First Impressions and Laying Foundations
+ Hail Mary…
In seminary, about 2 or 3 times a year, all of the seminarians would gather in the auditorium or chapel for what was known as a rector’s conference. The rector, the priest in charge of the seminary, would come in, open with a prayer, and proceed to talk about… well… whatever he felt like talking about. There was always a nervous excitement when the head honcho gathered us all to speak directly to us and to speak his mind.
Sometimes, it was to make a special announcement, sometimes to educate us on something he considered very important, sometimes it was a sharp rebuke, a real challenge, a kick-in-the-teeth, if you will.
Today for this... Pastor’s Conference… I would just like to offer a sort of "State of the Parish" address. You’re getting off easy this time.
As I complete my first year as Pastor here at St. John’s, I have reflected quite a bit on the past year, and want to offer an examination of the life of our parish.
Let me begin by saying that overall as a parish we’re in good shape, we have lots of room to grow, but we’re in good shape.
I attribute a lot of that to the generosity of so many parishioners here, those who have been here a long time as well as those who are only here a short time, and to the focus on the family. I have really been impressed by the generosity of our parish and by the emphasis on having strong families.
I also attribute a lot to the leadership of Fr. Gregory. My sincere thanks to Fr. Gregory. I believe he brought a real stability to this parish, a stability that was desperately needed. In many ways, he righted the ship, he steadied the course, he held the fort. And I sense that was very much needed.
With that said, I think that often when there has been a pastor who keeps things going calm and steady, it can be the job of his successor to shake things up a bit and keep things from becoming stagnant.
It is good for a parish to be at peace, to have stability, it is very important. But a parish can’t be allowed to become complacent. We don’t want stagnation, which is the malaise of so many Catholic parishes throughout the world. When water is stagnant all sorts of subtle dangers creep in. The same is true of a parish; it can become susceptible to spiritual disease, to spiritual infection, it can become a home for all sorts of weird, subtle but dangerous things. We want to keep that from happening.
Also, it is good once stability has been established to really start looking to the future, to real, authentic growth and development. This is true in all sorts of aspects of life. It is true in the spiritual life as well.
And that requires vision, a vision for what our mission is and for what the final goal is.
The mission of St. John’s must be the mission of the universal Church, which is the mission of Jesus Christ: to foster and nourish faithful discipleship of Christ for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. It can be nothing else.
This is accomplished in a variety of ways: through Prayer, Celebration of the Sacraments, Religious Education, Evangelization, Service, Community Involvement, Social Events. But, most of all, it is accomplished by building up a truly Catholic culture that keeps this overall mission in mind and works toward the goal of establishing and maintaining a vibrant, authentically Catholic parish, that is active and has a lively spirit. Parish life must be liturgically focused and centered on the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of Christian life.
We may never reach that goal, but as long as I’m here, we will pursue it day in and day out. That is my vision, my mission, my goal, and I hope it will become our parish’s vision, mission, and goal.
Before we can really get going with all of this, though, first we need to strengthen our foundations.
And what I mean by strengthening the foundations is: emphasizing the basics of the faith, interiorizing the basic goodness and positive message of the Gospel, establishing a deeper personal relationship with God, and building up those cultures that I spoke about in my very first homily here: a culture of life, a Eucharistic culture, a culture of encounter, a culture of vocations, a culture of hospitality, a culture of stewardship, a culture of family, a truly Catholic culture.
These foundations need to be strengthened, because before a parish can be a holy parish it first needs to be a healthy parish. And you know, priests gain a lot of insight into the health of a parish in a lot of different ways: by what we hear in confession, by how people receive communion, by how people enter and leave the church, by how hard it is to find volunteers, by how comfortable/respectful people are around priests, by the quality and appropriateness of conversations, and through a lot of other ways.
As I said, St. John’s is in pretty good health, but we’re not in the best of health; we are in good shape, but we have lots of room to improve. This is the work of years that I have laid out, and over the next two years or so, we are really going to focus on these things. I will make these comments available within the next week or so, so we can be focused and work on these things together. After that, we can really start to hit our stride.
May all that we do be for our good, for the good of all, and for the glory of God.
Glory be… +
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