The parish program is currently in its initial stage, establishing confidence between the parishioner and his or her neighbors. Fr. McQuillan first appealed to parishioners during Mass to serve as messengers. The volunteer is asked to visit 10 neighbors once a month. They deliver a letter prepared by the pastor or by the ad hoc committee and ask one simple question, “How are things with you?”
The letter, which serves as a means to initiate contact, is written for the masses and is conscious of other viewpoints and faiths. The body of the letter is built on common values and beliefs. While the monthly letter does contain the name of the parish and address, it does not focus on uniquely Catholic themes or teachings but serves as an invitation for dialogue and camaraderie.
While only in its third month, the parish is already printing 1,500 letters and is seeing fruits from its labors.
Maria Hortencia Lopez, a participant, has noticed a change in her neighborhood since she started delivering the letters.
“We are getting to know each other and looking out for each other,” Lopez said. “Before, there was this barrier that we couldn’t cross.”
One parishioner found out a neighbor was Catholic and wanted to go to Mass, but didn’t have reliable transportation. That parishioner now takes the neighbor to Mass.
“These little things make a difference in our lives,” Fr. McQuillan said.
“By asking the question, you are showing concern. It’s an act of charity,” Fr. McQuillan said.
If the messengers find an issue and can help solve it they are free to do so, otherwise the messengers report back to the parish.
“We want to connect with them, not debate with them,” Fr. McQuillan said. “Everything we do should be about building God’s kingdom.”
As the campaign moves forward, Fr. McQuillan would like to see the neighborhoods start doing activities together.
Soon the parish will hold a town hall meeting to give Fr. McQuillan an opportunity to be better acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses in the greater community. From there and the letter campaign, he hopes to develop a pastoral plan that will better serve the wider community.
“It’s a gradual process,” Fr. McQuillan said. “It’s more of a 100-year plan. You can’t expect change in a day.”