Over the past two weeks, I have been informing the Parish of St. Monica about a number of important decisions and provide a roadmap for the parish for the next several months.
For the past 9 – 12 months, a group of parishioners have been meeting with me to read the “signs of the times,” take an honest look at where St. Monica is now, and discern where the Lord wishes to take the parish in the future. We have incorporated the help of Catholic Leadership Institute, the Catherine of Siena institute and based our ideas on the results of the “Disciple Maker Index” (DMI) and other parishioner input. Let me outline specifics about three areas where we will be especially focused for the next three years.
The first area involves The Scriptures. When people engage the Bible, things happen. We have seen this in Walking With Purpose, which has been a tremendous blessing for St. Monica and the wider Catholic Church. We have also seen tremendous interest in a number of men’s “Gospel Study” groups in the areas as well. Jason Carter has also seen an interest on the part of our young people in the practical application of the Bible in their lives.
Thus, the first area of concentration will be to ENCOUNTER CHRIST THROUGH SCRIPTURE. This “encounter” will initially focus on three groups: youth, women and men. Eventually we will also incorporate ways the Bible can minister to couples. Let me cover the first two – youth and women – this week and write about the men and couples next week.
When I arrived, it was said that “family and youth” were top parish priorities. My concern was that the parish seemed to be organized in “silos” so that grade-school youth, high-school youth were not tied into ministries to young adults and families. None of these, in turn were integrated with worship and liturgy. In addition, service and social activities were out on their own. Finally, the idea that all of these needed to be interwoven with discipleship, developing a closer personal relationship with Jesus and growing the individual faith of each parishioner was a totally foreign concept to an overwhelming number of parishionersThe traditional classroom model has does a fine job in teaching about Jesus and the Church. Nevertheless, Catechists have found that this approach falls short in helping young people in developing a “relationship” with Jesus (evangelization) and how to actually live out that relationship (discipleship). Thus, I recently appointed Jason to be “Team Leader,” together with Diane Pealer and a person yet to be hired, to begin to move the Parish of St. Monica in this direction. As a first step, we will begin to integrate a Scripture-Based approach within our Religious Education Program, placing more emphasis on evangelization and discipleship.
Additionally, we recently announced a “pilot program” based on a Bible-based, small group model for our religious education program on Sundays. The more “traditional” model will still be offered on Monday nights as well as the intensive summer program.
Some of the details of this change:
- Our Sunday Pilot Program will be a small group model of 8-10 students with 1-2 small group leader(s)
- Families who have already registered for religious education, as well as families who have not yet registered for religious education, can choose between the Sunday pilot program or the Traditional Monday night program.
- The Sunday Pilot Program will begin at the 9:30am Mass. Students will be dismissed from Mass after Communion and before the final prayer.
- Parental participation and involvement will be essential for the Sunday pilot program since the model depends on small group parent moderators.
- Leaders/Parents are not expected to be theologians. They will merely “moderate’ the conversation. Training and leader’s guides will be provided for each week. Two adult small group leaders per group would be ideal, allowing some flexibility week to week. Any other parishioner who may feel called to consider this ministry is welcome to.
- This Sunday Pilot Program is also open to students in Catholic Schools! A few Catholic School families have already signed up and offered to assist. Although their children receive great Catholic Education at the many local Catholic schools, they see this as an opportunity to enhance and reinforce what children learn in school while growing in their relationship with Christ.
The Bible-based, small-group model will be incorporated in our Lifeteen and Edge youth programs as well. Jason has also been meeting with a group of high school students on Wednesdays for their own “Scripture Study.”
For the women, we are continuing, and also building, on the strength of “Walking With Purpose.” I recently met with the Middle-Atlantic leadership of WWP on how to leverage the popularity of WWP to a wider group of women.
We will also be dedicating new resources to this ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST THROUGH SCRIPTURE. A newly redesigned Youth Room is being planned in the new school building. In addition, similar renovation work will be done in the Hagenbach Room (window treatments, flooring, cabinets, lighting, AV capabilities, etc..) where numerous Scripture study courses have been held in the past. Finally, we are also considering the design of a Welcome Desk in the front church area. This would provide a “general information” place for visitors, a “clearing house” for parish information, registration forms for potential new parishioners, a “locus” where visitors and potential new parishioners can meet with someone to give them a tour of the parish, as well as the sign-in place for people in the new pilot program.
SO…. that’s the “women and children.” What about the men and couples? See next week’s article.