The rapidly changing cultural situation in which we find ourselves requires that we think in new and creative ways. We need to be willing to jettison some old structures that no longer work and to experiment with new ones. As St. Paul tried different missionary strategies in different settings (cf. 1 Cor 9:19-23), so we need to be innovative, flexible, adaptable, unafraid to make mistakes, and willing to learn from the good ideas of others. (Archbishop Vigneron, Unleash the Gospel, Spirit of Innovation)
One of the greatest joys of my ministry is to meet with clergy and lay ministers in the field. I am inspired by their faith, missionary spirit, tenacity and creativity. Through their collective efforts, one can see how the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in the Archdiocese of Detroit and how our mandate to become a more missionary archdiocese is taking shape. In the work of ministry, it is important to celebrate wins and share the great ideas of others. This article highlights a few great ideas from one of our Wave 1 Family of Parishes that demonstrates a spirit of innovation and a way to engage people beyond the four walls of the Church.
The Merciful Love of Jesus Family of Parishes (Holy Family, Memphis; St. Augustine, Richmond; St. Mary Mystical Rose, Armada) is hosting a Christian Campout on the grounds of Holy Family Parish from Friday, Sept. 9 to Saturday, Sept. 10. I recently met with John Kowalski, Director of Engagement, who shared that soaring gas prices have prohibited many families in his area from vacationing this summer. Camping is a popular vacation activity in his community, and so the idea was born to host a unique, fun and family-friendly camping event locally. The planning team figured out a way to accommodate 29 campers in the parking lot and 10-15 tents in the surrounding grassy area.
Many fun events and activities are planned to engage the campers and the broader community including volleyball, cornhole games, a movie night for kids, a blessing of tents and campers, a potluck dinner, an evening bonfire, witness talks and more! Deacon Alan Gwozdz will give a talk titled, Jewish Traditions and the Catholic Faith, which will highlight the Festival of Booths, a pilgrim feast where thousands of Israelites camped out in Jerusalem to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance and his provision. The event will allow this Family of Parishes to showcase ministries and raise some funds through entry fees, donations, food sales and the Divine Mercy store. Security protocols have been established 24/7 to ensure the safety of the participants.
In addition, the Merciful Love of Jesus Family of Parishes is creating a culture of storytelling and testimony through their strong devotion to the Divine Mercy. Each parish within the Family has a Divine Mercy Prayer Box for prayer intentions and a Divine Graces Prayer Box. While the purpose of the Divine Mercy Prayer box is for prayer intentions, the Divine Graces box is for answered prayers. These answered prayers are published in the weekly bulletin to show that God does answer prayers and to encourage others to share their stories. John affectionately calls these stories “Ghost stories” to help people see how the Holy Ghost is at work in the day-to-day lives of average parishioners.
Jesus himself was a storyteller. His modus operandi was to enter a town and begin telling stories: “A man had two sons…” (Lk 15:11), “A sower went out to sow…” (Mt 13:3), “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” (Lk 10:30). We live in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to God. The catechism reminds us that the bond of man to God can be forgotten, overlooked or explicitly rejected for reasons such as religious ignorance, indifference, cares and riches of the world, scandal, currents of thought hostile to religion and sin. (CCC 29) However, our testimonies have the power to rouse curiosity and decrease hostility toward God.
The Merciful Love of Jesus Family of Parishes exemplifies a spirit of innovation and docility to the Holy Spirit through their teamwork, prayerful discernment and creativity. I hope that their story inspires your Family of Parishes!
If you would like to submit a great idea or best practice to be highlighted in this newsletter, please send it to [email protected].