What is my sense of the state of our Parish? In 2 words, I would say hopeful excitement. I received a message from a parishioner stating, “What is going on at St. Mary? The parking lot is full!” This message came on a Wed night. Five different activities were going on at the same time and they all fit. This is wonderful. I see people becoming more and more comfortable leading in faith. I want to share a few additional points that gives me hopeful excitement.
1. We are blessed by gathering in prayer together. I participated in all 3 adult sessions of Generation of Faith on prayer. While the content of the session was the same, the richness of each group was striking. It was an honest conversation about prayer and the place of God in our lives. While the Church building is great, it is a great reminder that our homes need to be places of prayer as well.
2. At our last Pastoral Council meeting, Dan Rohner, Director of Pastoral Planning and Leadership from the Archdiocese, spoke to the Council. His insights were very helpful.
a. While we still need more priests, the number of priests does not drive planning any longer.
b. The assumption from 15 years ago, the need to have a church large enough to have only one Mass on a weekend, is not demanded by the Archdiocese.
c. Parish planning is asked to address Archbishop Jackel’s priorities: celebrating Sunday Mass well, vocations, excellent faith formation, stewardship.
d. He left us with 3 questions: In the future, what do I want others to say about St. Mary Parish? What are 3 things I want to be thriving at St. Mary 5 years from now? What will be the ministries of St. Mary in the future? (I would appreciate it if you would visit with the Pastoral Council members about these questions.)
3. Did you hear the high school choir this past Sunday? It is a signal of hope for me in 2 ways. First, it shows the abundance of talent God has given us. Let us always be thankful. Second, the shear number of voices coming together allows us, who are less talented, to participate as well. I hope this model continues to grow throughout all of our activities.
4. Clouds on the horizon? A powerhouse team of people prepare and serve a community meals on a monthly basis. It has been and is an excellent way to live one of the corporeal works of mercy. In the past few months, the number of people being served has gone up substantially. This past month, our parishioners served 265 meals. Is this a signal of greater economic instability? Let us keep an eye on our families, our neighbors, and our communities for signs of immediate need as well. From the parish point of view, being good stewards of the gifts we have will shape our response as well.
5. Celebrating our universal church. The last time I celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s in Rome, I had a man join me from Austria. He made the comment that he went to 4 different Masses before joining me. At first, I thought he was a strange man. But then he said, the other Masses were in languages he did not know. The excitement of Pope Francis’ visit to the Americas is a time of rejoicing as well. Let us be thankful for the gift of our Church.
Of course, hopeful excitement is grounded in our Lord’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us be witnesses to the Holy Spirit active in our midst.
Sincerely in Christ,