Getting to know parishioners over dinner

What better way to get to know fellow parishioners than over the kitchen table?  That’s the idea of  a  parish in St. Paul, Minn., which hosts monthly “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” events for parishioners recently highlighted by The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper. 

Bill and Patty Flynn serve lasagna to Jo Burr and her husband, Chris, during a dinner the Flynns hosted Feb. 12.

About 100 parishioners at the Church of St. Joseph are signed on to this program and once a month a group of  them meets for potluck dinner at another parishioner’s house.   The guest list is kept a surprise: Only the hosts’ address is provided and their names and the names of the guests aren’t shared with participants.

Father Michael Creagan, pastor at St. Joseph and recent first-time dinner host,  is a fan of the program. “In many ways, the local parish is like a family, and these events are certainly bringing our family closer together,” he said. “I am always im­pressed when I participate in the din­ners and find people who are married, single, older and young.”

One parishioner and dinner participant said the idea of meeting people in small groups is “really appealing,” especially in a large parish such as St. Joseph’s.

Patty Flynn, the parishioner who got these dinners started,  said the program’s success is the result of the casual, low-key settings of the dinners.

“When you are sitting around the table together, everyone is part of the conversation. There is no agenda and people can just get to know one another in an informal way,” she said. “It can really become a basis for building relationships.”

Chris Burr, another dinner club member, called the meals one of his best parish experiences.

“You get the chance to talk to people for more than 15 minutes at a time,” he said. “The conversations can bounce from sports to politics to religion, and you can just spend time with people.”

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