So what is the Parish Planning Process?
(Continued from last week)
Here is the hard data from the archdiocese. Though we rank pretty highly in relationship to other dioceses around the country in terms of the number of priests and ratio of priests to lay people, as well as the number of religious communities who assist, there are some issues on the horizon. The upshot of the challenges is this: For the next ten years, we will average a loss of 6 priests a year from active ministry. That means in 10 years there will be 60 less priests to serve the people of God here in this Archdiocese. And the median age of those priests will have crept up.
So, how do we respond to those ‘facts’ in a faith-filled way? As I wrote last week: Our vision and life is to be members of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and of the Roman Catholic Church, and not solely as members of St. Ann parish. To that end, a small group of parishioners is working with me on completing a study and reflection process. This same process is being conducted by EVERY parish in the diocese. After evaluating the parish in 5 areas, (123 questions) affirming our strengths and looking at areas for growth and development, that group will be invited to pick our top three out of seven possible contingency plans for the staffing of St. Ann parish.
Once that initial (or first) implementation is done, then we will schedule a series of meetings to solicit input from EVERYONE in the parish who wants to give input. Using the small group’s work as a kind of template, we will listen to the gathered wisdom of the rest of parish in looking at that group’s work. Using the new input, we will adapt and modify the initial report, look to see if the recommendations of the small group match that of the parish at large, and then write our summative report to be sent to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning committee. Once collected, each parish report will be used by the Office of the Vicar for Priests, the Priests’ Personnel Board, and the Archbishop in the future discernment about the staffing and utilization of priests for the parishes.
This is meant to be a very public process. There is no secret agenda, or desire on the part of the Archbishop to ‘close parishes’. Rather, this is all about doing our part in cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit in shepherding this great church here in St. Louis. Please keep the small committee and this process in your prayers. And look here for the dates when you will be invited to help us discern what is next for our St. Ann
family, living faith since 1856…
What does it mean to be church?
That was the question that Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles found himself asking. Confronted with changing demographics, both within the parishes under his guidance, and the number of priest available to serve those parishes, it was important to start somewhere. “For many of us, it means being a member of a parish, a parochial parish faith community. Yes, we know that we are also members of a worldwide community, headed by the Pope and centered in the city of Rome. But usually we think of THAT church as the official church, the church of the Pope, the bishops and other formal church leaders. We usually see that church as…having little to do with the day to day living out of our faith as members of a local parish.
In reality, the church is the entire baptized people of God. Each one of us is fully a member of the church as is the Pope and all the bishops. Each of us, through baptism, is given a distinctive place and role in the church, and each of us is given a share in the mission and ministry of the church established by Christ.
As members of the Catholic Church, we are fist of all members of he “Universal Church”, the Church headed by the Pope and the college of Bishops, but equally including all who are baptized into Christ Jesus and living as His disciples. Secondly, we are members of the “Local Church”’ the diocese or archdiocese that is made up of the local bishop and all the baptized who are united with and around him in living out the faith handed down to us from the Apostles. Thirdly, we are member of our parochial or parish church, those who gather to celebrate together the Eucharist and the sacraments of Christ, who support each other in prayer and Christian living and who carry out the mission of Christ in the local community.
It is important for us to realize what it truly means to be church. We are called to concern not only for our parish community, by also for the welfare of our diocese and the universal church. As church, we need to develop a vision that is more than parochial. We need to lend our time, talent and treasure not only for supporting our individual parishes, but also for responding to the needs of our archdiocese and of the universal church. Our vision and life is to be members of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and of the Roman Catholic Church, and not solely as members of (St. Ann) parish.”
It is this framework of what the church is that is at the heart of a pastoral initiative to look at the utilization of priests as we plan for the future…
…to be continued.
