Hospitality is focus of Stewardship Conference
By Veronica Ambuul
COLORADO SPRINGS. The 2023 Diocese of Colorado Springs Stewardship Conference took place Aug. 23 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs. The conference speakers included Bishop James Golka; Father Brian O’Brien of the Diocese of Tulsa; Eric McArdle, President of Catholic Stewardship Consultants; and Larry Denis III, a seminarian for the Diocese of Honolulu.
Denis, who had careers in teaching, parish ministry and the hotel industry before entering St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, spoke on the importance of hospitality in the parish setting.
“The Gospel teaches that whenever we welcome others, we welcome Christ himself,” Denis said. “That is why the first pillar of a stewardship parish is hospitality — being friendly, outgoing, and smiling is one of the first ways we can be Christ-like to others. If you don’t have good hospitality, everything else will be difficult, if not impossible.”
Citing Catholic evangelist Jeremy Rivera, Denis said that parishes should look at factors such as how new families with young children are treated at Mass.
“We’re pro-life Catholics — we want nice, big Catholic families — but when a crying baby comes to Mass, we give them a dirty look, we chastise them,” Denis said. “We cannot do that. We should be encouraging that family and welcoming them.”
Denis also listed other best practices that parishes can adopt to improve their hospitality, including:
• Forming a new parishioner welcome committee that makes contact with those who have recently moved into the neighborhood, letting them know about Mass times and other parish information.
• Providing clear, visible signs to help people easily locate restrooms, parish offices, confessionals, etc.
• Holding a yearly volunteer appreciation dinner for altar servers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and other volunteers.
Denis also drew on his years of experience working in the hotel industry to suggest other ways that parishes can make people feel welcome and at home.
These included greeting people courteously both in person and on the phone; offering to assist those who are lost or have their hands full; and learning and remembering people’s names.
“Even if you don’t like the person, be courteous,” Denis said.