I have occasionally seen people in some of my Catholic circles express concern over their inability to become involved or volunteer on any level within their parish. It’s great that many want to do something in their parish in some way, but often family obligations, time, or a lack of activities within a parish make getting involved difficult.
More often than not, the concerns I hear come from young families. Many are moms with young children. And there I think is the answer!
If you are one of those people who would like to be more involved in your parish but feel that you don’t have the time to do so, take a step back and think about the season of life you are in. Were you more involved in a previous time? What has changed since then? Can you see a time when you might be able to be more involved once again? Look at your friends and other parish members. What do you have in common with them? Where do you differ in terms of children, occupation, or family situations? Try to put into perspective where you are and what you are capable of adding to your family life.
Over the course of a year we experience a change in seasons. At times, it feels like we are going to be stuck in winter forever, but eventually it gives way to spring. Just like the seasons in a year, our lives are a series of seasons. During some seasons we are able to give more of ourselves than in others.
A friend of mine told me once that when her children started school at our church’s elementary school she would often volunteer to help in the lunch room for those moms who were unable to do so because of work or other obligations. She told me she felt that since she was in a position to volunteer more that she had to, she could help out those moms who were not able to volunteer as much. Now all her kids are in school and she has returned to work part time and is back to volunteering at the minimum required for each family.
Another friend is single and finds that she has lots of time to help at her parish in the evenings and on weekends. She has started a Young Adult group at her parish and volunteers with the youth ministry. She’s also able to attend daily Mass once a week and help out with other events when they come up.
Several years ago I was part of our music ministry team at my parish, I was on a formation committee for a new women’s group, I was involved in our young adult group (met my husband there), and I was rehearsing with a separate choir preparing for a trip to Italy. As part of the music ministry I sometimes was asked to play for special masses and our young adult group often helped the parish out through volunteering at various events. There were weeks when I was at church almost every evening for something. During this time I was a single person, living in a city that was six hours from my family.
Another friend attends a parish where there is no group for moms to connect through. She feels like she could use a group like this for support, but she knows if she mentions it she would be asked to start one. At this season of her life she doesn’t feel like she is in a position to head something like this up. Not only does she have two young children, but she and her husband volunteer together for another ministry at their parish. So adding something else to her volunteer time isn’t in the cards for her at this time.
In more recent years, I have had to cut back on the involvement I am able to do at my parish. I stepped back from music ministry about six years ago and our Young Adult group eventually fizzled out. I did take an hour once a week in our Perpetual Adoration Chapel (which was such a blessing!) and I served on our Faith Formation Committee for a few years. But now as a mother of three young children and working out of the home full-time, I have had to more carefully discern what level of involvement makes the most sense for me at this time.
These are just a few examples from people I know personally. There could be many, many more. Maybe you have older children and you can volunteer at your parish more as a family, getting everyone involved. Maybe you are an empty-nester and/or retired and could help out in ways that younger families are unable to.
We’re all in different seasons of life and all able to volunteer on different levels as a result. Some can do more than others. Some families may only be able to keep the intentions of the parish in prayer while others may find ways to volunteer at a much more involved level. Either way, each family needs to discern the level that works for them and not compare themselves to anyone else.
Most importantly, I think it helps to step back and remember that if you are in one of those seasons where you can not devote the time you think you should to your parish, seasons change and one day you may be in a better position to do more. And when you are, you’ll be able to pick up more volunteer time to help out those families who are in one of those seasons where they can only do the bare minimum.
What season of life are you in? How does that translate for you in how you can volunteer and be involved in your parish?