St. Monica is a wonderful parish which possesses many fine qualities – architecture, a warm welcoming atmosphere, good music, well-run liturgy, adult faith formation initiatives, active, dedicated and talented parish leadership. Recently several pastors from our area had lunch with Archbishop Chaput who commented and praised the fact that these qualities have been noticed at most of the parishes in our area. He also noted, however, that St. Monica as well as few other parishes in our area, are actually not growing.
This has not escaped the attention of our Parish Councils and I. Over the past several months, we have been discussing the desire to change that and become a parish that is vibrant and growing. It was felt that there was a need to develop a comprehensive “Parish Vision” and a “Parish Strategy” to fulfill that vision.
As previously announced, St. Monica is moving into an implementation phase of a new vision that was recently developed. A copy of the vision can be found at the end of this blog. Under the motto:
WE WILL HELP YOU DISCOVER GOD’S CALL
WE WILL HELP YOU LIVE IT.
…the Parish Vision has 5 Components:
Component I – We have identified six areas where we, as individual parishioners, can engage in the vision in the months ahead:
CALL (An individual and personal component) – God put me on this earth for a reason. That’s my “call.” But what does it look like? What am I to do? Family, friends, mentors, counselors, spiritual directors, etc… certainly are primary sources in helping to discern, and live out, my individual call. But the Parish of St. Monica will also play a key role (See “Call and Gifted” below)
COMMIT (An individual and personal component) – Having acquired some idea of my own, individual “charisms,” what would God have me do with them? This would include concrete actions that each of us would commit to do over the course of the next year for the sake of helping to build God’s Kingdom.
- We need the encouragement and support of others.
- We need to have people around us to whom we are accountable.
- We need people whom we can serve.
COMMUNITY (Larger, parish-wide endeavor) – We remember what Mass felt like during Christmas. It was vibrant, exciting, alive (and crowded). It was the same during Easter. It was the same during the Sundays when we celebrated “First Holy Communions.” What do each of us need to do to enhance out liturgical “experience” so that every week feels like that?
CARITAS (Larger, parish-wide endeavor) – With the help of Villanova University and under the direction of Don Charlton (former Chair of Parish Finance Council) we will re-vamp the way we reach out to others and fulfill Pope Francis’ call to have our church act like a “spiritual field hospital” for the poor, the addicted, the afflicted, the angry and the anxious.
COMMUNICATION and INVITATION (Parish-wide endeavor) – Our goal is to grow the parish by 10% next year. We have close to 800 people worship with us on any given Sunday so that means 80 new people. Typically they would come from three places:
- People who move into the neighborhood, after having built a new house.
- The 78% of our parishioners whose contact with St. Monica Parish is limited or non-existent.
- New Catholic converts who come to us through the R.C.I.A. (“Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults”) Program
Our parish neighborhood is totally “built-out” so we will not be getting any new parishioners through new housing growth. Thus our “New Evangelization” has to come from “2” and “3.”
Every parishioner, every committee, every group, every activity, every ministry needs to be focused on reaching out and helping to bring in 80 new people who will be excited about joining us.
Component II: – Individual Goals – Here are 5 action-items to which every parishioner can commit, in order to help form yourself as a Disciple of Christ:
- Daily – Pray for 10 minutes (5 minutes for children 3rd grade and younger)
- Daily – Read 3 pages of some type of Catholic book.
- Weekly – Say something about your faith, the Pope, your parish, the church, Jesus, etc.. to at least one person.
- Yearly – Give. Increase your offering by just 1% over last year.
- Yearly – Serve. Participate in just one pastoral outreach/service activity during the year.
If every parishioner commits to these, we will get 80 new people and our parish will change (for the better!)
Component III – Parish-Wide Initiatives. In order to “jump-start” the initiatives in the six areas listed above, the Parish Staff, Parish Pastoral and Parish Finance Council are planning the details of several, major initiatives listed below:
- St. Monica will host a “Call and Gifted Workshop” in the Fall. Sponsored and moderated by the “St. Catherine of Siena Institute” and developed by Sherry Weddell (Author of “Forming Intentional Disciples), the workshop will take place in the parish on October 24-25 and help each of us to identify our individual spiritual gifts and charisms. It will also provide initial guidance on how God can work through your charisms to develop a closer relationship with Christ, help build the parish and serve others.
