Jan 16, 2021
As we continue our journey to become an Amazing Parish the next step is to unleash a culture of discipleship that fosters deeper relationships within our parish family. We will unleash this culture by forming small groups to engage in a series of conversations about faith, our individual faith journeys and our role within the mission of the Church.
The 3 Conversations. One of the most important realities we, as a parish, must understand is that our parish cannot improve and grow if we, the people of the parish, do not work to grow first both personally and as a faith community. We need to maximize the goodness of the people of the parish every single day. The next phase of our becoming an Amazing Parish, is to engage the people of the parish in a series of conversations that help foster this goodness and allow us, as a faith community, to grow closer—becoming more fully the St. Mary-formed family we profess to be— by loving, lifting, learning, listening, and leading one another in a more personal and vulnerable way. As we strive to develop a culture of evangelization and discipleship here at St. Mary, we have to know that this does not have to be sophisticated or complicated. Building this culture starts very simple with honest and vulnerable conversations and naturally grows and spreads from one person to another.
Soon, our ministry leaders will start gathering monthly over a 3-month period, to grow in faith together by sharing very 3 simple conversations… simple, yet for so many people – transformational!
Here is what these three conversations look like...
We Pray Together! Not just any prayer, this is about personal prayer. This is about vulnerable prayer. This is where you can share what is going on in your life and identify areas that need prayer. Next, we will pray for your intentions and for each other and ask God to work in each of our lives.
We Share our Stories! This is an opportunity for you to simply share your own faith journey – whatever that is. Where your faith started from, where you are right now on that journey and where you’re hoping to go from here.
We Share our Faith with Others! We all share our faith with the people in our lives, in our circle of influence, in one way or another, whether we do this in an intentional way or without even realizing it. This is a conversation where we help each other discover how we can, and already do, share our faith and are a witness of Christ to those around us.
Jan 9, 2021
This journey we are on as a parish, as people of God, is amazing, and sometimes it is hard. We know from the bible and Jesus that as Christians we are each called to follow the commandments, and especially the two greatest ones, and that he sends us out to share our faith with the world. We may be very comfortable and feel confident in loving God, and even in loving others. But how do we feel about who we are as people of faith in our world, this world right now, to share our faith and make disciples? What does that mean and how do we do it?
In our own lives, we all have a place and a role – mother, father, spouse, son, daughter, friend, student, employee, worker, leader, and so on. We all have a circle of relationships that enrich our lives, and sometimes challenge us too, of people who we care about, and with whom we share time and experiences. How often do we think about and reflect on the impact and influence that we may have in those relationships? We know as parents that how we handle things, so too will our children – if we are calm, they will be calm; if we are thoughtful of others, they will be too. We know as workers at a place of employment that our disposition can impact the mood of the team and the outcome of our work. We know as a spouse that our thoughtfulness and consideration of the needs of our partner can lead them to feel loved and supported. Whether we realize it or not, think about it or not, who we are and how we live our lives every day has an impact on the others in our life.
And so, the third conversation in our efforts to build the culture of discipleship at St. Mary is based on these relationships in our lives as people of faith: How does the work you do and the way you live your life contribute to the ministry and mission of the Church? How do you personally help bring people to Jesus? Wow! That is a very big question! How can I possibly be someone who brings others to know Christ? We may not feel secure in our knowledge of our faith to do this, we may not feel worthy enough to be this guide in faith, we may not even feel we have any idea how we would do this, or if we want to. But, like it or not, want it or not, who we are and how we live does affect the other people in our lives.
We are in a serious time of transition now; we cannot rely so much on what we have known and believed from our past to help us navigate our future which is uncertain and unknown in so many ways. As our whole world hobbles through this difficult time of pandemic, we are all challenged in different ways that may lead us to raise up and draw upon different ways of being which enable us to not only cope, but to survive and thrive in the world that is to come. How we are faithful people during this transition will set our path for the future. We may be anticipating and discerning our day-to-day life right now, while we are also learning and changing, adapting to the way things are, and hopefully we are praying, a lot! It is in our faith that we may find the strength and resources of faith and love to feel the optimism and hope that we need as we face what is to come.
One of our more well-known saints was very aware of our call to be disciples and to make disciples when in the early 1200s St. Francis of Assisi said, “Do all you can to preach the gospel and if necessary, use words!” Thinking that we may not have to find the “right words” to bring others to know Jesus might be somewhat reassuring. St. Francis also reflected on his own feeling of inadequacy to do this holy work here on earth, but he realized that God calls all of us in our own human imperfections to build up the family of God. This also is reassuring. So how do we go out on this mission to “make disciples”? How do we in our own lives help bring people to Jesus? It can be through how we live and demonstrate our regard and love for the life of fulness and joy that God promised us, that others will see the goodness of being faithful and want to walk beside us.
