“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have;
God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.”
One year after the official launch of Families of Parishes, we have much to be grateful for. The road has not been smooth, but the “spirit of cooperation” from Unleash the Gospel has set the tone for great success. Many of the Wave One Families of Parishes have completed their Missionary Strategic Plans, a process of joint goal setting across the parishes in the family. Through this process clergy, staff and lay leaders have discerned new and creative ways to bring people closer to Jesus and his Catholic Church.
What’s Definitely Not New
For those of us who have worked in outreach ministries, the “spirit of cooperation” has been at the heart of our service to others. Our St. Vincent DePaul Conferences have always worked together to help needy families. Outreach Coordinators have always organized ministry projects with the neighboring parish. Food banks have always been stocked and staffed by volunteers from across the community.
What’s Definitely New
As leaders in the Family of Parishes have reviewed their current outreach activities, a renewed vigor and vitality has grown among the leaders. This has been a great blessing to behold. At the Family Gathering Events where parishioners got to know each other, leaders took turns describing their parishes. Each of them proudly shared how many hot meals they had served, how many pounds of food they had collected and how many homeless guests they had housed. Instead of it being a time of competition between the parishes, it became a celebration for the whole Family of Parishes!
As the Missionary Strategic Plans have taken shape, a “spirit of innovation” has developed. As teams of leaders have discerned outreach opportunities for the Family of Parishes, innovative approaches to ministries have emerged. One Family of Parishes who hands out food to families, has started praying with the adults and children in the carline. Another Family of Parishes is planning to give each child attending Vacation Bible School a Bible to take home and read to their family. A school is planning to have students give handmade invitations to seniors in the area to help with an outreach project. Another group has scheduled a pilgrimage from Monroe to Detroit and is planning to serve people “en route.”
The implementation of Evangelical Charity programs and services can be accelerated via the Families of Parishes organizational structure. One Family is currently working to fully implement Walking With Moms in Need (WWMIN), a time of service in which Catholic parishes and communities "walk in the shoes" of local pregnant and parenting women in need. This Family formed a core team consisting of members from each parish and led by the Family’s Evangelical Charity Director. The goal is to be able to offer WWMIN at four parishes, rather than just one, with little additional effort.
Wave Two Begins
Wave Two of Families of Parishes is just beginning. Although we have improved the process, there will still be bumps in the road. Please be assured that those in outreach ministries are blazing the trail by offering cooperative, innovative opportunities to bring more souls to Jesus. Evangelical Charity is in our DNA as Catholics, and it grows stronger where two or more parishes are gathered, as a Family. Wave One was full of surprises from the Holy Spirit and we are excited to see what he will do in Wave Two!