Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Difference Does it Make?

Those of us who have experienced or are experiencing a deeply engaged parish, one in which people really feel they belong, know the difference engagement makes. Often, though, it takes a story or two to paint the picture of engagement for others.

What difference does belonging make in your life? Share your story here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grow and Go!

I have just returned from Green Bay, WI followed by Sacramento, CA. It would seem at first glance that these are two very different places, yet the folks in both expressed similar dreams and hopes for their people, and similar desires to be effective leaders at this time in our Church's life. Wonderfully, people in both places also said it seems to them that we are at a graced moment in time; while there are obvious and many challenges in our parishes and dioceses, there also seems a renewed life and focus that can be of benefit in the coming months and years.

People spoke of their hope that all in their community will experience Christ and will have an openness to lifelong conversion in Christ;

They hope that people of all ages, ethnic groups, and stages of faith will find ways to come together as the Body of Christ;

They desire ways to encourage engagement among their members, and are now ready to intentionally shape their life together to encourage such engagement;

They hope that younger adults will find ministry as life-giving as they do;

They find strength in each other and plan to continue to network to enhance learning.

In the words of Fr. Tamayo, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Elk Grove, CA, "we need to grow, and go!" Growing together as Christ's people necessarily calls us out in mission -- we need to grow, and go, out to all the world in love, mercy, and service.

What comes to mind for you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gratitude and Generosity: Now is the Time!

Last week during a presentation, I shared my conviction that we as pastoral leaders need to form people toward gratitude for the abundance of our blessings, and toward generosity as a response to God's gracious goodness. I said that it seemed that many seem to feel a sense of entitlement, saying "I worked for what I have, I am entitled to it."

Last week's group reacted energetically, with overt groans and heads bobbing. It felt as though I had named something that is on people's minds and in their hearts, pressing upon us as a critical need in a time of social and cultural upheaval.

So I wonder, how are you fostering an attitude of gratitude in your own life at this time? How are you encouraging others to do so? In what ways are you and those around you responding in generosity?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Michael raises a good point. So often, we as pastoral leaders seem to want to boil everything down to a program. We mean well, but we fall easily into "just tell me what to do and I'll be happy to do it, particularly if you can guarantee some quick success." Many recognize the shortcomings of programmatic thought, but still, we are busy, we do all we can to respond to the needs of those in our midst, and so if there's an easy fix, why not take it?

The reality is, of course, there is no easy fix. Our solutions are not programmatic, but are rooted in the ways in which we understand ourselves as disciples and the ways in which we know the parish to be "the locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed." (OHWB, 117)

Viewing the parish as the place where disciples are formed changes how we proceed. I think that is why the information on engagement is so fascinating to me. It gives us a lens through which to view many of our practices, not in a programmatic way, but with an eye for what we can do to enhance what is already present and life-giving in our parishes. We come to see that there is much upon which to build, and much that we have to give as members of the body of Christ, graced with talents, urged forward to contribute to the reign of God through our witness and our actions.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beginning a Conversation

For many months as I have talked with people in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States, people have asked if I have a blog. Now, I can respond "yes," and through this blog, invite each of you into conversation with each other, and with me. Our topics are sure to center around the Catholic Church, and will likely focus on stewardship, engagement, strengths development, catechesis, and evangelization. As you share this blog address with your colleagues, please invite them to join us as we continue to learn from one another and share what inspires us, what challenges us, and where we find joy as we serve the Church as members of the body of Christ.

I have been thinking much in this past week about the ways in which stewardship is the underlying stream from which evangelization flourishes. This insight was clearly articulated by my friend and pastor, Fr. Jan Schmidt, and he echoed my own recent reflections on the interrelated nature of these two ways of living as disciples. Bishop Sylvester Ryan spoke last fall of evangelization and stewardship being two sides of the same coin.

What do you think? What is your experience? Let's talk!