I went back to the parish I grew up in recently and one day I received a surprising call from the pastor whom I had known since my days in high school youth group, and at the end of the call he said, “Welcome home!”
What a sense of healing and belonging I felt with those words.
But I had already sensed that it was. For one of thing, every time I went back there, I was treated warmly and accepted as if I never left. I never felt rejected or treated as “unloyal” even though I was like a prodigal daughter roaming other churches for 10 years. People knew my name. They remembered me as if I never left. I was consistently beckoned to go back -- even by people in my other church oddly enough.
Not only that, but I took this to prayer for many, many weeks. I began to feel desolation after nearly every Mass at my former church for about 6-9 months, whereas I had overflowing consolations after Mass at this church every week. The messages just fit what I needed. The atmosphere felt right and welcoming. The saint it was named after fit my mission that God gave me (and I am sure that is not a coincidence), and I felt led in prayer there by God for this next step of the journey.
For a long time I did not feel like I belonged in my prior church. I couldn’t pinpoint why, but something just felt off in everything I did. I knew that I needed to feel a stronger sense of belonging.
I have no doubt that I was probably meant to be at that church for a time, and there were good fruits, growth and blessings along the way which I am thankful for, but God led me to the right place for me now and He confirmed it in those words— Welcome home.
Maybe the place I was searching for all along was the place that molded me in the first place: Home.
If you are still searching for your church home, may you find the place that welcomes you home too. We all have a place of belonging in the Church, and He wants to guide you there.