State of the Parish - Discernment, Part 1/2

Over the past several weeks, I have been providing an overview of the various aspects of St. Monica - a kind of “State of the Parish.” We examined long-term Projects Financed by Our Master Plan “Financial Campaign as well as shorter term Repair/Maintenance Projects Financed Out of Parish Operational Funds. Last week I offered a more comprehensive view of Parish Finances. This week we move away from the temporal affairs and into the Spiritual and Pastoral aspects of St. Monica.

All along I have been posing two questions to the Lord and the people of St. Monica:

  1. What would Jesus Christ like the Parish of St. Monica to look like in 5 years?
  2. If the parish closed tomorrow – besides parishioners – who would miss us?

Over the past 9 months, we put a number of activities in place to help us discern the answers to those questions. I would like to describe those activities here, based on the handouts placed in the parish bulletin this week.

We started with prayer (Red cross on the top of the diagram: “Prayer and Prayer Teams”) About 9 months ago, I asked a group of gifted, dedicated “prayer warriors” to begin praying for my intentions, situations that arise in the day-to-day running of the parish, as well as for discernment and wisdom surrounding the longer-term strategic questions we are entertaining. This prayer and prayer team has formed the foundation of our discernment and I can personally attest to its power and effectiveness.

Next I put together a “Parish Discernment Team” of about 20 people (Same diagram: blue diamond, “Parish Discernment Team ‘I’”). They included new and long-time parishioners, men and women, singles and couples as well as two professionals experienced in leadership modeling. This team has been meeting, praying, sharing and working faithfully for the past ten months. We examined national trends in the Catholic Church. We examined questions such as “What is working – and not working – in Catholic parishes?” “What parishes are truly “thriving?” “What are they doing and how did they get there?” We discussed lay formation, lay vocations, spiritual maturity pathways, “spiritual threshold conversations” that effectively engage and attract non-practicing and lukewarm parishioners. We talked about what a growing and maturing faith looks like and what must St. Monica do to move our parishioners towards a more exciting and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.

From this group, seven “disciples” answered the call to attend Parish Missionary Disciples (rose circle, upper left). Developed by Catholic Leadership Institute and Dynamic Catholic, this is an intense, 9-month, parish-based evangelization formation initiative which deepens participants’ relationships with Jesus Christ, transforms members into disciples, and empowers disciples to give witness to how Jesus Christ lives in their hearts.

Why is this important? According to Dynamic Catholic, only .03% of the 17.8 million who are involved in the parish outside of Mass in the US have been trained to evangelize. That means there are 17.79 million Catholics attending Mass weekly with no training on how to share their faith. Thus, our hope is to develop a St. Monica parish community reawakened and transformed by the person of Jesus Christ. In turn, having experienced a special and mystical encounter with Christ, our desire is for these parishioners to share that encounter with others so that they, too, would experience a transformation and be on fire in the name of Christ. So far, these parishioners and I have studied the principles of evangelization, tools and resources for the journey, the vision for missionary disciples, discipleship roadmap principles, the elements of prayer, how to study the Bible, and the Ignatian Examen process.

Called and Gifted Discernment Process. (rose triangle, upper right). C&G has been offered by the Catherine of Siena Institute to over 100,000 Catholics and other Christians around the world. Combined with the Spiritual Gifts Inventory, participants learn:

  • The role of every Catholic - and the local parish - in the mission of the Church to the world.
  • The critical role of “charisms” in the life and service of other lay Catholics and in the life of the parish.
  • Signs and characteristics of 24 common, biblically-based charisms.
  • How discerning and using your charisms can change your life, the life of others, your parish and the world.

St. Monica is hosting Called and Gifted on Friday June 2 (7-9:30 pm) and Saturday June 3 (9 am-4 pm) in the gym and there is still time to sign up! See parish website or go to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - Office for Evangelization events and sign up page for details.


Now, keep the handout! Next week I shall continue to describe what we are doing to try and discern God’s will for “his” parish.

In the meantime, here are some questions for you:

  • What do you think of the process?
  • What strikes you as especially poignant and important?
  • What might have been missed?
  • What are you doing to answer these questions:
    • “Where does Jesus Christ want me to be in 5 years?”
    • “If I died tomorrow, besides family and a few friends, who would miss me?”
    • If God is telling St. Monica something about his design for us, and we should implement what we discern he is calling us to do, where do you see yourself in that process?












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