Kudos to all of you…
I was asked to put a quick summary of my remarks at the Parish Appreciation evening. Complements of some research by Bill Hook, here is what I can say about St. Ann Parish, 2015. Among the many ways that we have been faithful stewards of God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure, what I can tell you is this:
It has been 160 years since the first Baptism happened here at the parish. The ‘big school’ has completed its 157th year of educating and forming students for the kingdom. The Preschool celebrated its 22 year anniversary of opening at St. Ann’s and received its 7th consecutive Missouri Accreditation certification.
the 10th annual Lenten fish fry
the 53rd annual Msgr. Sprenke Soccer Tournament
the 27th annual Men’s Club Golf Tournament
the 21st annual Men’s Club Poker Tournament
the 28th annual SAPO Progressive Dinner
the 44th annual Dinner Dance and Auction – where we raised nearly $65,000
the 18th annual Trivia Night benefiting the Men’s Club, School and Pre-School
I have no idea of what year of the ST. PATRICK CASSEROLES we are in, but I suspect St. Ann’s has made a LOT of tuna-mac over the years…
In addition, this year saw the extreme makeover of the preschool basement. And the housing of the local office for the Meals on Wheels in the St. Ann rectory. And the first stages of painting the rectory. And the awarding of 4 scholarships to graduating eighth graders – The Men’s Club, SAPO, Ladies Guild and Bill Hebron scholarships – nearly $4,000 all in all to help our students attend the Catholic High Schools of their choice.
The action words at the heart of our Parish Mission statement remain as true now as when we drafted them 12 years ago:
As servants and disciples, together we:
welcome and worship;
celebrate and socialize;
educate and form;
serve and support.
Thank you for making this Pastor’s heart proud! And thanks be to God, for all that, by His grace, we have been able to accomplish…
Sometimes, I wonder if familiarity does indeed breed contempt, even in things that are amazingly holy. “Ah, another mass. Isn’t this nice. [look around] Sure glad the A/C works. [Look at ceiling] Wish they’d get around to repairing those stains in the ceiling. The new class of servers are cute, but they are a bit fidgety. Hmm! That couple that usually sits in front of me wasn’t there today. I hope they are okay… I’m glad it was not Fr. Ron today… he might ask me questions, and I never know the answers. Why did they pick that song at communion?” And so it goes. It is easy to take mass for granted because of our familiarity with it.
I wonder if the antidote on this Corpus Christi Sunday to that is to re-emphasis the mass at SACRIFICE. Since Vatican II, I think we have a good understanding of the Mass as meal, as food, as sustenance for the journey. And because we get that, it’s okay if we sometimes kind of cruise through mass like a meal at a fast food restaurant. But, when I think about Mass as sacrifice, as the laying down of one’s life – that is harder to ignore, especially when I see sacrifice in action.
So, where have you known sacrificial love these days? Let me share two quick stories. I had a free evening last Friday, so I went to Dave and Ann Larson’s house. Dave’s ALS has progressed, and that evening, he was confined to his bedroom/bed. He is now surrounded by more machines. Ann was explaining the technology, especially now that they use oxygen to assist him. There is that finger clip that monitors the blood oxygen level. That number, which shows up on the bipap machine needs to be somewhere between 96-98%. But there is another number equally important that also shows up. That is the CO2 level, and apparently, one of the dangers of using oxygen with a bipap machine is the inadvertent trapping of the harmful carbon dioxide inside the body.
So Ann now spends her nights in the chair by his bedside, checking every time she wakes up (about every half hour or so, all through the night.) to make sure that number is not too high or too low… She also helps to clean his mouth of the mucus that builds up, and keeps the mask clean. And helps to adjust him on the bed, and move the pillows and position the mask. And about 50 things that she just does *snap* as the disease is more and more invasive, and the care is more and more demanding. As I was driving away, the simple line from every mass we are blessed to partake in came rushing into my head. This is my body, given for you. Indeed, for Ann, that is exactly what she offers to Dave in her love.
