What’s in a church bulletin? Anything important? Do you take one home each week? Do you actually read it, or do you just check for certain reminders and bypass the rest?
In our travels, I always make sure to pick up the bulletin of any church we visit. It is a wealth of information about that church community — an indicator of parish life.
Only a very few times have I looked at a bulletin and said, “This parish is lifeless!” The majority of the time, I am awed by all the ministries and events. We Catholics stay busy!
What the Bulletin Includes
Below is a list of examples from the bulletins I’ve collected. Of course, no parish does all of these!
Collection Report. Often included is a report on the weekly/month collections. It’s a way to let people know if the budget is being met and if certain building or mission drives are going well.
Diocesan News. Included are notices of meetings, conferences and announcements from the bishop. Sometimes, there will be a separate insert from the diocese on important matters for Catholics.
Ministry/Organization Announcements. The when&where notifications of meetings/events, sometimes with a description of the function of that ministry/organization. In these listings, one can get a feel for the needs of the community; ministries/organizations in a college town differ from major cities or parishes with young families or elderly. The variety seems endless, so the following list is far from exhaustive:
Altar Servers, Altar Society, Bible Study, Building Committee, Catholic Daughters, Cub Scouts, Eucharistic Ministers, Evangelization Team, Finance Committee, Homeless Ministry, Knights of Columbus, Lap Blanket/Quilt Makers, Life Teen, Middle School Youth Program, Mother’s Day Out, Mother Teresa Ministry, Music Ministry. Parish Men’s/Women’s Organization, Parish Council, Perpetual Adoration, Pro-Life Ministry/40 Days for Life, Rosary Makers, Seniors Group, Soup Kitchen, Stephen Ministry, St. Vincent DePaul Society and Support Groups for Addictions, Diabetes, Grief, Mental Health.
Pastoral messages. Usually, there is a column for the pastor to share a catechetical lesson, comments on the world, or just news about matters of import to the parish like how much the new roof will cost and how long it will take to repair.
Permanent Columns: These are standard information blocks needed in every bulletin: List of clergy and staff and contact information including web site or app, Mass Schedule (often with intention, changes, and feast days), Pray for the Sick of the Parish (followed by a list of names), Mission Statement of the parish, Gift Shop information (if there is one) and, most importantly, the coffee and doughnuts schedule.
School News. If there is a parochial school, of course there has to be news about what’s happening there from pre-school through high school, especially awards and events.
Special Columns. These notices also have a wide variety of subjects, but some are occasional: Banns of Marriage, Q&A about Catholicism, Invitation to return to church or bring someone to church, Meet the Parishioner/Staff Member, Fundraising Drive Information, Readings of the Week, Information on the Use of the Facilities, Inspirational quotations or a prayer.
Training and Classes. Sacramental instruction, religious education and more are included here: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage Preparation, Eucharistic Ministers, Catechists and VIRTUS (code of conduct for volunteers). Some parishes also offer language and culture classes for immigrants and help with their documentation.
Of course, there’s special news announcements about the Blood Drive, or the big Fundraising Festival or the schedule for the KofC Fish Fry (can’t miss that!). One church bulletin I read gave the phone number of a volunteer RN who would take calls about health questions.
The Bulletin Is Important to Catholic Life
You may be wondering why I listed all this stuff that you probably skimmed through. The point is to make an impression about all that goes on in a parish.
My husband and I used to belong to a huge parish with 4600 families. Our pastor was, in effect, running a small city, complete with a school and multiple buildings. No wonder, when you drove by at night, there were lights on everywhere! It was just as busy as in the daytime.
Another point I want to make is that you shouldn’t ever ignore the bulletin because you’ll miss a lot.
It’s estimated that only about a third of parishioners take home a bulletin. That says to me that a lot of people use the church for Sunday “Look, I go to church” credit with God and neighbors but aren’t really contributing to the work of the Church or putting elbow grease into their own salvation.
The Church bulletin is something we Catholics might take for granted, but it is a reflection of parish life and a treasure trove of information. Appreciate it. Read it!