[This article first appeared in Christian Initiation 33 (December 1998/January 1999), p. 8]
Inside, the building felt strangely familiar. Ginger had entered the catechumenate just two months earlier, so she thought she knew what a Catholic church should look like. This one seemed different from hers back at home -- the furniture occupied different spaces in the sanctuary here. But the hushed tones of a Sunday morning bustle persuaded her she'd found the right address. Ginger wanted to feel at home no matter which Catholic community she visited. So she decided she would like it here.
She arrived early as her pastor Fr. Smith had advised before she left for this business trip. She waited just inside the door, and after a few moments the priest appeared vested for mass.
"Hello," she said, firmly extending her hand. "My name is Ginger.
"Hello, Ginger," replied the surprised cleric, accepting her hand in a comfortable welcome. "I'm Fr. Stone."
"I'm a catechumen," Ginger continued. "I'm in town on a business trip and my pastor said I should ask if I could join your catechumens for the dismissal today."
"The dismissal?" Fr. Stone asked, blinking his eyes, his head pulled back in disbelief. "Oh, we don't do that here. We have some catechumens in formation, but we meet with them on Tuesday nights."
"You don't have a Sunday dismissal?"
"No, we just feel it's not very welcoming."
Now Ginger was surprised. She enjoyed talking about the bible with other people each week. It never seemed unwelcoming to her.
"But you can stay for mass," Fr. Stone reassured her. And if you're still in town on Tuesday, come join our group.
"Thanks," Ginger said, her smile returning. "I'll do that."
On Tuesday evening Ginger met Michele and P.J., the local catechists. They introduced her to the others, and everyone welcomed her cheerfully.
"What brings you to our city?" they wondered.
"A new job," Ginger explained.
"You're working here?" Michele asked.
"No, I'm here for training. This firm hired me as a consultant, but I have to learn more about the company first," Ginger continued. "So before they let me do any consulting, I have to put in some travel time to the national office."
"That sounds nice." P.J. loved the very thought of travel.
"It is, but I'm anxious to do the work I was hired to do. It's an exciting place, and we have a lot going on during the next quarter. While I take this training I'll be missing some important moments in the company's life this year -- corporate gatherings, budget reviews, planning meetings, even the company holiday party."
"You enjoy company parties?" asked Michele.
"This is a company I believe in. I've had my eye on them a long time. I admire the people and I'm thrilled that within a few months I'm going to be one with them." Ginger sampled one of the peanut butter cookies a sponsor had brought along.
"So travel is fun, but up to a point. It's still work. You put up with the trips because you know what's coming," Michele said.
"Right," said Ginger, sipping some decaf. "And I don't mean to complain. These training sessions are really worthwhile. I'm not only learning about the company; I'm becoming a better person. Besides, even though I'm away, the home office takes good care of me. They're investing a lot of company time and personnel in my development. It doesn't feel like I'm apart from my coworkers at all. In fact, when I leave, they all wish me well, and the emphasis the company places on my training impresses on them how invaluable their own work is."
"How difficult is the work at these training sessions?" asked P.J.
"It can get pretty intense. The company manual is like our bible. We spend a lot of time talking about its vision and how to make it enrich our work. In some firms, the guidelines only hinder the work; ours really set us free. If we become better human beings, we'll be better employees."
Michele and P.J. looked at each other, obviously impressed with this firm and the way it cared for its new talent.
"You know," said Michele, "parish churches could imitate an example like that."
"Some of them do," replied Ginger.