Dear regular Mass-goers: the seats at the end of the pew aren’t for you.

Jesuit Father Jack Bentz knows the drill: “I was raised Catholic. I know the strategy. The first-class seats are at the end of the pew.”

Fr. Bentz is the Campus Minister for St. Paul Catholic Student Center at Boise State University. Last year his work required extensive travel and stated he often found himself attending Sunday Mass at a different Parish each week. Fr. Bentz observed that regular Mass-goers who sit at the end of the pew might be undermining well-planned, official greetings designed to create a warm and welcoming parish environment. Greeters are available at the entrance; visitors are acknowledged from the pulpit; and some parishes present small gifts to newcomers, ranging from cups or pens engraved with the Parish name.  Fr. Bentz commented: “That was nice. I was being welcomed. But it was not working. Why? I think it is because I had to climb over people to get into a pew.”

Fr. Bentz continued by sharing his thoughts on the negative effect “end sitting” may have on people seeking a new church home:  “Every weekend, in every Catholic Church in the United States, new people arrive hungry for a community to call home…. If they cannot find a place to sit, they will not be back. And we will never have a chance to speak the saving Word to them, because, in spite of the official welcome, they understood this was not going to be their church. It was already taken by the guardians at the end of the pew.”

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