In a recent online article, Cardinal Timothy Dolan talks about a book entitled Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive. The Cardinal sums up qualities consistent with parishes that are striving to be vibrant.
Share leadership – Pastors leading vibrant parishes realize the value of allocating some leadership responsibilities to competent lay staff members. Shared leadership – practiced in various ways – is the optimal model of leadership in today’s complex parishes.
Focus on fostering spiritual maturity. The spiritual growth of a faith community is a flexible, ongoing dynamic that must be continually reevaluated to nourish the spiritual hunger of the people and to give them a real sense of belonging and commitment to the parish.
Excel on Sundays, which requires careful planning all week long. Thriving parishes welcome all comers warmly, are attuned to the needs of children, provide the best music they can afford, offer compelling homilies, and ensure the physical surroundings are inviting. This requires intentional commitment of staff time and financial resources.
Intentionally evangelize, challenging insiders to look outward and providing pastoral care and service programs that invite outsiders into deeper relationship with Christ.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, it was announced that beginning in August we will be adjusting the Sunday morning Mass schedule to provide opportunities for parishioners, particularly the youth and young families, to get more engaged in the life of the parish. We often hear people say they wish they could be more active, but don’t because of their busy schedules during the week. Some parishes around the country have addressed this challenge by including more activities on Sunday mornings between the Masses. It is our goal to do the same. I hope all would agree that we wish that St. Ann had a strong community, where more parishioners were engaged in the parish. The primary goal is always Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our Christian life. But it is the Mass that instills in us a desire to better serve God and one another, to grow in holiness, to proclaim the Good News, and to foster community within and outside the parish. To remember that Sunday is more than a single hour.
Therefore, beginning in August we will move to two Masses- 9:00 am and 11:30 am – so to best implement this new engagement process. This allows an hour and 15 minutes between Mass times, so that more can participate in various activities and events. The hope is that those at the first Mass will stay afterwards and those at the later Mass will come earlier. Such activities might be as simple as breakfast, other weeks it might be participating in a ministry or in faith formation. We plan to offer babysitting during this time to allow parents to be more fully engaged. The exact details are still being worked out and we will be having open forums for parishioner to help formulate and oversee these activities.
We understand that change is not easy and often unwelcomed. Some will not at first be comfortable with changing their Mass time, and a few may decide to leave the parish. This would be unfortunate for several reasons, particularly because we hope everyone would support and take advantages of these opportunities to strengthen their faith. So, if you are struggling or thinking about leaving, I ask you to reconsider and take it to prayer before making a final decision. This decision (resolution?) to move forward was based on the feedback we received from the Parish Surveys, advice from the parish steering committee, and the overwhelming support we received when this was announced at the parish convocation and weekend Masses.
There is still much planning that needs to be done. So, I invite anyone interested in helping to implement this initiative to contact the parish office or your parish council representative. And, like anything new, it will take some time to figure it all out, so we are asking ahead of time for your prayers and patience.
When Pope St. John XXIII implemented the Second Vatican Council he said, “Open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air”. By this he meant that the Church at times should be open to living out the unchanging truths in new ways. Our Mission and purpose as Catholics will also be the same, but we should at least be open to seeing new ways to carry it out when possible. The “Sunday Experience” is a good example, we are doing what we have always done, coming to Mass on Sundays, but we are seeking a new approach to promote engagement. To be honest, it is really going back to the early Church, and the not too distant decades when the parish was the center of one’s life. By working together and taking a more active role, we can make St. Ann a model that other parishes will want to emulate.
Fr. McCarthy, Pastor