We Welcome, We Worship, We Witness

February 14, 2023


Every parish community has things that they are known for. Some of these identities incorporate the basic Christian call to follow the footsteps of Christ. We recall however that, “from the beginning of Christianity, the Church has understood herself to be a community, brought into existence by Christ and joined to him by a relationship of love, of which the nuptial experience is the privileged expression” (+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger and + Angelo Amato, SDB Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, May 31, 2004, no. 15).

After serving here for about 18 months, I would like to look at the three pillars of our community and share my experiences using a formulation of 3Ws : Welcoming, Worshipping, and Witnessing.

A Welcoming Parish Community: Holy Apostles Catholic Church Meridian, ID

The Holy Apostles Parish community is a home where everyone is welcomed, not minding who they are, where they come from and their views of life. We may be wondering and asking the question, what does it mean to be a welcoming community? Our secular society is largely self-centered and selfish; however, a welcoming Community is a community that severs such a “self-centered” mindset and sees everyone as part of the larger Christian community; it is a community that sees what brings us together as more important than what divides us. Christ brings us together and in Him we are one; there is no segregation or discrimination for the community members are one in Christ!  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). God is the Father of us all. 

As a welcoming community, the Church puts into action what Christ has called us to do; welcome one another, as Christ welcomes us in Him (Rom. 15:7). This welcoming spirit enables members to see one another as one in Christ which is the bond of unity we were all initiated into through the Sacrament of Baptism. Since we were all baptized into Christ, we put on a new creation (cf. Gal. 3:27); thus, the community becomes a family that goes beyond blood ties to the water of baptism which is thicker than blood and is a mystical unifying element. The concept of family is redefined in baptism. Blood relations is no longer of primary importance, but what matters is one’s right relationship with God made possible by the grace of Baptism…(cf. Water is thicker than blood, an Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singlehood by Jana Marguerite Bennett Oxford University Press Inc. 2008, pg. 118.). 

How would Christ welcome us? Christ welcomes us to conversion, to fellowship, to communion, and to mission. Christ welcomes everyone, sinners, and saints alike. He welcomes sinners to conversion and saints to a strength of faith. He welcomes us to an encounter with him in a radical and transforming way such that no one who encounters Christ remains the same. Our community’s door as well as our hearts are open to all; it is the house of God and gate that leads to life! Domus Dei et Porta Coeli (House of God and gate of heaven); where people are welcomed, healed, sanctified and saved through Christ and the communal efforts of members (cf. Rom. 15:1-2).   

A Worshipping Community: Holy Apostles Catholic Church Meridian, ID

Our Lord Jesus Christ emphasizes the importance of community prayer and worship as He says: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). The Holy Apostles Parish Community is a worshipping community par excellence where members gather in prayer and in the breaking of the bread. This was what the ancient Christian Community did when the church was founded: they gathered to pray and praise (Worship) and to break bread (Eucharist); they devoted themselves daily to meeting in the temple and breaking bread with exaltation and sincerity of heart, praising God for His goodness and enjoying the company and favor of one another (Acts 2: 46-47). Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity.” (Pope Benedict XVI Homily in Washington National Stadium, Thursday 17th April, 2008).

Our faith-expression and the faith-living is that of the apostolic community. There is a burning faith in members as they gather for prayers, daily Masses and Sunday Eucharist, not minding the weather condition. Coming together to celebrate the Eucharist helps to retain the lively sense of community.  The celebration of the Eucharist is of paramount importance in the life of our community because there, the mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ is concretely made present. This fosters the sense of community, which is nourished and expressed by the community celebration of the Sunday Eucharist (Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini, May 31, 1998, nos. 34 & 35). This life of worshipping in our community is done in harmony, sharing the gifts of God with one another for the building up of the Church, the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:26). 

Faith in the Love and Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist draws members to participate in 24-hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where the intimacy and the Divine Friendship that Christ has invited us into is always renewed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch (CCC 1324). We visit with Christ, listen to Him speak to us, and keep Him company in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Holy Apostles is therefore a community that loves Christ in the Eucharist and recognizes that He is the CENTER that brings all members together.


A Witnessing Community: Holy Apostles Catholic Church Meridian, ID

As Christians and Disciples of Christ, we are called to bear witness to Christ to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:18; Mt. 28:19). Witnessing forms the solid foundation of Welcoming and Worshipping. It is our hope in the promise of Christ to those who bear Him witness in this world (Acts 1:8; Matt 28:18-20) that makes us a Witnessing Community since “those who have hope must live different lives”! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By our prayers, by the witness of our faith, by the fruitfulness of our charity, may we point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior.” (Pope Benedict XVI Homily in Washington National Stadium, Thursday 17th April 2008)


Our community bears witness to Christ through our different ministries. We initiate and foster faith among members, we strengthen hope and love in the community, we reach out to our community to show love and concern to the poor, the less privileged, the downtrodden, those in any form of distress (physical, emotional, spiritual, and otherwise).  Through these outreach ministries, the community is strongly connected to the homebound, the hospitals, nursing homes, independent living homes, assisted living homes, those in the retirement homes and memory care centers. This fosters and witnesses faith, hope and love among all. No doubt that through these various acts of hospitality, members have entertained angels unknowingly (Heb. 13. 2).

The formation of young disciples in our school community, St Ignatius Catholic School, is one of our major ministries. There, the staff and volunteers make extra efforts to form the students in faith, moral and discipline. This is passing on our faith and morals thereby keeping them alive in this society which has devalued these norms. These students are testaments of our community’s witness and efforts in transforming the world into a better place for all. The USCCB puts it this way: To create a culture of witness, we must live explicit lives of discipleship. Fortunately, one does not become a disciple of Christ on his or her own initiative. The work of the Holy Spirit within the Christian community forms the person as a disciple of Christ (link https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/disciples-called-to-witness/culture-of-witness) This is exactly what we do, this is our responsibility and of course, the vocation of all Christians.


Our parish community is one that has demonstrated understanding and has fostered peace and unity among all her members. Members bear one another with patient understanding that leads to an outpouring of love, thus helping the weak and the lowly, the aged and the vulnerable, the physically challenged and indeed every member to be one in love (Eph. 4:2-3) building up faith and helping one another to grow in the trust of God.

The staff and volunteers of our Catholic community are simply amazing. They always show a high sense of commitment, a spirit of inclusion and sacrifice to see that members are well informed, acknowledged and are comfortable being members of the community.  This is done through love as St Peter enjoins the Christian Community... that love and hospitality should inform whatever the members do as the Body of Christ and these should be done joyfully (1 Pet. 4:8-9). 


As we continue to be part of the Community of the Body of Christ, we live in the joyful hope of being in perfect union with the Trinity thus joining the Community of the Saints in Heaven.

Pope Benedict XVI put it this way:

Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level…As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. Within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life. (Pope Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est, 25 December, 2005, no 20).



Welcome and God bless you.

Fr. Vitalis Onyeama, SMMM


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