St. Paul the Apostle parish in Hancock is already looking forward to next Christmas.

With the busy holiday season and the death a few months ago of long-time parish secretary Kate Antidormi, there wasn't time to repeat last year's effort to personally invite people back to church for the holidays. But Rev. Daniel Quinn, pastor, definitely plans to try it again.

Last Christmas, St. Paul's distributed cards to parishioners during Advent, listing the dates and times of the parish's Christmas Masses. On the inside and back of the cards were blank spaces where parishioners were urged to write a personal invitation to friends, family members or whoever doesn't usually attend Mass.

"The ushers gave [the cards] to everybody, and I said, 'These are yours to invite people to join us,'" Father Quinn told The Evangelist.

The cards were unusual, he said, because instead of the parish inviting people to Christmas Masses, the invitations "put the evangelization in the hands of the people of the parish."

Last Christmas was St. Paul's first attempt at giving out the invitations. It was also Father Quinn's first year as pastor. Only having been in the parish for a few months, he said, he did not know many people at the time. But he knew the parishioners did, so he called on them to help bring more people to church for the holidays.

The parish printed approximately 500 cards. On the first Sunday of Advent, each parishioner was given two cards; a pile of extras were left in the gathering area if anyone wanted to mail out additional invitations.

Father Quinn saw it as a more personal, approachable way of asking people to attend Mass.

"Sending random cards to random people is what businesses do," said the pastor. "If the parish wanted to do that, I could do that. Bulk mailing is not hard."

The invitation would be much better received, he thought, if it came from someone the recipient knew.

The one difficulty with the invitations was the inability to measure the outcome of the effort. Records indicate there wasn't a huge spike in attendance at Christmas Masses last year after the cards were distributed, and it would have been hard to know if additional Mass-goers were coming because of the cards.

Father Quinn isn't sure if that matters, though.

"At the very least, little seeds were planted that might take longer to grow. But it's better to plant a seed than not plant anything," he explained.

Some feedback was received: "People came up to me and said, 'What a great idea,' and [a parishioner said,] 'One of the people I sent it to responded very well.'"

One Christmas Mass-goer did mention he came because he had received an invitation from a parishioner. Laughing, Father Quinn said, "I got one!"

St. Paul's may try distributing similar invitations to Masses on Easter Sunday.

"Send it to someone who you want to be sitting next to you or behind you or in front of you in the church," Father Quinn will tell parishioners. "Send it to people who used to be here, and invite those people [whom] you want to join us."