Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Vision to the future

The following is my pastor's pen for this upcoming weekend:

The direction of a successful person’s life is determined by the vision they have or the goals they set for themselves.   Having  set goals, the person will have to adjust their actions, redetermine their priorities,  figure out how these goals can be paid for or achieved, and make the sacrifices necessary to make these goals a reality.  The successful person also knows that these goals cannot be reached without the help of others.
    Keep this all in mind when we speak of the Church at large and the parish more locally. What is a parish to be?  What is its reason for existence?  Jesus, Himself, set THE goal for the Church.  From the Pope to the local parishioner, the goal is exactly the same: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit., teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20)That is THE goal of every person who has ever passed through the waters of baptism.  Our participation in this mission is the standard by which we will be judged.  The Church is the ground upon which and from which this mission springs; this is true for the universal, the diocesan, the parochial, and the domestic Church.
    The point of setting goals or having a vision  is that we want something that can be measured in concrete terms of results, actions, and , ultimately, success.  Christ set the goal, He gives us the grace and the tools to make that goal come to fruition.  He instructs each of us, regardless of whether we happen to be lay or clergy, to the same end.  How do we engage ourselves in this and encourage others to do so as well?
    This is what 2020 is about.  It is an internally created and driven set of concrete goals by which we live out the command of Christ. It is driven by 4 question: in the year 2020 1) what do we wish to see when we evaluate our parish of St. Clement?, 2) How do we get there?, 3) How do we pay for it? and, 4) Who does it?  There are elements of our call that we need to cooperate with God’s grace so as to advance.  For example: Only about 45-50% of our registered parishioners come to Mass at all.  How do we get that percentage up?  We continuously either squeak by or fall short financially, something that makes some goals we might set as undoable.  How do we rectify this situation so that money does not become an excuse why we do not forge in a particular area that we need to engage? Can we make fledgling programs like our new youth ministry and Friends of St. Martha not merely survive, but thrive?  How do we recruit and support the next priest and religious from among our own?  Between our school and PSR program, we have only a percentage of our children in any form of faith formation.  How do we up those percentages as well?  This is, by no means, a exhaustive list of questions or potential goals.  This is why more than merely pastor has to set a vision for how we carry out our call.
    The vision we set must be in union with Christ.  Any other vision is doomed to failure.  Too many times we approach ‘setting a vision’ in the parish or diocese as an exercise of fantasizing about reshaping the Church into what I personally feel it should be or come up with a crop of excuses as to why nothing can be done or at least why I should not have to be a part of it.  2020 is not about rescinding Vatican II, nor is it about holding our breath till Vatican III or until the church ‘wises up’ and sees some it teaches are inconvenient.  2020 is about seeing how we as fellow members of St Clement parish can cooperate with God’s grace and do our best to wildly thrive at doing that for which we receive any of the Sacraments at all.
    Some , no doubt, will wonder why we have to do this all.  We didn’t do it in the past.  Why is it so urgent that we do it now?  I would wager that because we didn’t do this in the past, it has led to most of the problems we have in the present.  There was time when 90-95% of our parishioners went to Mass,  Sure, it was decades ago, but it still happened.  Our school had a much bigger student body.  We used to have more registered families.  We used to have active youth programs.  I am sure if we looked at the parish in former days, we will find that we used to do and be more.  No doubt  a litany of excuses that prove ourselves helpless to stem the tide will gush forth.  How bad do things need to get, though, before we are finally provoked into engaging ourselves in the mission of Jesus Christ?  Holding our breath and waiting for what I feel are the ideal conditions (example: all the Masses go back to Latin, we ordain married men and women, the church changes its teachings on_______) only ensures our continued downslide.  No excuses!  No complaining and whining from the sidelines! It is time to engage!
    On Thursday, November 3rd, those who volunteered for the steering committee will meet.  What we are wanting to do is neither simple or easy.  This steering committee is always open to new members.  We will eventually move to town halls to further set concrete goals and a path to get to these goals.  The more involved, the better.
We will meet in the parish youth room.
    Let me be blunt: Indifference and apathy do not help, in fact, they are our major foes.  The idea of ‘let someone else do it’ has been the major reason we are experiencing our problems.  Each of us has a simple choice: We can be part of the problem or part of the solution:  Which of the two do you want to be able tell Jesus you were on the day of judgment…He’ll be asking.  This has to be embraced by the parishioners and lived there first and foremost; pastors come and pastors go, we can not tie a vision to any pastor; vision cannot be a result of a cult of personality.  Parishes cannot simply rise and fall by whoever happens to be living (or if we do nothing) or not living in the rectory. If we pull this off ( and I believe if we are in union with Christ, we will), St. Clement can become a prototype for other parishes and a sign of hope that cooperating with Christ bears concrete rewards.  It is our decision, though, to engage or go on with business as usual.  All things must start with prayer if we are authentic to our call as Christians.  I ask you to pray not only for the wisdom and guidance we will need to do this correctly, but to pray earnestly in how you and you family should be involved.

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