Mater Dei Welcome Table Program Introduction

Gentlemen, Cadets,

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Eric Gruchet.  My son Tristan, 14, and I have been members of TSG1 since its inception, and I had the privilege of being its captain for the 3 years preceding Captain Toups’ leadership.  The last couple of years have been rough on our attendance, with a schedule evidently focused on making us miss nearly every single camp or event!  But I remain TSG1 biggest fan.

Before I continue, let me clarify that Captain Hatfield handed me the lead on the project described in this correspondence, and that he has reviewed and approved (and proofread!) it.

Please forgive the length of this letter, but I could not leave anything out.  Please take the time to read it to the end as it is of great importance.

Captains Hatfield, Toups and I hold a strong understanding and belief in two essential factors to our growth:


We have lost many great members over the years.  It is not unusual for an organization such as ours to start strong and experience a setback.  Commitment is a hard thing to obtain and maintain.  It needs motivation.  Our design, goals, mission statement, motto and oath trigger that initial motivation.  They speak for themselves and there is no need to reiterate them to you.  You are part of the TSG because you recognize their value to you and your sons, and their importance in our society.  But personal growth and goals are essential motivators for the cadets, and consequently their fathers.  I look at the CAP (Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary branch of the US Air Force).  Cadets start as young as 12 years of age up to 20 years old.  They meet every Monday evening for 2 hours and have optional “encampments” during the summer as well as other activities during the year, notwithstanding actual emergency response services.  It is a huge commitment.  How do they keep their cadets?  I believe it is two-fold.  Goals and motivation.  Goals are mostly either career dictated or educational.  For us, they are moral, spiritual, and salvation dictated.  Motivation is accomplished by peer guidance, responsibilities, and achievements.  Cadets look up to their peer superiors, who lead, teach, guide, and are heavily involved in the program and cadets’ progress.  Achievements are a constant goal as cadets can promote every 2 months.  There is also a need and an application (search and rescue, disaster relief, etc.).  It is a proven program that has been in existence since 1941 and has over 58,000 members.  Is it better than TSG?  Does it have higher goals?  Is it as necessary?  Does it have a much different structure?  In my opinion, no, no, no, and no.  So how do we get there?

It is not only the job of the leadership.  It is the fathers’ job as well to:
                           1.   Discuss and clarify purpose
                           2.   Set goals and expectations
                           3.   Enforce progress and growth
                           4.   Assist cadets with leadership responsibilities, then as they grow, only guide, then monitor
                           5.   Encourage promotions and achievements
                           6.   Participate in the recruitment efforts
So, why are numbers so important?  Because without them, neither the essential leadership aspect nor the motivation can exist.  For the patrol structure to be implemented, we need a minimum of cadets within each patrol, and for leadership positions to be assigned, we need patrols.  It is arbitrary and simply silly to artificially pretend there is true leadership when a cadet is charged with just one or two other cadets.  My son was told to apply for Staff position within the Civil Air Patrol, which will involve leading a Flight of his pears.  I do not believe I have seen him more excited at any news before.  We are made for this.  We are tasked to make our sons fishers of men, and for this, they need to first be leaders of men.  Here is your amazing opportunity to see your young man in the making lead his pears physically, morally, spiritually.  To watch him grow in responsibilities and the maturity that comes with them.

I repeat; without sufficient numbers, we cannot have established patrols.  Without established patrols, we cannot offer our boys those leadership and growth opportunities.  Their interest will wither away with the routine of even exciting events because they will simply be spectators.

Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Think about friends, family, circles of influence and networks.  We are not fundraising, here.  TSG IS AN APOSTOLATE!  And here is a simple opportunity to make this happen.

On a more material note, do not underestimate the value of a leadership position on your son(s) resume(s)! Everyone worries about sports and extracurricular activities, but leadership of pears and trust placed by adults into such positions speak volumes. My oldest was TSG1 Corporal when active. He received a Congressional Nomination to the United States Air Force Academy. His grades were below typical average for this appointment. But the board was very interested in his previous leadership experience. I know for a fact that it weighted heavily on their decision. Food for thought.

In the same register, volunteer hours count as well, and this is a volunteering opportunity.

2.          We need our parish as our parish needs us

             It goes without saying that Mater Dei is the soul of our troop.  It is also its roots, and it is our job
             to grow them.  TSG1 is unique in its origin.  As the original troop, our initial composition was varied and          encompassed families from many different parishes, and that was as wonderful as it was necessary.  There is              absolutely nothing wrong with having members from different parishes.  But as time passed and other troops were created, people left to join more geographically convenient troops, or troops directly associated with their       parishes.  Also, it is more difficult to motivate people to serve at a parish that is not theirs.  Our availability can only be split so much.

