By Deacon Tom Picciano
Sun contributing writer
Vestal — When new parishioners register at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, it’s much more than filling out paperwork to get envelopes. They also receive a gift of sorts: a folder filled with information on the parish which includes a letter from the administrator, Father John Kurgan. There’s also a pamphlet on stewardship of time and talent, a survey on potential ministries, and a brochure on the church building project. Another form provides information that triggers a telephone call from the Welcome Committee.
“We say we’re the Welcome Committee of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish,” said group member Pat Woodruff. “We’d like them to know how happy we are they are with us.”
The new parishioners are asked if they’ve read over the information, then referred to possible activities based on the age group of the family. With more than 50 ministries at the parish, there are many options. Sometimes the phone call leads to an immediate involvement.
“I called a lady who was elderly. You could tell by her voice. I told her about our Knotting program [Thou Shalt Knot], sleeping bags for the homeless. She expressed an interest. She lived within walking distance of the church. It happened that day that the Knotters were meeting,“ Woodruff said.
After a quick call to a group member, Woodruff arranged for someone to meet the woman at the door for the Knotter’s meeting. “It worked beautifully. The lady passed away not too long ago but she came for quite a while.” Woodruff said.
“Quite a few elderly ladies who have moved back to the area to be closer to family have joined that particular ministry,” added Welcome Committee member Eileen Stone. She said a personal welcome is important.
“We had lived outside of the area for 15 years. We were in two different parishes,” she said. “It would have made a difference, but nobody really knew us there. No phone call was made. You just don’t feel it matters if you’re in the parish or not. When I came back Pat and I had talked about it and I said I really believed in the personal phone call which is how I got involved in it. It really is important.”
The contacts with the parishioners don’t always work fast. The Welcome Committee tries to call within a month.
“If they’re brand new to the area and we know they’re just moving into their house we give them time,” Woodruff said.
“It has worked out. I think they are really surprised at the number of activities we have for all ages,” Woodruff noted.
The Welcome Committee tries to make contact with new parishioners at the picnic in August. They’re easy to find as each person wears a name tag. The committee serves as a point of contact within the parish. They offer their home phone numbers to a new parishioner. Sometimes they make referrals to the pastor or parish office to answer a question.
Our Lady of Sorrows has about 1,500 families. Plans for a new church building are in the works. But the Welcome Committee makes sure each person feels at home.
Group members said the welcome extends to all areas of parish life. They note how Deacon Dale Crotsley keeps in touch with the youth, following up if they’ve missed a meeting.
When flooding hit the area in September, Father Kurgan visited all the parishioners affected within a few days. Parish staff received a call each night from Father Kurgan during the flooding, even if they hadn’t been touched personally by the disaster.
A welcome led to Pat Woodruff’s involvement with the Welcome Committee when asked by Sister Mary Robert to help out 15 years ago.
“I was very happy to do it. When we were new parishioners a call was made to us, and it made a lot of difference in how we felt about the parish.”