Harry, the Church Usher

Some time ago a priest was telling me about a letter he received. What was interesting was, that the letter was sent to the Parish Priest, but it was addressed to “Harry, the Church Usher”.


This is what the letter said:

Dear Harry,
I’m sorry I don’t know your last name, but then you don’t know mine. You’re at ten o’clock Mass each Sunday. I’m writing to ask a favour. I don’t know the priest too well, but somehow I feel close to you. I don’t know how you got to know my first name, but every Sunday morning you smile and greet me by name, and we exchange a few words; how bad the weather is, how much you like my hat, and how I was late on a particular Sunday.
I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time for remembering an old lady, for the smiles, for your consideration, for your thoughtfulness. Now for my favour.
I am dying, Harry. My husband has been dead for 16 years and the kids are scattered. It is very important to me when they bring me to Church for the last time that you will be standing there in the front porch. It wouldn’t seem right if you didn’t say, “Hello, Gert, Good to see you.” If you are there, Harry, I feel assured that your warm hospitality will be duplicated in my new home in heaven.
With love and gratitude, Gert

I mention that story for two reasons:
Our Diocesan Pastoral Plan has been emphasising welcome, inclusion and outreach hasn’t it? As clergy, bishop, people are we improving in the warm, hospitality, welcome and outreach that we share in our parish community? Welcoming everyone especially those who have difficulty with the Church, nonpracticing Catholics, people on the margins.
Welcome, inclusion and outreach are so often achieved in simple ways as the story of Harry and Gert demonstrates – a smile, a wave, a cheery greeting, a recognition. It’s not rocket science! It’s simple. Yet how often it simply doesn’t happen! It makes me think of Hilaire Belloch’s book, which I read on the 1950s, called “The Path to Rome” – it’s about a walk he did across Europe to Rome. His reflection on the title page of the book says. “In all my walks it seems to me that the Grace of God is in courtesy, the Grace of God is in courtesy.” Charity begins at home and in our parish.