Would you rather sit courtside or in the nosebleed seats at a basketball game?
Longtime Thomas More Newman Center parishioner Dick Otto often uses this analogy to describe church involvement.
“Why do you go to church and sit in the section-D seats in church?” Otto said. He wants to get people involved, move them forward and “get them as an active part of that celebration.”
This fall, the Newman Center plans to do just that. The center will launch the 2 Care program to encourage parishioners to volunteer in the community at least two hours a month.
The Rev. Charles Pardee, a minister at the Newman Center, said the program is part of a parish pledge meant to help parishioners understand what it means to be part of the Newman Center.
“The idea of a pledge, we think, is to establish identity,” Pardee said. “And once identity is established, then belonging is established.”
They hope to implement the pledge with four parts — attending Mass, regular tithing, campus ministries and service — including the 2 Care program, Pardee said.
Corey Lyon, an MU master’s degree student, will be structuring the 2 Care program this summer during his internship at the Newman Center. Lyon said the program will help parishioners increase their involvement in the community.
“It’s just designed to get the whole parish involved in volunteering and participation and living out the Catholic faith in the community,” Lyon said. “Most of the programs now are focused toward campus ministry.”
Pardee said the center has a weekly attendance of approximately 2,000, which includes 800 families and college students. The parish includes attendees of all ages.
Lyon said the first organizations the center will be teaming with are those that the Newman Center already contributes to, such as the Central Missouri Food Bank and Open Arms Crisis Pregnancy Center.
Pardee said the center gives monthly financial contributions to the food bank, which received more than three million pounds of donated food in 2003 from Boone County alone, according to its Web site.
Lyon said that 2 Care will expand its involvement with the food bank beyond financial contributions to repackaging bulk food items.
Though some groups at the Newman Center already volunteer for these organizations, Lyon said the 2 Care program would organize involvement for the entire parish.
Lyon said he plans to expand beyond those ministries, however, because he wants to give parishioners of all ages opportunities to volunteer.
“I’m trying to find something for everyone,” Lyon said.
The wide range of opportunities will allow parishioners to serve in ways that best use their talents.
“From clerical office work, answering telephones, it really depends on how much a person wants to become involved,” he said. “They could go all the way to being a counselor. In the hospital, it could be visiting patients, delivering their meals, delivering cards and flowers that were sent to them. There are a ton of different things. Even if it’s just like participating in a fund-raiser, like Relay for Life.”
Pardee said the idea for the program came from a parish brainstorming committee. Several ideas to advance the program came up, such as taking a second collection for service offerings and having a large sign-up grid listing all organizations involved.
“In these busy days, people need a lot of options in order to make something happen,” Pardee said. “And we’re hoping that they’ll see (that).”
Otto, who was involved in the brainstorming committee, said he wants to create enthusiasm for the program throughout the parish.
“I think this program can enable people and nudge them on just a little bit to become involved.” Otto said. “It is a tool that will hopefully engage these people in service in the Columbia community. It’s an unmet need and an unmet opportunity.”
Lyons said the program will not only help parishioners feel like a part of the Newman Center community, but a part of the larger community as well.
“It’s going to be a program at the Newman Center, and there are going to be Catholic people (involved), but it’s benefiting the community as a whole, not necessarily only Newman Center Catholics,” Lyon said. “It’s for everyone.”
The program will help motivate parishioners to make service a regular part of their lives, Pardee said.
“That’s how we see ourselves, and that we are trying to live like Christ without feeling it’s to count hours or to get notoriety or get awards for it,” Pardee said. “This is important to who we are.”