When I moved to the Washington, D.C., area more than 25 years ago, I knew I would not feel totally comfortable here until I understood the roads.

For a long time, I didn't know how to give directions to my new home better than "take the exit right after then one I had to get off one time because the car was overheating." Or, "make a right just before the tree where I saw a dog that looks like mine." Or, "hang a left on the street where it sometimes takes two cycles of the traffic light to get through the intersection." I didn't even attempt to identify the inner and outer loops of the Beltway.

While it took me a while to get comfortable with the roads and my new surroundings, I had no trouble feeling at home in my parish church. Everything else around me might have been new, but I took great comfort in the familiarity of the prayers and rituals and rubrics of the Mass. Outside of the church, I was still a stranger in these parts. Inside the church, I was comfortable. I was at home.

That is the way it should be.

Jesus, in Matthew 25:35, commented that "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." The U.S. bishops, in a Nov. 15, 2000, statement said, "we call upon all people of good will, but Catholics especially, to welcome the newcomers in their neighborhoods and schools, in their places of work and worship, with heartfelt hospitality, openness, and eagerness..."

It is in that spirit of helping newcomers feel welcome and at home here in the Archdiocese of Washington that the Catholic Standard offers its annual Newcomers Guide. While not an exhaustive or comprehensive outline of all that is offered in the archdiocese, it is our attempt to introduce our local church to those who our new to our area. If you're not a subscriber, pick up a copy at Church, and do consider subscribing to the paper.

We offer this annual issue not only to provide inter If you'esting information to new residents, but also to remind longtime residents of the unique characteristics of their archdiocese.

However, one need not wait for this once-a-year guide in order to be clued in to what is happening in and about the Archdiocese of Washington. The Standard offers local Catholics several ways to keep abreast of the latest Church news.

Our website - www.cathstan.org - is a user-friendly, newsy site that offers regularly updated information about our archdiocese, our cardinal, the pope and local, national and international Church news. Each story on our website lets you tell us what you like and don't like. There is also a link to the Archdiocese of Washington website (www.adw.org) that offers answers to almost any question you can think of.
We also have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/catholicstandard). Here, you can be our friend and not only get an update on Catholic news, but find out what your fellow Catholics are saying about the news. Also at this site, you can comment on the news and share links with your friends. You can offer story ideas and suggest ways we can serve you better.

As great as those sites are, we know that we can do more to reach out to you. And so, we offer a three-times-a-week e-mail newsletter. The newsletter not only lets you know when we have updated the website, but also alerts you to breaking news. When news happens, you learn about it almost as soon as we do. The newsletter is delivered to your e-mail's inbox by 7 a.m. Breaking news is delivered whenever it happens.

And now, we are on Twitter (www.twitter.com). Twitter is a real-time information-sharing network. By logging on to the site, you can follow conversations - called tweets - on topics you find interesting. On Twitter, we tweet information you need with links to more information.

All in all, the Catholic Standard offers information to local Catholics through five venues: the regularly printed newspaper, our website; our Facebook page; our e-mail newsletter; and Twitter. Combine all that with what the archdiocese offers on its website, and newcomers should feel at home in no time flat.

Whether you choose to peruse, log on, click or tweet, the Catholic Standard welcomes you to our archdiocese and wants you to know you are now part of a great family of faith.