Over the past three months I, along with our key staff members, have attended three all-day meetings hosted by the Diocese in partnership with the Catholic Leadership Institute. These days guided individual parishes and groupings of parishes in strategic planning in order to help them make a pastoral plan for the next 3-5 years with goals for both themselves and their parish groupings. Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake are grouped with St. Anthony in Hillsdale. To help with the planning, the Diocese has drawn upon a wealth of information—October Mass Counts, Sacramental data, the number of those entering the Church, the results of the Discipleship Maker Index that every parish took twice in the last four years.
It has been a time to examine the whys and what of who we are. If someone on the street asked us why our parish exists would we have a good answer? These are questions we do not always think about. Even if the Church has been a large part of our life, it can be hard to readily put that meaning and purpose into words, simply because we haven’t thought about it. While I am the first to admit that such strategic planning isn’t my forte, it has been a blessing over these three months to take a deep dive examining those fundamental questions.
Why is this so important? We all know people among our families, friends, coworkers, and neighbors who have either drifted from their faith or never had an encounter with Christ themselves. What are we doing, what can we do, to help bring them back to Christ? We know why we are at Mass—the peace that comes from being with Christ, the love of the Lord, the guidance and direction, the grace to choose Christ in the face of temptations and failures, the strength to persevere in our walk with Him. That is what we want for our loved ones, for those who have left, and for those who have never known Him. We also want to be better equipped to communicate these truths.
It has been said that God doesn’t have grandchildren. He only has children. Every generation needs to hear that call from Christ to follow Him. Every generation needs to say “Yes” for themselves. In an increasingly secular society that is drawing farther from its Christian roots, we have many people who have an increasingly vague understanding of who Jesus is, what His call looks and sounds like, and what saying “Yes” to Him looks like.
I appreciate this article from Fr. Boniface Hicks who describes the necessity of the New Evangelization: “When Pope St. John Paul II asked for a New Evangelization, he did not ask to change the content of evangelization, which is always Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Rather, he asked for an evangelization that is new in its ardor, methods and expression. One reason for this newness is because the field of the New Evangelization is primarily those who have already heard the Gospel…sort of. Those who grew up Catholic and received a version of the Gospel watered down with secular culture, rejected what they thought was Christianity without really knowing the content of the faith. The full content of the faith must be presented in a new expression to avoid the defense, “I've already heard that.” It must also be presented with new methods, because those who need evangelization are not showing up for the old methods of CCD and parish missions and Sunday homilies. It must be presented with new ardor because the fervent authenticity of the messenger is critical for communicating the Good News in a compelling way.” https://www.fatherboniface.org/wordpresshome/new-evangelization/new-evangelization-new-in-its-ardor-methods-and-expression/
In the face of these needs we will be working on our pastoral plan. Thank you for your prayers—more to come!