It was ironic that a priest friend of mine called and recommended the book Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter. The recommendation seemed to providentially intersect the Lectionary Readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
As the review in Amazon reads, “Rebuilt tells the story of Fr. Michael White and lay associate Tom Corcoran and their decision to try and incorporate wisdom gleaned from thriving mega-churches and innovative business leaders while anchoring their vision in the Eucharistic center of Catholic faith. Both men present the compelling and inspiring story to how they brought their parish back to life.”
It does sound compelling doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like some of the suggestions that I heard over the past week while speaking with parishioners, young and old, who spoke with me about the Parish of St. Monica in Berwyn, PA. Comments were given concerning liturgy, music, “youth,” catechesis (for young and old), finances, service …. St. Monica is a fine parish which has weathered a number of significant storms over the past several years with courage and grace. In considering the events of the past, and looking into the future, people are naturally and wisely asking what might, and what should, change at St. Monica. Or, if we examine the Sunday Scriptures, what does the new “mantle” which the Christ has placed on the shoulders of St. Monica, look like?
- In which direction should we go?
- What is good that should be retained?
- What is not that should be changed or jettisoned?
Most of the reviews offered on the Amazon web site concerning the book “Rebuilt” are positive and enthusiastic (87% give the book 5 stars). Nevertheless, I found one “mixed” review ( offered here ) by “A Regular Joe” fascinating, provocative and insightful. He is a “Director of Religious Education and someone who has been praying and working in a parish for 6 years.” His parish has faced the same demographic challenges as many others (St. Monica included) and has tried to address them with a prayerfully discerned approach. According to “Joe,” they seem to have had some some successes and have also stumbled along the way.
When God decides to introduce a little change into your life, he does it for a purpose. Often three reasons are:
- For your growth,
- For your guidance,
- For His Glory.
Sometimes he chooses one, sometimes two-out-of-three, sometimes God asks us to work on all three areas. Concerning the future direction of the Parish of St. Monica, I suspect there are no easy answers to parish building and re-building. I am certainly excited about the prospects of what the Lord wants to accomplish in St. Monica. I KNOW that he wants to do something and He wants to do something new (He always does. Just ask St. Monica’s kid). What that is and how we prayerfully discern His voice and carry out his will, I guess, remains to be seen.