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Never Enough

When personal choice usurps the communal need

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Father CarrionI am not a hot-and-humid-weather person, but this year, I look forward to summer more than ever as it is time to vacate the bombardment of administrative emails, which have been exhausting this past winter and spring.

The mantra the staff is feeling is, “It is never enough,” and “It is never quick enough.”

The pushback is on the simplest things as the parish staff juggles the many organizations’ — much of the time tangential organizations, such as Scouts, fraternal orders, etc. — and parishioners’ demands. While any one of these is insignificant with a backdrop of real concerns such as a war in Ukraine, the insignificant pushbacks do take their toll.

The “never enough” category occurs when one organization asks for dates for Soup and Stations during Lent. The staff schedules and responds with five consecutive Friday nights in Lent. The response email says: “Is this all we get? We want six nights.” The staff politely responds that the hall is not available on the sixth night. The next response, “Why not?” triggers the staff’s frustration. The sense of entitlement that the event should take precedence and that the staff needs to explain itself for every decision adds to the anxiety. The reason: The hall is being set up during the week for Palm Sunday overflow crowds.

Many parishes during the spring and Easter season are celebrating first Communions. The parish sent six dates encompassing 10 potential first Communion Masses in a seven-week period to over 100 families. While most families complete the form revealing their preferences, there are the few who make life difficult. “None of these dates work for me,” or “I want a special time for my daughter with her friends (whom she names).” One mother even proposed a date not listed. Interestingly, the parents of the “friends” completed the form as did the other 90-plus families, not asking to be with the “entitled mom.” Six emails later, three different dates scheduled and canceled, the mother who needed special treatment found a date among the original offered.

The not-doing-enough stance is compounded by those who claim the staff is “not quick enough.” “I emailed you on Friday night, and here it is Monday morning and I have not had a response,” was received by one staff member. These emails border on bullying. Typically, the information requested by the parishioner was sent in a previous email, which was never opened, but now it is the staff’s fault that it was not read.

Perhaps the worst example was when the church was reserved prior to pending surgery for a parishioner who wanted to receive the sacraments in a very private setting due to her severe immunodeficiency. The staff was aware of the situation, so when a volunteer later requested access to the church for the same time, she was informed it was not available then, but would be at 1 p.m., which the volunteer confirmed. While celebrating the sacraments with the parishioner, the volunteer, who unfortunately had a key, came in and, even upon seeing us celebrating the sacrament, continued to walk up the aisle. I asked her to leave to which she rudely responded.

This year, more than most years, there has been an uptick in this style of behavior. The entitlement, the demands, the bluntness and discourtesies in emails and voice mails, not just to staff but to fellow parishioners, is spiking like a virus.

Is it the frustration of the last two years of isolation? Is the back-and-forth of constant protocols of mask or no mask? Has social distancing caused some not to remember social graces? Are parishioners just “spent”? Or is it all of the above.

While the masses of people thankfully cooperate, and the staff knows they spend 80% of the time on the demanding 5%, it is still disconcerting.

It is sad how one or two people can disrupt the lives of so many! On a global scale and much more severe level, it is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been doing. One man disrupts and destroys the lives of so many. People see their needs and wants as of higher importance than anyone else’s. The scale of death and destruction in war dwarfs any incident of demanding to use the church when you want, having the first Communion you want or using the parish hall when you want. However, it comes from the same misbehavior that says one is more important than the many. My personal choice cannot be usurped by a communal need is the mantra of the few.

Hopefully, a summer with fewer parish activities, fewer demands on the staff, is the time also for the entitled few to vacate their behavior by the time fall arrives.

FATHER PATRICK M. CARRION is the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ijamsville, Maryland, and the director of Cemetery Management for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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