Catholic parishes are a faith home for community members, where they come for sacramental celebration as well as fellowship and social bonds. Parishes often offer hospitality through meals, donuts, and coffee, so how about through an on-site coffee shop?
At St. George Parish in Bourbonnais, IL, Fr. Dan Belanger, CSV, the parish pastor, is getting the St. George Dragon Den Coffee Shop up and running.
“It was built to bring parishioners together, and bring them together with a priest,” Fr. Belanger said. “People gather in coffee shops, so this is a chance for people to come to St. George, enjoy fellowship, and have a cup of coffee together.”
In a creative way, the Dragon Den melds together the age-old traditions of parish hospitality with the continued popularity of a good cup of coffee at a nice café. “I base this idea on a reading of the signs of the times: coffee shops are where people hang out. So why not have the Church try to do this creatively rather than only hanging on to existing ways?” Fr. Belanger said.
In this way, some of the hospitality and fellowship time people might inevitably seek at a coffee shop can take place right on the parish campus. About once a month, Fr. Belanger invites a confrere to celebrate one of St. George’s Sunday Masses, so he can prepare the café to be open after that Mass concludes. “It creates a way for me to have fellowship with my parishioners, and people love it because it creates a space for them to gather after coming together for Mass,” Fr. Belanger said.
Then, during the week, he opens up the Dragon’s Den on Thursdays. “I have a following that comes in every Thursday – it’s the retirement crowd. They stay for a couple hours, enjoy a great pastry, and spend time together,” Fr. Belanger said.
Sometimes, religious may garner extra attention for playing in a rock band, throwing out a first pitch at a baseball game, or… serving as your barista? Fr. Belanger continues to work on his craft behind the counter. “Tell them I make a mean caramel macchiato!”