Are you an evangelist? Can you through the relationships and interactions in your own life help others come to know God and live a life in faith? All 4 writers of the Gospels are called evangelists because they lived and shared their life in Christ through writing the stories of the life of Jesus in the bible. Their reason for doing so was to point us in the direction to continue the work. There are many ways to evangelize: directly walking the journey of faith with someone; instructing someone who is seeking, or a child who has questions; living your life in a Christian way; staying focused always on the great commandments – love God, love others - and having them at the center of your life; modelling a Christian life for your family; in all things, at all times, whatever the situation or dilemma, asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Did you know there is a simple answer to that question? “He would show his love.”
We invite everyone at this time to reflect on who we are in God’s family, and how we can further the mission to “make disciples of all nations”. In continuing our own journey to be disciples and in making disciples we can help to transform our hurting and struggling world into the creation of beauty God intended.
Jan 2, 2021
Each and every person here at St. Mary is on their own journey of faith. There can be no presumptions about what people know or what they have experienced, or how they have come to believe and understand their faith. There is the need in all cases for the necessary catechesis for all of us to learn about the fundamentals of our Catholic faith. And while it seems that our tradition and preferences for personal comfort have been that faith is a personal and very private thing, we have come to understand this: that it is definitely personal, but that it can only deepen, and we only become disciples through living and sharing our faith with others. But it is important to note that this living and sharing is based on our real and caring relationships with those others. This has been a big part of the changes that have taken place in our parish over these past few months. More and more people know each other and have developed the interpersonal relationships that have opened their lives to sharing faith with each other.
What is the basis of our faith? There is the saying that the answer to all questions is: Jesus! The person of Jesus, who we can know intimately and have a relationship with, who was human, and is divine, suffered, died and rose again to assume all of our sins, shame and guilt, is the very basis and source of our faith. It is through Jesus that we are able to even begin to understand and know our heavenly Father, God. But it also through the lived example of Jesus that we can know how to experience our lives in a way that brings us closer and closer to God.
As we enter into this “new time” of life that we are all in right now, still apprehensive about the pandemic, realizing the changes in the world and our lives which lead us to focus on those things that are truly important and life-giving, we are all invited to consider and explore how our faith will impact this “new time”. And in this stressful and worrisome time, do you feel the presence of Jesus in your life in a way that brings you peace? We will soon begin to meet in small groups with people to join in three simple conversations that have the capacity to open our hearts to that real and meaningful depth of faith that can make a difference in our lives. Last week we spoke about the first conversation being about prayer – specifically to ask for prayers for our own needs, and to pray for others.
The second conversation is simply a question: How did you come to know Jesus? Interesting question, isn’t it? For some, it may have been a gradual process over a lifetime of coming to know who Jesus is, for others it may have been a dramatic and sudden experience. Some of us may never have even considered this question, but if we are to be truly engaged in following Jesus to go out and make disciples, and if our faith is to be a very real part of our personal and daily lives, then we should be able to reflect on how we came to know him, just as we think about how we grow in relationship with anyone else. Some people speak of an “encounter” with Christ, and they may have had that very real type of experience, but it is not the only or necessary way to know Christ. The important thing is that we do discover him in a way that we do know him as a friend in our lives, that we do follow him in how we live and contribute to this world, and that we share our joy and love of him to evangelize and make disciples.
We invite everyone to be a part of helping us continue to build our culture of discipleship at St. Mary. Please look for more information, more opportunities, and consider saying “yes” when you are invited to have a conversation about your faith.
May God continue to bless us all and strengthen us with His Spirit for living in this time and place.
Dec 26, 2021
While we know that the circumstances which limit our lives in so many ways right now are not going to change suddenly, or anytime soon, as the world continues to gradually open up, it is important that what we have learned in this time of pandemic brings us to a “new time”. We, our lives, and our families will never be the same. What things did we celebrate and what things did we realize brought us joy while we were “locked down”? It was probably very different things than what we searched for before our lives were so restricted. And so, to remain true to our conviction to BE different as a community of faith, we want to share and rejoice in different ways now.
As you know, over the past few years, we have tried to make our parish mission statement the focus of all that we have done. At this point, hopefully, everyone knows what that mission is: To be led and to lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
We on staff at St. Mary have been working and growing through a process to further develop our ability to guide and lead the changes to our parish culture that will open up the opportunities for everyone to BE disciples and to MAKE disciples.
Our recent bulletin article described this work which was supported by the team at Amazing Parish organization and outlined that the foundational building blocks to unleash this shift to real discipleship are a culture of prayer, a culture of healthy teamwork and a culture of active discipleship. The next step for us is to share this with more and more people.
