“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:34-35).
When Randall Mosley first started attending St. Andrew and St. Benedict in Detroit, the parish community was primarily Polish-American and African American, with a small number of Hispanic members and visitors. During the next decade, the cultural makeup of the parish changed to primarily Hispanic. “The African American members aged or moved away, so did the Polish American. The Hispanic families continued to join. And when they attend church, they bring everybody.”
“They have brought their culture, especially culture of family — dad, mom, kids, grandparents, aunties, friends. They’ve brought their food, language, and devotions. It’s a beautiful sight to see all the families worshipping together,” explains Randall.
When asked what was displaced when the new families began to attend, Randall paused and answered, “very little.” “They didn’t replace traditions at SS. Andrew & Benedict — they added to them. Some things were put on the shelf, but we had new things to celebrate. It’s common to see tamales, rice, pierogies, and Southern food at parish events. It’s been a blessing.”
What is admirable about SS. Andrew and Benedict is how it has embraced its changed family. Randall remembers then-pastor Father Ed Zaorski being supportive and welcoming of newcomers. “Father Zaorski was intentional about including them in parish planning and activities. There was some pushback from current members, but Father Z was insistent that the parish would embrace its new members.” The results? “We have a parish community that prays, worships, dines together and serves the neighborhood, just as Scripture says to,” said Randall.
With Families of Parishes in effect, parishes are working to become smoothly working family groupings. Previously, parishes had developed ways to get church work done — committees, go-to volunteers or councils. What happens when new parishes are added in? Perhaps advice from Shared Parishes can help to make Families of Parishes blend more smoothly.
What is a Shared Parish?
“The term “shared parishes” describes parish communities in which two or more languages or cultural contexts are an integral part of the ministerial life and mission of a particular parish.” (USCCB. “Best Practice for Shared Parishes: So That They May All Be One, pg 1., 2014).
The Shared Parishes book gives a roadmap for welcoming new cultures, a map that may also be helpful with welcoming new parishes in the Families of Parishes process (p. 21). There are three phases noted on the map: Welcoming, Belonging, Ownership.
Welcoming: know the mission; be welcoming & hospitable; include new members/guests in pastoral planning.
Belonging: build relationships, develop cross-parish leaders, transition from host-guest to collaboration in decision-making (plan with NOT for).
Ownership: share resources, utilize diverse gifts of time, talent and treasure; ensure communion in mission.
The Missionary and Strategic Planning (MSP) team has done a great job of directing the Families of Parishes process and is available to help you navigate this process. MSP has resources, including the FOP playbook, to help your Family be its most successful. Please reach out to the team.
Also, as Families of Parishes evolves, take note: “Growing human mobility and ongoing population shifts require that our parishes be welcoming communities of disciples in a constant state of mission.” Keeping eyes and hearts open to change will help us navigate this dynamic church environment in which we minister.