Suggestion Box

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

December 1, 2004


            Our parish has a suggestion box. It’s a nice wooden box with a slot in the top and a lock. A parishioner made it. It sits on a table near the entrance to the church, next to the parish prayer book. It has a pen on a chain, like in banks, which people use more for writing prayers than suggestions.

            The suggestion box itself is a result of a suggestion from the parish council. Sometimes suggestions give birth to more suggestions.

            It is a good idea. Our parish is growing. People need a way to communicate their ideas. Often they don’t want to speak directly to me. It is easier to communicate on paper and sometimes they want to remain anonymous.

I don’t check the box as often as I should. Last time I opened found a check written four months before. Occasionally people mistake the suggestion box for the poor box.

            Not all the note in the box are suggestions. Sometimes they are just want tell me something or lodge a complaint.

            In the last batch there was an index card with printing in big block letters that read simply, “I AM NOT TALKING TO YOU!”  Good. I’m not talking to them either. At least I don’t think so. The card was unsigned.  So I cannot be sure. The card also did not say how long this blessed peace will last. Is this a promise in perpetuam?

             One card asked why we “make such a big deal out of the adults coming into the Church at Easter.” Hmmm. We have some work to do on this one. Doesn’t the writer of the card make a big deal out of the birth of a baby or a wedding, that brings new life into their family?

            One card was a request for financial help. It said simply, “Send me money.” No reason and no address.  The writer did sign it, however. They should not hold their breath.

            One middle school student was upset about the behavior of the DJ at the last dance. The card read, “The DJ at the middle school dance was using bad language and was rude to me.” I think there is probably more to this story.  I guess I should start attending the middle school events. I wonder if the DJ’s language was as bad as the language in the rap music he was playing.

            Despite a few complaints, most suggestions are really very sensible. Here is a little sampler:

            “Put some parish registration forms at the entrance of church so people don’t have to go to the parish office during the week to register.” Good idea. Done.

“Celebrate our patronal feast (St. John Vianney, Aug 4) every year. In other countries they make a big deal out of the patronal feast.”  Good idea.  We will do more next year.

            “There should be place at church for people to dispose of their old palms, to be burned for Ash Wednesday.” Actually we already have a place, the rectory back porch.

            “Teach greater acceptance for the Hispanic community at mass. I have heard negative comments from parishioners following masses in which Spanish was spoken.”  I am on this one. One Sunday I let my Irish temper get the better of me and I lectured one mass. I got so angry about it I scared myself. For a moment I sounded just like my childhood pastor, Msgr. Bill Dorney. He could blister the congregation. There are some things worth getting heated up about. Prejudice is one of them. Just read the letter of James in the New Testament.

“Offer a critique sheet to parents at the end of the year of CCD (Religious Education) classes.”  We actually do get some feedback each year, but this is a good idea to formalize the process.

Any organization can improve. A suggestion box is a painless way to solicit opinion. Keep those cards and letters coming folks. Even if you aren’t talking to me.