Embracing the Mission to Evangelize
By: Mark Loyet, Director of Pastoral Ministry
Despite the pandemic and the plethora of restrictions and challenges to ministry it has brought, pastoral leaders across our diocese have been working hard to continue to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their communities. However, this is no easy task amidst the ever evolving landscape of safety protocols that our entire world is facing. One positive change that has come out of the shift from in person to mostly online meeting is that connectedness among leaders has actually increased…and that is not only good, but also new.
Before the pandemic, no matter what part of the country you looked at, typically, dioceses consisted of large numbers of parishes that pretty much existed like islands of ministry which were mostly disconnected from each other. But now that leaders everywhere have been thrust into completely uncharted ministry waters, cross-parish collegiality and collaboration have become more important than ever. Now it really matters what other parishes are doing. No one knows whether or not a new ministry strategy will work, but when sharing ideas and outcomes with colleagues, success spreads fast and mistakes can be avoided.
To help foster this collegiality, the Office of Pastoral Ministry hosted the first ever Convocation for Pastoral Leaders all across the diocese on August 4th. The theme was “Trading in Old Wineskins: A Missionary Approach to Ministry.” The Convocation was attended via Zoom by almost 60 pastoral leaders including priests, deacons, Directors of Religious Education, youth ministers, RCIA coordinators, social justice ministries, and volunteers from various backgrounds. Over 30 more viewed the recording online at a later date.
The convocation began with an invocation given by our very own, Bishop Francis Malone. Bishop Malone chose to give an invocation that was given at the beginning of every session of the Second Vatican Council. This set a beautiful tone as he invoked the Holy Spirit to come to us and help us each use the Gifts of the Spirit we have received through our Baptisms and Confirmations.
I then gave an introduction to the convocation and introduced our guest speaker, Matt Schwartz, who is a trainer and coach with the Parish Success group, which has succeeded in empowering parishes all across the United States to maximize the effectiveness of their ministry.
During the course of the main presentation, Matt highlighted areas in which the Church is primed for new strategies and how the Church has increasingly been calling pastoral leaders everywhere to evolve with the changing culture and needs of the people.
To summarize the overarching message of the day, the Church today is no doubt facing challenges that are 100+ years in the making, and unfortunately there are no 6 month solutions. In fact, there are no guaranteed solutions at all—that is with respect to programs, new strategies, and innovation. What we know is that our mission, to “…make disciples of all nations…,” (Matthew 28:19) has not, and will never change. However, our delivery system needs updating. We need to move away from using programmatic solutions to spiritual, relational, and pastoral problems. Now is the time to do what our church documents have been urging us to do for three generations: embrace our mission, empower families, and evangelize.
Now that being said, I would like to speak for the leaders across the diocese, and invite YOU into the mission field. Our Church cannot change the world without you. Our priests, deacons and parish staff cannot do it alone. They need your gifts…yes, YOU have gifts! My prayer is that if you are reading this article, you will take time to pray and ask God to show you where your gifts can be used at your parish. Make an appointment with a leader at your parish and ask how you can help. Your time equals spreading the Gospel, which in turn equals the salvation of souls—and that is why the Church exists.