This church ‘go-getter’ inspires a new generation of volunteers

Mary Hoban has been a parishioner of her Halethorpe church for most of her life, but for a few years in college her connection to her church waned. Little did she know that those few years away would inspire decades of service.

“I was feeling like this void, and I was like ‘OK, I think I know what the void is,’” Hoban said. “So then that started me back to getting involved in church again. And then that void feeling went away.”

Hoban, whose home parish of Church of the Ascension became a part of a combined faith community with St. Augustine in Elkridge within the last several years, said she was “looking for that ownership quality and belonging feeling that you have in your parish when you volunteer.”

Name a parish job and Hoban’s done it. She’s been on the finance committee and pastoral council. She’s been a religious education teacher and a lector.

“Mary is a go-getter. I know when I give her something to do, she gets it done and that has been essential to getting more parishioners involved in our ministries,” said Father John Williamson, pastor of the Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine.

After years of being a tireless church volunteer at Ascension, Hoban recently became director of volunteers at Ascension and St. Augustine, helping others connect to the church as she has. She believes service doesn’t just help the church, it helps the volunteer.

“I think that the more people have a sense of belonging and ownership in the parish then the more they get excited about their faith that say, “Hey, this is my parish. This is my spiritual home.’ And they have that sense. This is home for me and it’s where they can feel comfortable practicing their faith,” she said.

In her new role, Hoban is working on making sure Ascension and St. Augustine are making the most of parishioners’ talents. She started a database of volunteers, noting their professions and special skills. The accountants are recommended for the finance committee while first responders like nurses and police officers are asked to join the safety committee.

“We want people that are the perfect fit,” she said.

It’s a practice Hoban knows all too well. A nurse for more than 30 years, Hoban uses her medical background to help her parish. In her most treasured role, she brings Communion to the homebound as a eucharistic minister.

“I really like that aspect of it to try to keep the people who were parishioners for so long when they’re not able to get to church anymore. I know how much that means to them,” she said. “You can watch Mass on EWTN, but you can’t receive Jesus that way. So for me to take that out to them that really means a lot to me.”

Father Williamson calls volunteers like Hoban “the backbone of many of our ministries.” He points out that Ascension and St. Augustine is a growing faith community with more than 8,700 people, but it only has one priest, making volunteers essential.

Hoban said the parish’s biggest demographic is young people and many of the parish’s volunteer programs draw on them. She said getting those young parishioners involved in the church early is key.

“You know that actions speak louder than words. And people can be a testimony to their faith just by what they do and not by what they say,” Hoban said. “If they look at you and they see you doing a bunch of stuff and you seem to love what you do then some people will say, ‘I want to I want part of that I want what they have.’”

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Tim Swift

Tim Swift

Tim Swift is the social media coordinator for the Catholic Review and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Covering everything from pop culture to politics to religion to errant alligators, Tim has worked as a reporter and editor for The Baltimore Sun, BBC News and Local 10 News in South Florida. A native of Philadelphia, Tim grew up attending Catholic schools and got his start in journalism as the editor of The Prelate, Cardinal Dougherty High School's student newspaper. After a few years away, Tim is glad to be back in his adopted hometown of Baltimore.