When David and I moved to Charlotte in June 2006, we "shopped around" for a parish. I scoped out all the parish websites (their links and advertised activities gave me a feel for the orthodoxy of each priest/parish) and emailed questions to the coordinator of the diocesan young adult group. We attended Sunday Masses at several parishes and reviewed their bulletins for possible ministries in which to involve ourselves. David lived near one parish and I lived near another, and three other parishes were within 20 minutes driving (I know, can you believe we had so many options here in the South?!). As "roamin' Catholics", we felt free to choose where to make our new spiritual home.
After two months we registered as parishioners at St. Ann's, a fifty-plus-year-old parish with a school and a new pastor. Masses in Spanish and English were held in the cozy "basement" church (the upper church had never been constructed) and the small, diverse community was known for its warmth, music, and big heart (lots of service in the city and beyond). I felt God calling me to St. Ann's because it offered lots of opportunities for me to get involved in ministry and make a difference. I joined the choir, and David and I decided to try out youth ministry together.
When we got engaged and approached the pastor to schedule our wedding, he told us he couldn't guarantee that the church would be available in August of 2007 (the parish hoped to begin constructing its "real church" at last). So we booked our wedding at an aestheticly pleasing church down the road (St. Vincent's). Soon after, St. Ann's got a new pastor. After some discernment, we felt God was not calling us to continue with youth ministry there.
Several people told us that the youth ministry program at St. Vincent's was exemplary, so we called the director and spoke with her about getting involved. She welcomed us, and we deliberated over whether to leave St. Ann's to join St. Vincent's. I'm a big believer in attending Mass where you minister to provide a continual witness to the ministry participants and to develop relationships with them in a variety of contexts. At the time, we felt that St. Vincent's parish family offered us a more orthodox and visibly pro-family atmosphere. If God blessed us with a baby, I thought I'd find more support and enrichment for holy family life at St. Vincent's. So, in the month after our wedding, we transferred parishes.
Long story short: St. Vincent's liturgies are lovely, families are abundant (and large), church is bright and peaceful, and youth ministry is truly blessed. I enjoyed my time experiencing all of them. While David enjoyed serving at St. Vincent's, he discerned that God was calling him away from youth ministry. The new pastor at St. Ann's will soon be offering the Latin Mass there, and he invited David to serve at the Mass (and to help him coordinate/train the other servers). David agreed, and has been studying Latin as nursing school allows.
Already the parishioners at St. Ann's have welcomed us back - and asked us why we were gone so long. We tell them about our involvement in youth ministry there, and then we tell them how much we're looking forward to our new ministerial involvement at St. Ann's.
I'm sad at the prospect that David and I may not be serving together in the same ministry, but I am excited about our new opportunities. I will attend a few more YM meetings at St. Vincent's, but we are participating in Masses at St. Ann's beginning this past Sunday. I asked the pastor how I could serve at St. Ann's, and he recommended a few options. A couple days later he told me that he prayed about it and wanted me to join his RCIA team for the next year. I quickly agreed. My administrative skills will be put to good use (I'm pretty familiar with sacramental certificates and other important canonical paperwork because I previously worked in a diocesan diaconate office). My spirituality and knowledge of the teachings of the Church will be challenged (and shared!) in my interactions with the candidates and catechumens.
This is a big step with an uncertain outcome - but I've taken lots of those in my journey with God. I have faith that He will carry us through - and teach us along the way.