April 17, 2016
(As revised by Father Zlock on April 4, 2016)
What would it take to make St. Monica a “great” Catholic Parish? Last week I began to outline my thoughts on this, offer direction as well as present concrete steps to which I plan to commit in the months ahead. I also began to outline opportunities where you can join in a compelling, exciting, Christ-driven future for St. Monica. This is merely a condensed version. I would strongly encourage you to read the full version of my ideas which can be found on my website (www.FrZlock.com) as well as on the parish website (www.SaintMonicaChurch.org).
“Parish” and Pastoral” Outreach: If you love someone, an organization, a team or a family you want to bring others to meet and experience them as well. We should want to bring people to St. Monica because it’s the one place where people can meet Christ and begin to thrive. This involves “Parish” Outreach or searching out, finding, feeding and inviting our fellow St. Monica parishioners, whom we don’t see on a regular basis. This is a key area where I, and other parishioners who feel called to help me, will be focusing in the months ahead. The entire parish also needs to increase our focus on our “Pastoral” Outreach to brothers and sisters in need. There are many fine parishioners at Saint Monica who selflessly reach out in service to other people and have done so for many years. Nevertheless, if we are to follow the mandate of Pope Francis and to go to the people “at the fringes” we must commit our resources to do this more intentionally to support the “spiritual field hospital.” If you want to know what is important to a parish, look at where the parish spends its money. If this is a priority, we need to spend money on it.
For this reason, I purposely instructed a portion of the recent financial campaign should be allocated specifically to hire someone who will be dedicated to both Pastoral Outreach (poor and needy) and Parish Outreach (evangelization).
In addition to the allotted campaign funding, a number of parishioner-benefactors have recently stepped forward to financially support this mission and fill the position. These visionary parishioners, along with the assistance of the Parish Pastoral Council, have already crafted a job description, salary and benefit levels as well as a “Charter” for the activities of both the Pastoral – and Parish Outreach ministries. It is my intention to have this person in place by the end of the year.
The “X-factor” – and the most critical success component – in all of this involves the response of the parishioners in the pews. I refer you to an article by Father Michael White who is the Pastor of Nativity Catholic Church in Timonium, Maryland. After 15 years of struggling, Nativity Parish experienced astronomical growth. Just prior to this transformational growth however, Father White laid out a vision and mission that was obviously attractive and compelling to many people in his parish and the surrounding area.
One questions Fr. White often heard was: “If we change our church strategy and direction, won’t people complain, maybe even leave?” His response: “Sure they will, and maybe they should.” In the article he mentioned three good reasons to go.
- You do not plan to ever get involved, give and serve.
- You can’t/won’t invite unchurched friends to your church.
- You don’t believe in the Mission/the Vision; you don’t trust the Pastor or his team.
We want St. Monica to be a place where people come and personally encounter Christ and, on the basis of that encounter, see their lives and the lives of others grow and thrive. The possibility exists, after reading what I have written above, that the direction in which I am planning on leading St. Monica might not resonate in your heart. In that respect, I would ask you to prayerfully consider where the Lord is calling them as well as to what the Lord is calling them.
A parish needs to be a spiritual “field hospital” in the neighborhood (Pope Francis). We need to get out of the parish buildings and bring the church “to the fringes.” Just like Pope Francis, I am calling parishioners to a more intentional engagement: to Christ, to individual prayer, to involvement in the parish Mission. It might mean helping within the parish. Most likely is will mean activity outside the “church-y” things of St. Monica and outside of the black rod-iron fence line, lowering our nets and seeing what kind of catch the Lord provides.
We have a great opportunity here at St. Monica and I hope that you will join me on this road. If you are still reading, you are likely thinking, “Now what? How can I get involved? What does he need me to do in this?” Call me. Send me an email. Let’s talk about what you are good at or like doing. It could be helping me in my ALPHA evangelization efforts, it might be serving in our liturgies. It could be working with, or teaching, the faith to our young people. Let’s have the conversation.
To close, I return to the original question, “What will it take to make St. Monica a “great” parish? We have been “Called by God.” Above, I have outlined a number of initiatives to which I, the Parish Staff and a few “disciples” in the parish will commit in the months ahead to answer that call. However, none of this can happen without you – the parish community – likewise hearing that call, committing to prayer, discovering Jesus in your life in new and exciting ways and coming to understand your life’s purpose. Here we have great opportunity and I hope that you will join me on this road. If you are still reading, you might be thinking, “Ok, now what? How do I get involved? What do I do to become a “WINN-er?” So, What I Need Now (W.I.N.N.) is a “Trinity of Trinities” .
A Trinity of LOVERS (An “Alpha” team to help me feed the poor and the lame at Devon Manor):
· 3 people for hospitality (food and welcome).
· 3 people for “muscle” (bring people in wheelchairs and walkers to the room)
· 3 people for “technology” (set up PC, screen, projector, speakers, DVD player, test run equipment, break down afterwards)
A Trinity of LEADERS
· 3 people for Finance Council
· 3 people for “Outreach” to poor as well as inactive parishioners.
· 3 people for a new “Prayer and Parish Discernment Team”
A Trinity for LIVELY LITURGY
· 3 “Saturday/Sunday Stage Crew” members (16 years or older)
· 3 Altar Servers (adults, young adults, adults)
· 3 People to bring Communion to sick and home bound (twice monthly)
Do you hear a call for any of this? Then we will all begin to enrich our local community and impact the whole world. Call me – 610-644-0110.