When the pandemic forced the faithful to stay home from church for months, many said their deepest loss was not receiving the Eucharist. They also missed their fellow parishioners, and in newly merged parishes like Holy Family Parish in Oakmont, Plum and Verona, members simply hadn’t gotten the chance to meet one another yet.
On September 19, Holy Family Parish will officially welcome back parishioners for National Back to Church Sunday, a movement that began 12 years ago as a day to reclaim the true nature of Church—just as Christ commanded. Today more than 40,000 churches participate.
In the spirit of serving others, a special collection will be taken up for victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti.
The pastor of Holy Family Parish, Father Kevin Poecking, sees the need to combine a return to a basic practice of the faith with fellowship.
“We wanted to engage our parishioners, to welcome them back to Communion and help them get to know each other better,” Father Poecking said. “Bring back the social activities and also encourage them to explore their relationship with God.”
Three of the previous five parishes had presented the spiritual awakening programs Alpha and ChristLife.
“We settled on Alpha because it seemed to be the best fit for us,” Father Poecking said. “It has two key ingredients—fellowship and building a relationship with God. People get together for a great meal in a friendly, informal setting and talk about their faith.”
Father Poecking learned about National Back to Church Sunday in reading about Alpha.
A series of Welcome Back events have been taking place at Holy Family Parish in the past several weeks. Outdoor Masses have been celebrated at Saint Januarius Church in Plum, Saint Irenaeus in Oakmont and Saint John the Baptist in Plum, followed by a cookout and concert. Father Poecking said Masses were held outside so people would feel safer and COVID-19 protocols were observed.
On the 19th, parishioners will be welcomed back at all 12 Masses, and a donut social will follow the 10 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Joy Church in Holiday Park.
The fifth church in the new parish is Saint Joseph in Verona.