Happy Fathers’ Day! On this special Sunday, I pray that my father, affectionately known as Monk, and all our fathers feel honored for all their years and sacrifices for leading their family. I also hope that on every other day of the year, you, our fathers, feel how truly loved you are!
Perhaps it is fitting that on this special day for dads, as we continue our series on how to revitalize our church, we take a deeper look at how we can better worship our “Dad in heaven,” God our Father - not only in words of praise, but with our lives.
Now Saint, then Pope, John XXIII was elected in 1958. His favorite title was “Servant of the Servants of God.” The story is told about him that at bedtime, in a childlike manner, he put his trust in God and would say, “I’ve done my best I could in your service this day, Oh Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”
As churches across the Western world wither, it’s that careful balance of “doing the best we could in God’s service” and then “trusting the rest to the Lord” that is the perfect formula to revitalize our Church - one that embodies the vision of making disciples of Christ. Making disciples begs the questions:
What would it take to find an honest and humble way, where all people are nurtured by God’s sacramental grace that would empower each person to live every day as Church?
How could we be better grounded in God’s expansive love so as to generously serve others, especially the poor and most vulnerable?
What would it take to carry the liturgy outside the walls of St Teresa of Avila and teach our faith not only by our words but with our actions and daily example?
What would our lives be like if we were to discover that in feeding others, we ourselves are fed?
Jesus declared, “I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). No matter how this passage is interpreted, it speaks of a church that the gates of hell shall not prevail against and could never be destroyed. But, echoing the words of the beloved Saint John XXIII, we have to do our part, only only in working to build up the Church, but also ensuring not to destroy it!
Over the 2,000 years of our Church’s history, the mission has grown to include many things. The Catholic Church has been the sponsor of hospitals, nursing home, schools, universities, orphanages, dispensaries and so many other institutions that have cared for and assisted people. And although some recent revelations report that there have been some errors, even serious ones, for the most part the Church has cared for, assisted and loved people in all parts of the world.
The same can be said of our parish. For our more than 150-year history, St Teresa of Avila has stood proudly here in this community to celebrate the sacraments, educate children, feed the hungry, console the anxious, bury the dead and so on. But it goes without saying that the way we do what we do today is so different than at any other point in our history. All the circumstances of our current reality - staffing, engagement, finances, enthusiasm, etc all shape the kind of parish we have become - and there’s no turning back. We cannot, and should not, try to recreate the past.
We cannot do everything. The time has come to reduce the distractions, removing things that take us away from our mission. While this can be seen as a painful process, especially with the elimination even of good things, we need to focus on advancing our mission by participating in the most important things. Every parish has things we like, and people who like them, but in order to survive here and now, some programs, ministries and practices will have to be eliminated or reconfigured. Our time under quarantine has given us good opportunity and training for adaptation.
There is no doubt everyone has their pet project or ministry that they are willing to champion, protect and defend. However, the time has come to ask the hard questions for everything we do, “how does this help advance our vision to make disciples for Christ?” This question needs to be asked not only for this generation but in preparing for our unknown future. Exercising prayerful wisdom and discernment, we will begin the examination of our schedules, ministries, and opportunities to see what is really necessary going forward.
Today’s Catholic planners remind us that “programs were made for man/woman, not woman/man for programs.” Our goal here at St Teresa of Avila is to offer our parishioners the best worship, the most essential ministries, informative and creative education for children and adults, and meaningful service opportunities. The end result is always about people having an opportunity to encounter and become more like Jesus.
Despite the newness, and perhaps even the uncomfortableness, I hope you will join and support us as we re-configure our parish. I have every confidence that the best is yet to come!