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Church shopping: Sometimes you need to do whatever it takes to find a parish you love


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Katrina Fernandez - published on 09/21/17

Do give your local church a chance, but don't feel bad about looking for the right place for your soul to rest in Christ.

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Dear Katrina,

I got a job transfer over a year ago and moved several states away, and I haven’t been able to find a good church to go to. I’m having trouble adjusting and finding a parish like the one back home. I was at my previous church all my adult life and knew lots of people there. I miss the fellowship, but I also miss the church itself.  A lot of the churches in this new location don’t really feel like churches or look much like them either. I’ve been to at least seven different parishes in the year I’ve been here and I just can’t seem to find anything that “feels right.” Last month I even drove 3 and a half hours to go to Mass! I’ve actually considered just moving back home. Is it crazy to give up my promotion and good job to move back home and start all over just because I can’t find a decent church?

There’s No Place Like Home


Dear No Place,

You have a lot to consider and it might be helpful to sit down and make a list of pros and cons for staying where you are; then give that list to God in prayer.  Ask Him to help you stay honest in your discernment of God’s will in your life — whether you’re finding fault with your surroundings because they are genuinely awful or because you’re homesick and looking for a way to return — and also ask Him for the courage and faith to make the choice that is going to bring you the most peace.

A few years ago I found myself working in a very toxic and stressful environment, but the money was good. After a while the stress started to affect my physical health. I had chronic migraines,  gained weight, and developed painful heartburn. Yet I stayed because I was afraid; afraid I wouldn’t find another job or one that paid a similar salary, and like you I was afraid of starting over.

Eventually I found my courage and started looking for another job. The one I found was perfect in every way, only it paid half of what I was making. I almost turned it down. People thought I was crazy for even entertaining the offer of such a low paying job … but I decided not to let other people define what was crazy for my life. Crazy would have been staying and letting that toxic job drive me to second heart attack.

That was almost two years ago, and I’ve never been happier being dead broke. Sure, it’s been a test in faith and perseverance every step of the way, but I wake up every morning grateful for my new job and the happiness it’s given me.   

So if you want to know what your next step should be, define what is crazy for you. Is it crazy to drive 3 and a half hours to Mass or bounce from parish to parish every other month?

I don’t know what criteria you’re specifically looking for in a parish and what specifically you’re finding that you don’t like, but I deeply understand the need to find that place where you soul can rest in Christ and be spiritually fed. Moving back home may not be such a crazy idea if you’re really not thriving and adjusting to your new environment.

Some places truly are liturgical and spiritual wastelands, and if you think you’ve found yourself in one it’s not crazy at all to want to leave. On the other hand, if you have not had the time or opportunity to really give your new parish a chance and get to know the community a bit (either because your schedule hasn’t allowed it, or because you’ve been bouncing quickly from parish to parish), how can you know you’ve given your nearest community a fair shot? Perhaps take time to sit before the Blessed Sacrament at some of your neighborhood churches, and see what happens.

Fortunately, you’re a Catholic. That means you have a whole host of friends, alive in the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), who can help you by means of intercessory prayer. So, while you’re discerning what to do, ask the prayers of Our Lady and Saint Joseph, who made their home wherever God led them, and ask the apostles, too. Ask the prayers of St. Gemma Galgani and St. Bernadette Soubirous. Both of them sometimes faced struggles within their parish.

Mostly, don’t forget to ask the patrons and patronesses of the churches that are involved in this question for their prayers, too. You have mine.

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