Transforming Our Parishes
What I like most about Pope Francis is his pastoral and positive approach to fostering the Catholic faith around the world. I admire his willingness to build relationships with other religions; to courageously cross social barriers with acts of mercy and compassion; to denounce clericalism; to challenge us to safe-guard the resources of our planet; to live simply; and his genuine concern for the poor and the outcasts of society. As our spiritual leader, Pope Francis is a shepherd who is willing to look at new and creative ways of shepherding, and bringing about the Kingdom of God.
When it comes to parish life and ministry, Pope Francis offers these words that reflect his open mindedness. He states, “I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary which cannot leave things as they presently are. ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission.’” (The Joy of the Gospel, #25)
This September, with the assistance of the Archdiocese of Chicago, our two parishes and school community will participate in the Parish Transformation Program. The best way for me to describe this 12-week program is that it gives us the opportunity to take three steps back and look at what we are doing and how we are functioning today as two independent parishes with a vibrant Catholic school, all in relationship to the mission of Jesus Christ.
The Parish Transformation Program invites parishes to reflect upon its gifts and talents as a way of fostering a clearer sense of direction and purpose. Some of the questions posed to us are:
- What is our parish identity and overall vision that reflects the mission of Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parishes?
- What are our gifts?
- How is the community around us changing?
- What are our challenges and opportunities?
For Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph our situation is unique, complex and yes, sometimes confusing. The ultimate goal of the Transformation Parish Program is to formulate and realize a unified pastoral vision with a concrete plan that links our commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ and our parish resources.
All Archdiocesan parishes are expected to participate in the Parish Transformation Program. Nearly 150 parishes across 6 vicariates and of all types have begun the Parish Transformation Program between the Fall of 2011 and early 2015. The parishes that have participated have been large and small communities, city and suburb, flourishing and struggling. Regardless of the parish’s current situation, the Parish Transformation program offers each parish an opportunity to take the next step forward in becoming a more vibrant mission-focused parish.
How does the Parish Transformation Program work?
First, a Steering Committee is created by the pastor which is typically comprised of 3 to 5 lay leaders who support the pastor and facilitator in the Parish Transformation process. Then a General Parish Transformation Team is created where typically 30 - 40 participants attend the 12-week program that is facilitated by the Archdiocese.
The members of the General Team will represent a cross-section of our two parishes and school community. The General Team will have participants who are new to our parish community, as well as those who have been actively involved for many years. The General Team will consist of parents who have enrolled their children into our Religious Education Program; parents who send their children to our Catholic School; and families that have no children. The General Team will represent those who are single, married, widowed or divorced. It is important that the General Team accurately reflect and represent the diversity of our community.
More information about the Parish Transformation Program is available at the Archdiocese Parish Transformation website. The Parish Transformation Steering Committee will provide weekly updates in the bulletin and on our parish website as we journey through the 12- week process.
As we start the Parish Transformation Program in September, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our reflection and planning for the future. I am excited about the opportunity to work with a vast and talented group of parishioners who are committed to enhancing the life of our parishes.
One image that sticks in my head is that of the pilot who boards the airplane and steps into the cockpit while the plane is parked at the gate and the passengers grab their seats. I’ll look down the center aisle to check and see if the pilots carry with them any paperwork, or maps or printouts. It would probably not be a good thing if a pilot asked the flight attendant, “So… where are we headed to?” Even shepherds need a good spiritual compass to guide and lead their flocks.
The Assumption of Mary – August 15th
The feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven was designated on our church’s liturgical calendar to be celebrated on Saturday, August 15th. This year, because the feast day falls on a Saturday, it is not a holy day of obligation. However, feel free to attend our regular weekly Saturday morning Mass at 7:30 AM at Immaculate Conception Church. We will remember Mary’s faithfulness to God and the gift of her heavenly reward.
A Summer Success
During the summer, our parishes hosted a 6-week Scripture Study featuring the video presentations of noted biblical scholar Father Donald Senior, a professor at the Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago. The series was well attended and will resume again in October on Saturday mornings, with 6 new topics that will be explored. Here are some reflections from those who participated in the program this summer.