Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
Eight weeks have flown by way too fast! Our summer seminarian, Deacon Scott Perry, has reached his last weekend with us. I am very grateful for the great hospitality I have seen on the part of our parishioners, making Deacon Scott feel right at home. Also, I think we have been truly blessed to have Deacon Scott among us. I appreciated the various ways he served the parish, and his interaction with everybody in the parish. I also enjoyed his holy company in the rectory. We will definitely keep him in our prayers, and stay in touch with him throughout this last year of preparation for priesthood. Hopefully many of us will be able to attend his ordination next Spring.
On another note, I thought I should re-present for you the vision for examining and improving the volunteer life of our parish. We use the word “stewardship” for the way a disciple of Jesus Christ cares for every facet of life, guiding it all for God’s greater glory. Our life first belongs to Him. Usually we split stewardship into three categories: time, talent, treasure. As part of talent, we consider using our gifts for Jesus. This – at least in part – means taking on some task of service for the Church. Of course using talents for Jesus includes all we do outside of the Church for Him as well. With a parish budget like ours, we cannot pay for everything that has to happen to maintain parish life. There have to be many volunteers. Ideally, everybody takes on some service (that reasonably fits into his/her life), so that overall nobody is burdened with too much. To enable such service, it seems we want to be as organized as possible.
Early on in my first year here it became apparent that parishioners were not sure where to go to handle certain needs in parish life, and it was also clear we on the staff didn’t really know sometimes what was happening in the area of volunteer service that keeps this parish running. This is much because three campuses were involved in a fairly recent merger. That means — most importantly — that volunteers were not being supported as much as they could be. On numerous occasions I found out sort of by accident that volunteers didn’t have the tools they needed even to do the work.
For example, I learned that the musicians were having to share one copy of the accompaniment books at each campus…. leaving the books for the next person, handing them off to each other in passing, etc. This made their service much more tedious than it had to be. So we fixed that. It was totally worth the expense of purchasing some more copies of the accompaniment books. Then there were times when I fielded inquiries about bushes, lawn care and mulch, when it seems such areas could be handled by others with greater expertise. Or I learned on another occasion that we didn’t have a convenient source of water to care for the Paulding Prayer Garden. A water spicket was broken down. And I learned we needed a better snowblower and shovels. And I learned eventually that we needed some hedge trimmers. All such needs could be communicated with a systematic structure in place. (And the pastor would not have to handle it all.)
Then there is that famously quoted statistic in all of our Amazing Parish books that 20% of the parishioners handle all the activities in a parish. I haven’t done a count at our parish, but aren’t there more people who would jump at the opportunity to own our parish life, if we had it a bit more organized and could explain exactly what is needed?
Then there is the fact that when we wanted to invite all volunteers to an appreciation Thanksgiving dinner in my first year, we didn’t know how to communicate with all the volunteers: There was no structure set in place yet. Couldn’t things be spread out more to include more parishioners and make the load lighter for all? And couldn’t we set up a structure to communicate with and support all volunteers in the parish? And couldn’t we shape each service, such that it fits into busy layperson’s lives? And with an organized structure in place, couldn’t we get more parishioners to take on something that fits reasonably into their lives?
With this in mind I consulted with pastoral council and other leaders, and decided at least to study the issue. That is what the Volunteer Life Committee is doing. Although the volunteer life committee’s work got stalled for some months, surveys have now gone out to service leaders, and many of them have been returned. Because we don’t want to stamp out good service happening already, we have to map out what is now going on. We don’t want just to slap a pre-fabricated structure onto our life which might ignore what is now happening well, and what is really needed. So the survey is a way of asking leaders of various service areas to describe the mechanics/dynamic of their area. It is all-the-more a great idea when you consider the fact that we have three campuses that are related. That makes communication harder.
Since the surveys just went out, I am reiterating the vision for a volunteer life structure/tree that will help the staff and me communicate with and support all volunteers. We hope to have a parish service/activities booklet produced in the fall – both to welcome new parishioners and to help current parishioners think and pray about how they might step up to help run the parish. We will also publish a “service life tree” in the bulletin and on the internet, so people know more fully what is happening for service, who to go to, etc., etc. I think seeing this will be a great source of encouragement for everybody – i.e., really to look in one glance at all that is already happening. There will be a vibrancy in such a revelation of the service side of our parish.
Some parishes nowadays are even having discernment retreats to help parishioners discern where they are being called by the Lord to service. All this is a way of being more intentional about how things are structured, and certainly to support the volunteers.
I will continue to give some teaching on stewardship. I am grateful for all of the service that already happens in our parish. It is very impressive. And we hope to involve every soul! My continued thanks also to the Volunteer Life Committee for its work thus far!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,