Yesterday evening (Friday), I came back from late communion calls to see the side lot full of cars and people moving about. So I drove around the corner, and there were about 8 scouts milling about, with the trailer loaded, and ready to rumble. They were heading out for the weekend, an overnight camping trip. I asked who was going along, and I was told: There are 2 moms, one dad and Mike Hubbard going with them. Mike, apparently, is a category all his own…;-) And Mark Haley was driving the trailer with their gear down, and then returning on Sunday to pick it back up. Was it world shattering stuff going on in that parking lot? No. It was ‘just’ an “Ordinary” sacrifice – of people laying down their lives so that the next generation of children on this planet might know a mentoring kind of love. And again, I heard the echo from the Mass: “This is my blood, poured out for you and for the many…”
And so it goes. In ways that are heroic and mundane and every degree in between, you and I are surrounded by people who are living sacrificial lives. And in doing so, they are mirroring Christ to the world. And I like to believe that they bring all those choices and sacrifices and join them to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Altar. When I am mindful of that, no mass ever seems ‘ordinary’.
So, this Corpus Christi Sunday, I invite you to think about the Mass and sacrifices being offered on this altar with one little change of perspective. See the words of institution, not from your eyes, but from mine. Put yourself where I stand as you hear those words. You see, every time I hold up the bread and say “this is my body”, I also see past the Body of Christ in my hands to the parents who are raising their special need child. And the woman with cancer who is more concerned about her son than her own dying. And the single mom shepherding 4 active kids at mass – all who are the living Body of Christ. Each time I hold that cup: “poured out for you and for many…” I see the face of the man who cuts the elderly neighbor’s lawn and shovels the snow for him. I see the nurse who goes above and beyond the call of duty in caring for her patients. I see the family that meets to ask how much to set aside to help the Vincent De Paul society this month…
And then, as my eyes go back and forth between Body and Blood of Christ in my hands, and the Body of Christ in the pews, I see my Eucharistic Lord. And that is why I kneel after those words – because BOTH you and the Body and Blood are so Holy, and so amazingly beautiful. When you see the sacrifice – of our Lord and of each other – then it never seems like ‘just another mass…’
One of many needs…
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. (who knew?) Do you know that 1 in 4 adults experience a mental health problem in a given year and 1 in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness such as major depression and bipolar disorder? This means that we all know someone who lives with a mental health disorder. He/she could be a close relative, a neighbor, or a co-worker.
One of the most important issues people with mental illness face is the availability of affordable and safe housing options. Studies have demonstrated that having a safe and secure place to live is an important part of recovery, along with access to services that enable those with mental illness to live independently. For many, a mental health condition has no impact on their housing. Most can and do live independently. For others, though, the cascading effects of mental illness leave them in a precarious living situation, or even cause them to lose their home.
NAMI-St. Louis (National Alliance on Mental Illness) would like to bring together other like-minded individuals to dialogue about ways to assist people with mental health dis-orders in living independently in our communities. They are looking for property owners/landlords like ourselves who are mission- minded individuals willing to “think out-side of the box” and willing to take a calculated risk and have a servant’s heart. In their words: “We understand a Property Owner’s need to protect investments and man-age a building that is financially profitable. We under-stand that it means that all tenants (including people with mental illness) need to comply with lease requirements; adhere to “house rules;” and, get along with others in the building.
We also understand mental illness can interfere with the tenant’s ability to comply. We know from studies that lack of financial funds can trigger increased stress which can exasperate mental health symptoms. Lack of financial funds often leaves a tenant with fewer housing choices, ones that may be unsafe, and located in hard-to-reach places. Additionally, cuts in government funding lead to gaps and lack of availability of services. They also lead to decreased availability of housing vouchers (such as Section Eight or Shelter Plus Care) to eligible tenants.”
Please join Gary Meier, Kris Jackson and others for a meeting to discuss ways we can help people with mental illness live independently while still yielding a reasonable and profitable rate of return. The meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the NAMI St. Louis office located at 1750 South Brentwood, Suite 511, Brentwood, MO 63144.