For several months, I have been posing two questions to the Lord and the people of St. Monica:
- What would Jesus Christ like the Parish of St. Monica to look like in 5 years?
- 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. Last week I began to describe those activities based on a handout that I placed in the parish bulletin last week. I outlined the establishment of a Prayer Ministry as well as a Parish Discernment Team. I outlined the commitment of several parishioners involved in the Parish Missionary Disciples initiative as well as the Called and Gifted charisms workshops we held at St. Monica. This week I would like to finish outlining how we have been “Throwing a fleece before the Lord” and asking Him to tell us His heart.
A few months ago, St. Monica participated in the “Disciple Maker Index” survey. This assessment tool was developed by Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) in partnership with Measuring Success. Although it asks about the parish, it was NOT a “customer satisfaction” survey. Questions in the survey invited respondents to reflect on their own spiritual life and their practice of the faith. Thus, it measures the spiritual “health” of a parish in two areas: (1) Individual Spirituality – a pastor can see aggregate data as to the level of spirituality of his parishioners and (2) Parish Effectiveness –measuring how the parish is living and fulfilling its mission as part of the Catholic Church. The DMI offers a scientific method for tracking individual spiritual growth, allows each parish to assess how important each parish ministry is to its members and how effective the parish is in carrying out that ministry and impacting the broader local community. In June we are scheduled to meet with CLI to review the survey results and, based on the experience of other parishes, consider what metrics we can use to for a parish for a more effective Pastoral Plan, Organizational Issues and Planning.
A parish is a spiritual entity – but it is also an organization. According to parish revitalization program’s, “Amazing Parish,” three building blocks are consistently seen in thriving parishes: (1) Reliance on Prayer and the Sacraments, (2) A Commitment to a Healthy Organization and (3) A Passion for Evangelization and Discipleship. Thus we wanted to examine Organizational Issues and Planning at St. Monica. Again, with the help of tools provided from CLI, the Discernment Team worked through 125 questions and statements from 5 categories: 1. Environment Factors; 2. Parish Vision and Direction, 3. Parish Structure, Organization and Policies, 4. Practices and Implementation Procedures and 5. Parish Goals of Sanctifying, Evangelizing, Catechizing, Serving and Governing. The Parish Staff and other selected parishioners will also complete the exercise with the results being summarized and entered into the discernment conversation.
Albert Einstein once said, “God doesn’t play dice.” Throughout this process, my hope has been that the Lord will begin to make His will and His wishes for St. Monica clear. Some questions that we should ask are,
- How is the parish helping me grow in my relationship with God?
- How is the Bible and the liturgy enhancing my relationship with Christ?
- When was the last time I asked someone to visit St. Monica for some event or Mass?
- If I haven’t, why not? What is preventing me?
- Would my family or friends feel welcome here?
- Do I feel welcome here?
- Where am I in my faith journey?
- Am I growing in my faith? How can I tell?
Over the next two months, the Discernment Team will examine the information that we have received through the professional-quality, anointed gifts and tools that we have used in order to develop ideas concerning the direction of activities and allocation of resource of St. Monica for the next few years. Nevertheless, to quote Pope Francis – Keep praying. Don’t forget!