to know people and feel that warmth that you described. It took a few years for us to get to know some of the Lebanese people at the Maronite parish we attend, but we are so glad we did. They are so kind and welcoming to us now. But I had to get involved in the parish; coming just to Mass, I would never have spent time with them and broken down those cultural barriers.

The one thing I would advise you to keep in your mind is that your faith can’t be in the priest, it must be in Jesus. We converted as adults at a wonderful parish with a vibrant congregation and beloved pastor. Then a few years later we moved to a rural area where there weren’t many Catholic churches and I had the run-in with the priest. We are not Maronite Catholics and so to some degree, we feel very rootless here. But we take consolation in our friends, the Maronite priest, and of course, the Eucharist. Even though we do not feel completely comfortable in either parish, we are grateful for the comforts God has sent our way.

Good luck in resolving this!


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