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Hospitality key to missionary Church

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Decorating a table with flowers, putting out biscuits and offering a cup of tea might be considered “fluffy stuff”, but Jane Angha says hospitality of this kind is important for a Church that wants to be missionary in today’s world.

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“Hospitality sets the stage for an encounter with Christ,” Ms Angha, from Wisconsin, USA, said during a visit to Adelaide recently.

“It isn’t Jesus, it isn’t the message, but it opens us up if you’re fed and you’re treated well and you feel settled, then you are open to whatever is going to happen –whether it’s a speaker, a liturgy or the sacraments.”

A coordinator of Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Green Bay, Ms Angha was guest speaker at the New Horizons conference for the Archdiocese’s youth ministry leaders in February.

Also a director of Ministry Blueprints, a business dedicated to ‘training, equipping and empowering parish leaders and ministers to create warm and welcoming environments for those they serve’, Ms Angha conducted a workshop for primary school APRIMs (Assistant Principal Religious Identity and Mission) during her visit.

She said there was “excitement and enthusiasm” from both groups.

“We spoke about how you create a culture of great space for young people, not overtly doing evangelisation, but your end goal being missionary discipleship.

“There was a lot of discussion around how do you show your faith through actions – and that’s where hospitality comes in, by making everyone feel welcome and a part of things.”

While her practical tips for hospitality are simple, Ms Angha told her Adelaide audiences they do make a difference.

“It might sound silly, but you need to have the lights on and someone present who is welcoming and hospitable – but it is really the responsibility of the whole parish,” she said.

“If you want to have a culture of radical hospitality or a vibrant parish, everyone has to be welcoming. It is not designated to a ministry or a team, but everyone is part of that.

“The parish has to adopt that understanding of what hospitality is and why it is important. We are a Church that is missionary today…we’re out in the community.”

Being hospitable also meant that you had to be prepared to walk with people and notice the needs around you, she said.

“Did you see someone who looks lost, who looks sick or someone who needs childcare?

“Just have your eyes open and recognise that and be brave enough to go do something about it, don’t wait for someone else to do it. Most of us are a little nervous to do that – it’s not really our Catholic culture.”

Ms Angha said including hospitality both at the internal and external level took time and admitted it had taken about three years for the Green Bay Diocese to embrace it as part of their culture.

“At first they just thought it was fluffy stuff, you’re just putting cookies or coffee or something beautiful on the table,” she said.

However, while on her visit to South Australia she was thrilled to receive a message from one of the managers in her diocese who said in her absence they held a staff meeting and someone had “got the table ready, brought in some treats and made some coffee”.

“That to me…I know we’ve made it!”

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