Words (and Actions) of Welcome

Guest post by Kathleen Cail, mother and activist

“It is great to have Grace in the choir… We are happy to have her.”

—Michelle Markert, Choir Director at St. Anthony parish

 

Grace showed up to her first church choir rehearsal last Wednesday evening. It was a cold evening in Madisonville and I would rather have stayed in for the night, but Grace was going to be part of the adult choir, at St. Anthony’s. She was excited and nervous. We arrived early so the choir director could listen to Grace sing and figure out her voice for placement—soprano or alto. When we arrived, people immediately came over to Grace to welcome her and help her get her walker up the steps to the alter. That is usually my job. Sometimes it is my job because I have always done it and just do it. Sometimes it is my job, because no one thinks to help and Grace doesn’t ask anyone but me.

When we joined St. Anthony Parish, at the end of summer, I knew immediately, that this was a community of people who accepted each other and welcomed people with open arms. I felt a sense of safety here- safety to try building connections for Grace and for our family. Shortly after we joined the parish, it was time to sign up for various roles in the parish. Grace was all about this. She wanted to be a server or sing in the choir. The pastor was completely open to Grace being a server. The only problem was that servers do a lot of standing and some walking across the alter. This was going to be tough for Grace. I put the kibosh on being a server, much to her disappointment and irritation with me. However, I suggested she try the choir. When Grace got around to asking, the choir was well into rehearsals for Christmas, so the director invited Grace to start after the new year.

I returned to St. Anthony, to pick up Grace after rehearsal. The choir was still singing, so I sat in a pew waiting for her. When practice was finished, I noticed that Grace was sitting next to an older woman and they were talking and going through a binder. Once Grace got up, another woman came over to help Grace get her walker down the steps. Grace was over the moon. She loved rehearsal (2 hours), was going to sing alto, she had met a lovely woman who helped her put her music binder together, and couldn’t wait to sing at Mass.

Sunday morning arrived and I went upstairs to find Grace awake and reading. I was surprised not to have to wake her. She told me that she was so excited to sing at Mass that she couldn’t go back to sleep. Jeff took Grace to Mass early for additional rehearsal. Partway through mass, Malachi, a man I have come to know through a book group at St. Anthony, turned to me and asked, “Is that Grace up there in the choir?” Yes it is. As we left mass, other people approached Grace telling her how happy they were to see her in the choir.

We have taken a step. Grace is seen, she is contributing, she is connecting with other people. It is a small step, but Grace feels valued and choir gives her a valued role.

katie bachmeyer