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Pope Francis: Transitions and the Pastoral Conversion of the Parish

I was reading an article by Elizabeth Scalia. Elizabeth is a Catholic blogger. I’ve referred to her work in previous posts of mine. She writes under the title “The Anchoress.” Her article, “Following Your Guts: When You Gotta Go” dealt with the topic of transitions.

Elizabeth has been around Catholic social media almost from its inception. She was active for years as Editor-in-Chief at Aleteia.org. Aleteia was one of the first Catholic mega sites. Its content contained pretty much a little bit of everything. As Elizabeth writes,

“We were striving to create a site that had a little bit of everything. It would have news features, breaking headlines, specific invitations to pray, and personality profiles. It would contain Catholic spirituality and Q&As, lifestyle stuff and prayers, relevant seasonal and papal-inspired weekly series, and even recipes. It was a fun, productive, and gratifyingly recognized cooperative endeavor with a great team of people working from out of seven nations and three continents. My time there was joyful. I loved the people I worked with, and we all still keep in touch.”

At some point, Elizabeth moved on. Until recently, she was an Editor-at-Large at Bishop Robert Barron‘s Word on Fire. Her article, which I refer to above, outlines her departure from that organization.

I write this article as we watch two very fine Saint Monica staff members transition into a different season in their lives. Meghan Nulty has accepted a teaching position at Archmere Academy in Delaware. Meghan has several years of teaching experience in several schools. Teaching is a ministry to which she feels called and has always enjoyed.

I remember when I first interviewed and subsequently hired, Deborah Rojas. She talked about her experience with the clergy. She has known priests and ministers in various denominations. They live in Pennsylvania, across the US, and in different countries. Deb’s father is a Baptist minister. She mentioned how often she saw priests and ministers struggling within their ministries. She always had a dream about helping them in their challenges. She envisioned a practice where priests and ministers could come and receive the resources and support they need. This has become even more evident during these challenging times. That opportunity has presented itself to Deb. She goes on to pursue a different chapter in her life. This will undoubtedly benefit my fellow priests, other ministers, and many others.

Elizabeth Scalia outlines how she discerned her decision to leave Word On Fire. It involved listening to that inner voice that she calls “her gut. “(Kind of like Jethro Gibbs at NCIS.) For Elizabeth, this was often the case in previous jobs and ministries as well. She relates that transitions and situations often did not go well when she did not listen to her gut. Listening to that internal, still, quiet voice parallels the story of Elijah in the cave. It usually led to better decisions, easier transitions, and finding herself in a better place in the end.

By the time you read this reflection, we will have received the results from the Disciple Maker Index. We will be putting together a process to communicate the results to parishioners. Even more, we will be entering into a period to determine the direction of Saint Monica in the future. This will have to synchronize with three main priorities recently mentioned by Archbishop Perez. Those priorities are:

  1. Moving from crisis to hope.
  2. Building up resources for the sake of the mission.
  3. Building a culture of intentional, missionary, discipleship in the Archdiocese and the parishes. The Archbishop has said that this is his most important priority.

Spoiler alert: Things at Saint Monica are going to change. Much like Deb and Meghan and Elizabeth, we will be entering into a transition period. When I arrived at Saint Monica almost 9 years ago, the title of one of my first homilies was “Transitions Are Messy.” That might be the case now.                      

Recently I gave a document to my staff, leadership team, and several other parishioners. The 2020 document is entitled, “Instruction – the Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelizing Mission of the Church.“ It was published on the behest of Pope Francis by the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome. The article outlines Pope Francis‘s vision for parishes in the future. It has led to a spirited discussion amongst some people who have read the article. The article is full of hope. Much like Archbishop Perez, the document also clearly shows that “business as usual” is an unacceptable status for the Holy Father.

I will re-introduce the article and go more in-depth about its contents in future reflections.

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