By Caitrin Gallagher
Over the last few years, I have tried to search for a parish that suits me. My faith journey has been turbulent in recent years, but thanks to a great parish in Chicago, I feel stronger in my faith than ever before. My home parish never had much of a significance to me growing up. My family was very involved with the parish, but after our priest retired, I slowly began to feel disconnected from the parish. Since then, I have realized things about my home parish that I don’t agree with and I have since tried to distance myself from it. However, my family continued to go there and remained fairly involved. My older siblings had gone to college and moved away while I stayed there for a few years. I felt isolated from the parish and felt no connection whatsoever. Even when I was attending mass there with my entire family, I felt no joy. I had gone to mass there every week for eighteen years yet I felt like an outsider. It began to impact my connection to God and forced me to question many parts of the religion. It also forced me to reflect on myself and how I viewed myself as a Catholic.
After I went to college, I searched for a parish I could call home, but I was still feeling disconnected and alone. When I went home on breaks, I couldn’t bring myself to go to mass at my home parish because I disliked it so much. I didn’t enjoy attending mass with my family anymore; I only wanted to go alone at a different parish. This caused a strain on my relationship with my family. Reflecting on it now, I wish I had been more honest with both myself and my family. I wish I had sought a solution earlier so I would not have disconnected from the Church as much. My animosity toward my home parish seeped into my relationship with God and Catholicism as a whole. On the other hand, if I hadn’t gone through this rough patch, I don’t think I would be where I am today in terms of my relationship with the Church.
This troublesome year was necessary because it forced me to question my religion, which I think is necessary for growth. I usually go to mass alone when I’m at school, but I still feel at home. The community at the parish I attend is strong and so full of light and joy that I don’t necessarily need to be with family members or friends to feel like I belong there. To me, that’s what distinguishes a great parish from a good one. A parish that has the ability to make everyone feel welcome, regardless of any part of their identity, is a great parish. I feel most at home at this parish, and I’m thankful for it. When my family visits me, I get excited to show off my parish because it is where I feel most connected to God and I want to share that with my family. I sometimes still have to go to my old parish when I’m visiting home, but knowing that I have a real home at my parish in Chicago makes me feel more at ease, and I’m able to enjoy attending mass at home more.