Little elves of all ages silently appear, disappear, reappear. We call them parish volunteers who do so many tasks that there are no formal rules–except to do what needs to be done to make the wheels of the parish-bus go round, round, round without breaking down. What do these silent helpers do? Usually Sunday Mass attendees may never have seen them at work–that’s why I call them parish elves.
- They fold handouts, neaten up the display racks, and check for debris in the pew racks because they treat the sanctuary as they would their own homes. It’s their church home and ours.
- They man sign-up lists, distribute bulletins and special handouts from parish groups–and neatly re-stock the closest invitatory.
- They place new votive candles throughout the sanctuary and monitor them daily.
- They come from hill and dale to decorate the shrines and altars not just for Christmas and Easter.
- They maintain flower vases and pick up fallen flower petals on the altar.
- They assist at masses in a variety of ways.
- They install Christmas lights and keep the walkways clean of debris and snow.
- They serve as traffic control for the safety Catholic school students.
- They teach adult education classes, RCIA’s, and initiate parish support groups.
- Last, in many parishes paid staff are also elves doing many tasks above and beyond their job description every day.
Without these selfless volunteers, parishes die slow deaths even if the priest and the paid parish staff do their jobs. The parish elves are the heart of parish outreach because they encourage their friends of all ages to become engaged in parish activities.
Effective experienced priests know this secret to success. New priests and deacons who become acquainted with parish volunteers learn much about the intricate workings of the parish for their planning.