On Thursday, October 22, we had our first pastoral Council meeting of the Fall. Here is a summary:
I expressed my gratitude for those members of the pastoral council whose terms have just ended: Mari Ivan, Jane Benschneider, Joe Reinhart and Michael Johnson. We welcomed to the board to start a three-year term the following new members: Darcy Arend, Jessica Reinhart, Nancy Long and Russ Reinhart. I reminded everybody that the deacons are considered permanent members/consultants on the council, by the fact that they are deacons. Returning members are Vince Schaefer and Corey Walker.
I reminded everybody about the purpose of a pastoral council: primarily that they are a source of wisdom for the pastor, as he considers the many facets of parish life. They are not a lobbying group; and they are consultative in nature. Final decisions remain the pastor’s.
We talked about the progress of the Ydisciple high school program, which seems to be very beneficial to those students who chose to participate. I have heard now from group leaders, parents and students.
I stopped in briefly for the first junior high youth group meeting of the year, Sunday, October 18. I thought the dynamic was great. The kids participated very enthusiastically.
We discussed briefly the rosary prayer/intercession plan by which parishioners can use available rosaries to pray before our Masses… Rosaries which will be given to our confirmation students as a gift when they are confirmed the first week after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. I have heard many positive comments about this simple but profound gesture.
We discussed briefly the “www.Formed.org” subscription the parish received along with Ydisciple. I truly hope many parishioners take advantage of the many resources for learning the faith from this website.
Most of the pastoral council meeting was actually taken up by a discussion about volunteerism in the parish. For some months now, I have wondered if the parish could benefit from some review of our volunteer opportunities, and from a bit more of a volunteer structure. We looked at a very initial list of volunteer activities that are now happening in the parish, and these activities were grouped into categories. The list includes everything from extraordinary Eucharistic ministers to lectors to church cleaners to youth group and PSR leaders, etc., etc.
What has prompted me (and others who have spoken with me) to consider some type of review and structuring of volunteer opportunities? First of all, sometimes the pastor does not even know about all of the service of volunteers. For example, when I was considering what to do about some bushes at our Payne campus, I had no way to find out who was taking care of the flowerbeds. I asked around some, but without success. I finally found out, only after I had mentioned it in the bulletin. What if there are ways that the pastor could empower the volunteers, yet he does not even know their service is happening?
Secondly, it was mentioned that sometimes people feel stuck in ministries for years. They are never given the opportunity to lay down one ministry and consider another. This can be a deterrent to new volunteers who would otherwise consider stepping up to help. They don’t want to be committed for life. Said with a different emphasis, it can seem that the same volunteers cover all the service, rather than the load being spread more evenly among all parishioners.
Thirdly, it seems there are some volunteer activities that could benefit from a little more direction. What is the job description? Are there things that have crept in that ought not really to be a part of that volunteer task? Are there some things that should be happening with a particular volunteer group that are really not happening? It seems that – without trying to be too controlling – a simple structure of leadership/communication between the leaders of volunteer groups and the pastor (by means of a coordinator?) could be pretty helpful. Perhaps necessary questions have simply not been asked because there is no structure in place to solicit feedback from eager volunteers who are doing their best to handle a task.
It was recommended that we put together a volunteer opportunity booklet that describes the many areas of parish life that really require volunteers. The parish simply can’t survive without consistent volunteerism. With this in mind, of course I would have to do some teaching even from the pulpit to try to help parishioners realize that they should try to serve in one area of church life above and beyond the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (their most important service of worship to God!). Of course, we have some parishioners (even many!) who serve in a handful of ways; and at times it seems nothing less than miraculous to me that they accomplish so much!
At this point, I am considering what I am calling a “volunteer coordinator” at each campus. It’s hard to know what should come first, but it seems that even before we have that organizer at each campus, we could come up with a standard questionnaire for the leaders of the various volunteer groupings (e.g., funeral lunches, church cleaning, sacristan’s, decorators, etc.), so that we can collect some data on how things are now going. A volunteer coordinator on each campus could be the mediator of information from the pastor to the volunteer heads, and also from the volunteer groups to the pastor. We could set up a schedule of simple review to be carried out on an annual basis – perhaps staggering the various volunteer area reviews throughout the year, rather than doing them all at one time. The purpose of the review would be to make sure that the volunteer group leader has everything he/she needs, that there are enough people helping, that necessary questions are answered, etc. The volunteer coordinator at each campus could also help solicit new volunteers as need be.
So that is how far the brainstorming regarding volunteerism has gotten. I do not want to impose an unnecessary structure; rather, I am asking whether some type of light structure for communication and direction and support could buoy up our current system of volunteers. I am so very impressed with the way many of our parishioners take ownership of the parish. At the same time, however, I bet we could organize something that makes people feel better about their parish service and calls more members to volunteer and share the load. I will keep thinking, praying and consulting to see if we arrive at something helpful.
There is the summary of our pastoral council meeting. On another note, I attended the deanery World Meeting of Families follow-up in Defiance on Wednesday evening, October 21. It was a fine evening. It was announced that the World Meeting of Families website (www.worldmeeting2015.org) has posted all of the presentations/speeches that were given in Philadelphia for the event. The speakers were phenomenal, and if you get the chance to listen to some of them, I bet you will be rejuvenated in your vision for the vocation to which God calls you as families.
Finally, many thanks to all those who made the wine-tasting event at our Payne Campus (American Legion Hall) a great success. I really enjoyed the evening. I know it took a lot of work to organize.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Marie,