Last year I gathered a group of parishioners to help me provide some direction for the Parish of St. Monica. We examined the recent parish history. We considered the internal strengths of the parish and the areas where we needed to grow. We looked at the temporal and spiritual environment surrounding St. Monica. In the end, we introduced the idea of “St. Monica – We Will Help You Discover God’s Call; We Will Help You Live God’s Call.”
Spiritually, a particular focus last year was to ground this in prayer and to “Be a Parish and a People of Prayer and Discernment.” Thus, we started with the discernment program, “Called and Gifted” utilizing the “Spiritual Gifts Inventory.” Benefactors supported the idea of providing 700 copies of the book, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing to all families at Christmas. We sponsored various prayer initiatives such as a discussion panel on prayer, closer focus and attention to the “Prayer of the Faithful” at Mass and starting a “Prayer Intention Book.”
Pastorally, the parish felt called to follow Pope Francis’ lead to be a “field hospital” to the world by teaming up with Catholic Relief Services and hosting the “Helping Hands” food program. This allowed us to package and provide close to 30,000 meals to support families in Burkina Faso.
Temporally, the entire parish developed a long-term parish “Master Plan.” We engaged in a parish “Self-Study” and Feasibility Study” and are now finalizing the details on how to financially support the results of the Master Plan.
All of this is the attempt to answer the questions: Why are we here? Why are we here as a parish? Why are we here as individuals? Consider the following prayer:
Grant that all of the faithful of the Church,
looking into the signs of the times by the light of faith,
may constantly devote themselves to the service of the Gospel.
Keep us attentive to the needs of all so that,
in sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope,
we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation
and go forward with them along the way of your Kingdom.
This is “Eucharistic Prayer III – For Use In Masses for Various Needs” from the Roman Missal. I have been praying this Eucharistic Prayer frequently at Mass during the summer and have been particularly struck by the words. This was especially the case in light of some activity in which I, and several other parishioners, were recently involved. Over the past several weeks, I had asked a group of parishioners to, once again, look over the recent history of St. Monica, consider our current situation as well as the direction the Holy Spirit seems to be leading us in the future, and come up with a more specific “Vision” and “Mission Statement” for St. Monica. Having discerned a particular identity, my hope was that this could specifically guide the direction and activity of the parish.
After numerous hours of prayer, work and discussion, we heard the following:
Called by Name;
Gifted by God;
Committed to Prayer;
Driven to Serve
…Abiding in Hope
We are a community on a pilgrimage to a sacred place, inviting all to walk with us as we:
- Discover Jesus in our lives,
- Understand our life’s purpose,
- Develop a personal relationship with Christ,
- Enrich our local community,
- Impact the whole world.
Ok, now what?
In Chapter IX of Love Is Our Mission (… the Catechism for the World Meeting of Families) it mentions that we’re not merely a group or a business or one organization among others. We are a spouse. We are the incarnation of Christ’s “Body” in this neighborhood of Tredyffrin/Easttown/Berwyn. In that respect, in asking the Lord, “tell us who we are, what we should become and what you would like us to do.” the development of the Vision and Mission should be considered as an inspired answer to those questions and should form the practical basis of our day-to-day-activities. I certainly will be using it as I discern what I, as your Pastor, should focus on in the months ahead.