Parish Employment and Parish Membership

I am sometimes asked by parish catechetical leaders (especially principals) whether they should become members of the parish that employees them when they are hired.

I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule (and in my rural diocese there are certainly circumstances where worshiping at a different parish would be impractical), but in general I am not in favor of working where you belong.

For one, there is a risk of work interfering in other parish activities. This may be my own personal bias, but when I go to Mass I’m not thinking about work. But some people seeing parish workers at Mass view them as “on the job,” even if it is outside of their “office hours.” It would be distracting for folks to come up to me (either before or after the liturgy ) to discuss a work-related issue. Put another way: it’s impossible to be an “anonymous worshiper” at the Church where you work.

Secondly, as Jesus reminds us in a recent Gospel reading, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” While I wouldn’t go far as to equate parish employees with the biblical prophets (although would that we all were like them!), that catechesis is part of Christ’s prophet ministry should cause us to reflect. I sometimes wonder if it is harder for people in my parish to take me seriously as a church employee when they see me, for instance, struggling to keep my toddler settled during Mass week after week.

What do you think: should parish employees belong to the community they work for?