In recognition and appreciation of all volunteers throughout the Archdiocese during National Volunteer Week (April 16-22, 2023) we asked various members of the community about the role of volunteers and how volunteering weaves us together, thereby strengthening the fabric of our faith community.
1. Our first question is best fit for a Pastor, so we asked Fr. Yaw: The Lord blesses each one of us with different gifts, talents, and skills. How can these be shared to enhance parish life?
As we celebrate Volunteers Appreciation Week, we are reminded that as baptized people, we are called to use our God-given gifts to live out our baptismal promises as stewards. We can live the stewardship way of life when we join any of the ministries in our parishes such as becoming a hospitality minister, a catechist or a member of the social committee. We also live the stewardship way of life when we strive to reach out to those in need in our communities. Sharing our gifts with others builds our communities of faith, communities where we share God’s love. We thank our volunteers.
Fr. Yaw Acheampong is Pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Etobicoke
2. We posed our second question to Elisabeth and Deacon David in North York: Why is it important for parishes to recruit and retain volunteers, especially in key areas?
I have always felt very strongly about a ministry of presence such as the ministry of hospitality. The hospitality ministry often goes unrecognized in some parishes.
The hospitality ministers are the first faces that people see when they come into the church. When these ministers take the time to pleasantly greet parishioners, both old and new alike, it brings a welcoming atmosphere to the church community.
During the pandemic we saw a distinct rise in the use of the ushers. They assisted in checking in registered parishioners for the Mass. The ushers now have a continuing role to answer questions and assist people to find seats, especially now that the numbers are on a steady rise.
We need to recognize these important volunteers in our parishes and encourage others to join by offering training and support.
Elisabeth (and Deacon David) Quail, St. Edward the Confessor Parish, North York
3. Speaking about hospitality we turn to Jeremy and Rochelle for further insight: What role does hospitality play in creating a vibrant parish? How essential are volunteers in creating a hospitable parish?
The parish is a place to celebrate God our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The parish is a place to seek strength and renewal through community. This is not a static place but a dynamic and thriving place, full of life, joy, and upliftment. Parishioners build community with and for God. Hospitality is about magnifying this and mirroring Jesus’ patience and love for others.
Being a hospitality minister is a calling and must come from the heart. It is essential that you want to share your love with humility. This is a drive in us all as Christians. When volunteering, it’s important to serve with dedication and commitment. Volunteers are always needed for this ministry. Sometimes efforts are organized, and other times they are organic. What is ideal? It is a parish that immerses hospitality in its culture. Everyone can help others feel welcomed in God’s home.
Jeremy and Rochelle Coombs-Paulus, Hospitality Coordinator and Minister, Sacred Heart Parish, King City
4. So why exactly should people consider sharing their time and talent by volunteering at their parish? Karen from St. Monica’s parish explains:
People should consider sharing their time and talents with their parish because they are blessed for doing so one hundred-fold!
I have embraced the motto and lifestyle of " Be of Service" for many years. I think the decision to pursue a career in nursing was directed by wanting to help others.
But service in St Monica's church these past 33 years as Lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and then Coordinator of both ministries, has been a wonderful experience in guiding others in not just reading, but “proclaiming" the Word of God and facilitating in giving parishioners the Holy Eucharist.
The pandemic provided yet another way to serve, in the form of Ushering. This gave me with the opportunity to get to know the parishioners more personally. To be able to call them by name in some cases and welcome them to the church and wish them a "Happy Sunday". The smiles and the energy is often reciprocated and it brings joy to all of us in the room. It builds community and opens the channels to allow people to reach out if they are in need.
It is a gift from God to "be of service". It is a joy to help others discover and develop their God given talents. And always a thrill to support and encourage them in their journey.
We are all human and need human interaction. It is precious to see the smiles of the young children as well as the lonely seniors that we interact with. These interactions bless all of us and facilitate to build our community.
After all, as our beloved Pastor Father Damian often says, we are all "called to be saints!" Let us listen carefully to that call and work toward it through our passion to volunteer and help others, by sharing our time and talent!
Karen Bertrand, Ministry Coordinator and Parish Minister (various), St. Monica’s Parish, Toronto
5. Sometimes it is good to see things from a different vantage point, so we asked some of our youngest members of the faith community: When you see people sharing their God-given time and talent at Mass, what does that teach you about your faith?
It teaches us that the volunteers could have their own time like going to the movies or hanging out with friends, but they chose not to because they want to give thanks and time back to God. We also think that Jesus could have spent his time however he wanted, but he chose us. He spent his time on earth with us and we should be thankful for that. We should also be thankful for the volunteers who spend their time serving for us and God.
Also, we can spend more time with God in prayer. After all, God is with us every day, every hour, every minute of our lives, so we can do a lot more for God. He created us. We spend time with our parents and God is our eternal Father so we should talk to him as often as we can. Volunteers also serve a big part of Mass. Without them Mass would not be the same. We need lectors, singers, ushers and altar servers. We need them in our lives. Thank you for everything!!!
Marianna, Clare, and Mark Schesnuik (ages 11, 10 and 6)
For more information on volunteer opportunities within the Archdiocese of Toronto, please click here. To learn more about parish vitality and stewardship, please click here. Thank you once again to all of the volunteers - seen an unseen - who continue to enrich our faith community through their service. May God bless you all!