There is tremendous recruitment potential at Mater Dei, that we barely tapped into.  Most people there don’t know who we are or that we even exist and would be elated to join our troop.  We need to grow deep and numerous roots at our parish.  And it is a two-ways street. Our priests have been extremely accommodating in driving long distances to meet us at camp and offer the precious gifts of Confessions and Mass.  We need to pay them back in any way we can.

This is where is all comes together.  Lately, the numbers simply didn’t justify taking a priest away from their other obligations, and we have not been able to get an MD priest to camp.  That, we must correct!  It is too much of an essential part of our activities.  So, grow numbers, and we are relevant to the parish again.  I dream of a day when we are so relevant and strong in numbers, that we get a priest to camp with us, and even maybe one day offer a Sunday morning Mass.  Wouldn’t that be something for the cadets to experience?

So, here is our opportunity to kill all these birds with 1 stone.  I have pushed for a while for a TSG1 “Doughnuts & Coffee Social” after the 0700 Sunday Mass, the only Mass after which there was no social.  It was all coming together until Covid hit.  But the idea stayed alive, and it is perfectly meshing with a Parish Life Coordinator’s idea of a welcome center/activity, as the social gatherings are coming back, and the parishioners desperately missed the opportunities for community life.

Mater Dei has opened a “Welcome Tent” area that will be opened and manned before and after every Sunday Mass.  Different groups will cover different Masses.  So far, we have been assigned the 1730 Mass, but as the project progresses, we will rotate, so all groups get the same visibility at all Masses.  This is a perfect opportunity to both serve our Parish and get EVERY parishioner to know who we are.  I expect a tremendous growth as a result of this exposure.


  • I created a rotation schedule on our website (last tab under “Events”).  Each TSG1 parishioner family will be responsible for a Sunday.  It is not a huge commitment.  With 15 active/registered parishioner families, that is only about 3.5 Sundays per year.
  • The family assigned to a particular date will show up in uniform and cover their Mass.
  • Right now, we have the 1730 Mass.  Again, that will likely change in the future.  ARRIVE AT 1715 with 4-5 dozen servings of assorted snacks of your choosing (homemade, cookies, bunt cake, chips, etc.).  Reimbursement procedures are described further.  It is important to arrive before Mass starts, since you will have to go through the Parish Hall to the kitchen and prop the back door open (with a rock) to be able to access the kitchen later.
  • The table will be set up under the new awning.
  • There should be coffee mud left from the previous Masses.  Prepare a clear dispenser of iced tea and another of lemonade.  Before Mass lets out, add half a bag of ice to each, and set out on the table.
  • I will manage the stock.  Just shoot me an email if you see any of the supplies go below 2 Sundays worth (lemonade, iced tea, coffee, cups, napkins, straws, creamer, sugar).  My email is [email protected] and my number is 214-213-0216.  Call anytime.  Comms between the different volunteer groups are not well established.  If you have to go to an earlier Mass, you might want to peak in the kitchen to make sure there are enough supplies left (also check for ice in the freezer).
  • When all done, break down the area as described in the videos.
  • Watch the training videos!  It’s all in there.
  • In one of the small boxes with a red lid, labelled “TSG1”, you will find our paraphernalia to give away.  I will print more.
  • Your job is to smile, be welcoming, greet people, answer parish-related question, and talk about the troop.  Be inviting and engage people.  If you see a family with boys of joining age, engage them!  Talk about the troop, make it exciting, remind them that they can “try it out” without commitment, and direct them to the captain (info on the cards).
  • IMPORTANT!  This is YOUR job and responsibility.  IF you cannot make the assigned Sunday/Mass, YOU are responsible for swapping with another family.  Contact numbers will be listed on the schedule.  Make sure your slot is covered and let me know what the swap was so I can adjust the schedule to reflect it.  Please do not contact me just to tell me you can’t make it.
  • In your charity, if your Sunday Welcome Table is cancelled due to weather or special event, consider helping out the family the next Sunday.  It is already a very popular program and numbers will be needed.  Conversions are already taking place due to this program!  It makes us trads look a little less stiff-looking!  We can use some of that. 😉

             I think it will make sense both for Mater Dei and our members to ask this of only MD parishioners.  It would be senseless to ask you to “welcome” people to a parish that is not yours, and of which you may know very little!  But we all owe our TSG1 parish.  With that perspective and given that the more people in uniform around the table, the more people we may touch, if you are not parishioners, PLEASE STRONGLY CONSIDER picking a convenient Sunday to come assist an assigned family.  You can talk about the troop and let them handle parish questions.

This is also open to ex-TSG1 members and friends of TSG. Maybe dust off your old uniforms (or not) and come keep the volunteers company?

This is a tremendous opportunity that I hope you understand and will take to heart.  Let’s serve our parish and spread our mission.  It is self-serving work of service.  Win/win.  Let’s grow!

Please see the 2 tabs below this one under “Events” for instructions, videos, pictures, and the assignments calendar.

Do not hesitate to call me directly if you have any question.  God bless.