When I was younger, I remember our Catholic parish being large and fairly impersonal. Many would dart out the door immediately after receiving communion. There were the nods to familiar faces, but little else.
Then my family transferred to a smaller parish. When I was 20 years old, I accompanied my mother on a weekend retreat called "Christ Renews His Parish." To this day, I have very fond memories of that beautiful weekend. It was the first time I felt as though I got an opportunity to really know some of my fellow parishioners. We continued to meet as a group for a few months and then it stopped. I remember feeling sad when it stopped.
Then I started to look for that sense of fellowship, but outside the Catholic church. I did find it, and relished meeting with other believers who wanted to learn more about God and grow their relationship with Him.
I never expected to find this in the Catholic church. So I am both surprised and delighted that the parish I now attend has such fellowship. Immediately following Mass, there is a "donuts and fellowship" time in the "undercroft" of the church. It is so nice to see familiar faces, meet new people, and catch up with what's going on in one another's lives. It's also great to learn about events.
Speaking of...I need to catch up with someone on a possible Mass tomorrow morning...
Anyway. Maybe some of you have experienced this kind of fellowship for years, but to me, it's a surprise that fills me with much joy. I can see that God has been working with the Catholic church to connect people beyond the school functions. I see more retreats and special events available, too. All in all, it's wonderful and necessary for us to stay strong in our faith. We need Mass and our private devotions, but we also really need one another.