We have started inviting small groups of parishioners to be part of three simple conversations which we believe will open the doors of their hearts to a deeper faith that enables them to not only share it with others, but to also be joyful in doing so. This is all based on our relationships with each other, the people in our lives, and importantly our lived relationship with God.
The first conversation will focus on encouraging and empowering each other to truly and openly ask for prayers for ourselves. We are all very good at praying for others, for extending special intentions for all that is wrong with the world, but how are we at sitting in the stillness and quiet of our own needs and being able to ask another to pray for us? And then, through our interactions with the people in our lives when we hear of their struggles and difficulties, how are we at responding, right there, in that very moment, to pray for and over them? This might seem strange to us, we may not be used to being so open and spontaneous in our prayer…but if we believe, if we truly believe in praying to God, then why would this not be part of our daily lives in a way that is real? If you want to feel cared for, loved and prayed for in a way that you have not experienced before, then you will want to be a part of these conversations.
Let us all grow in our personal prayer life as a parish community and be part of this amazing journey! May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire us to be disciples of Jesus.
Dec 19, 2021
We shared with you last week the need for all of us to be transformed in Living Stones of the Church, living members of the Body of Christ. This transformation is brought about by living out three cultures: a culture of unceasing prayer, a culture of healthy teamwork, and a culture of active discipleship. Today, we would like to share with you what Amazing Parish calls the Five Misconceptions of a Parish Team. These five misconceptions can and should be applied to the wider parish, not simply a leadership team or staff. As we list these misconceptions, remember that they are stated as misconceptions, not as the way things should be.
The Five Misconceptions of a Parish:
The pastor has to be involved in everything. Actually, no, pastors do not need to be involved in everything. They don’t need to choose what color flowers are planted, what kind of dessert is served at the parish picnic; they don’t need to attend every meeting of every committee and group. Pastors have been given the responsibility to a lead a parish and should know what is going on in the parish. Ultimately, final say on important decisions is a responsibility of pastors.
The leadership team shouldn’t push back on the pastor. There is a tendency to see the pastor as wise and knows what is best on most matters (hopefully most don’t see this pastor in such a light). Some people are afraid to disagree with the pastor or even afraid to ask the pastor to reconsider. Sometimes it is healthy to push back in a respectful manner.
The parish shouldn’t stop doing anything. “We’ve always done things this way,” or “This group has always done this event or activity.” Within those statements and similar sentiments is a mentality that everything should always remain the same at a parish: that there should be no (or little) change in activities, events, committees, and groups; that people should be able to continue doing what they’ve always done. Change is hard and change for change’s sake can be foolhardy. At the same time, we have to recognize when an activity, event, or even committee no longer addresses current needs, is not fruitful, or does not contribute to the mission of bringing people to a saving encounter with Jesus Christ.
No one should ever leave a parish. We don’t want to drive people away, and especially we don’t want to drive people away from our Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, we should not compromise on our beliefs, on our mission, on our expectations and standards. There can be a tendency to bend over backwards to keep as many people as possible in the parish. However, if a person will not buy into our parish’s mission and direction, then our parish may not be the best fit for that person.
The PLT (parish leadership team) and staff shouldn’t be present on the most important day of the week. Imagine working for the Bears or any team in the NFL. It wouldn’t matter what your position was: you would work on Sunday. No one working in the NFL could get away with saying, “I don’t work on the weekend.” Similarly, Sunday is the most important day in our parish. Sunday Mass is the most important event at our parish. When are most parishioners and visitors on parish grounds? Sundays.
We are saints under construction, cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the work of our parish. Have a great week!
Dec 12, 2021
Peace to you!
Back in the summer, Fr. Andy announced an exciting development for St. Mary parish that we hope will help us to be formed as disciples of Jesus Christ. He has formed a Parish Leadership Team, after the model of Amazing Parish. Amazing Parish is present within many parishes throughout the country, and its goal is to help create a culture of unceasing prayer, healthy teamwork and active discipleship.
Our desire is to invite you, the parishioners, into a relationship of unceasing and active discipleship in the parish. We invite you and want to empower you to grow in your faith and help make St. Mary parish a spiritual home for others. That is why after much prayer and discernment, Fr. Andy designated a Parish Leadership Team (PLT) who will help him with decisions that occur in all areas of parish life. The PLT serves as a support for him, by offering counsel regarding the direction of the parish, engaging in leadership roles within the parish, and helping to create a culture of unceasing prayer for the goal of active discipleship of all parishioners.
That being said, prayer is the foundation of any Christ centered ministry. Your PLT for the last five months has been praying weekly together for the parish. We ask God to pour out His Spirit on all of you, so that your hearts might be set on fire with love for Jesus. We also ask you to pray for us as we continue to grow as a leadership team, that our hearts might burn more ardently for Christ, and that through this endeavor, St. Mary parish might become a truly Amazing Parish!