- Catholics want to learn how to pray. They want to learn more about prayer. The details of this initiative are yet to be fully developed and will be announced soon.
- We continue to move forward with the search to hire a Coordinator of Youth Activities. In addition, we are looking around the country at places with vibrant youth ministries, discussing their “best practices” as well as considering some new ideas to strengthen the ministry to our young people.
- Former Finance Council Chair, Don Charlton, discerned a call to begin a newly focused parish outreach program to more effectively reach out to the poor and those in need within the parish, within the community and in the wider world. He has already put together an outline of what we could do based on his personal experience and the results of a 3-month study on this initiative done by a group of Villanova MBAs. If you have a heart for the poor, please contact Don. He, and the parish, are looking for disciples like you.
- St. Monica is known for its music. Our liturgy is solid. We have “felt” and experienced special liturgical moments here (Christmas, Easter, Sundays celebrating First Communion). How can we replicate that “experience” on a more regular basis. Where are we good; where can we get better? What new aspects can we introduce. Frank Orman, Jim Sanborn and I have been musing on these questions and are in the initial stages of putting together a kind of “worship committee” as well as a comprehensive plan to examine and enhance all aspects of worship and liturgy at St. Monica. Again, we’re looking around the country (and – horrors! – even looking at other faith communities) to see what they do well and whether we can incorporate such ideas into our own worship style.
- We have many activities, organizations, committees, etc… here at the parish. We’re asking some candid, and perhaps uncomfortable, questions about them. Why do they exist? How long have they been here? Should they be refocused to achieve the vision and the parish goals? Do they help achieve the individual spiritual goals of their members? Do some need to be “retired?” Are new groups needed?
Component IV – A Parish Goal. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-19; Luke 6:43-45). So how can we measure success? How will we know that our efforts are bearing “good fruit” and that we’re doing what the Lord wants us to do? Prayerful discernment on the part of the parish leadership came up with growing the parish by 10%. On any giving Sunday, approximately 800 people worship at St. Monica. So let’s get 80 new people to come and be part of our community. There will be no new housing developments in our township so growth can’t come that way. Thus we must invite people to become new converts to our Catholic Faith (Through the “Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults” or R.C.I.A.) or by inviting and feeding the approximately 78% of St. Monica Catholics who are not with us at a regular basis. Let’s invite them. Let’s also have something for them to come to once they arrive.
Component V – Parish Stewardship. With the help of a consultant, the Remington Group, we are developing a 5-year, integrated facilities plan for the parish. It will include:
- Smaller, short- and medium-term maintenance and repair items
- Larger, medium- and long-term capital improvements (ceilings, roofs, boilers, HVAC, parking lot…)
- Medium- long-term “strategic items” where we either enhance the facilities we have or consider new additions to address the pastoral priorities of St. Monica.
In Step 1, Remington looked at the two parish questionnaires taken in 2010 and 2013. Next they examined the “Parish Priorities” of Liturgy, Youth and Building Our Community as well as the major initiatives of the “Parish Vision” listed above. They came up with a list of 6 questions that corresponded with these items (See attachment here). The Parish Council has committed to pull together 6 ad-hoc groups to answer the questions and forward them to Remington by July 11.
In Step 2, Remington will develop an RFP which will go out to several architects (which we will approve).
Step 3 is to have the architects return the RFPs to Remington who will make a recommendation to chose one architect.
Step 4 is to engage the architect chosen to develop a set of “conceptual drawings” (aka “renderings”) as well as provide a general idea of what the costs of such ideas would run.
In Step 5 – Remington will present a comprehensive, integrated 5-year plan encompassing all of the components listed above to the parish-at-large.
In Step 6 – we begin a parish-wide discussion to answer the question, “Ok, what do we need to do? What would you like to do? What do you feel we should do and when?
Finances for steps 1 – 5 have already been approved and budgeted by the Finance Council.
Further details, as well as ways that each of you can help (start with those 5 – 10 minutes of prayer!) will be forthcoming.
A copy of the St. Monica Parish Vision Document can be found here: