I haven’t reported on our parish planning initiative, Making All Things New, for quite a while.
The decisions reached, after years of consultation and study, have now been in effect for fourteen months, and reports are good. Right now, archdiocesan leadership is meeting individually with each of the nearly seventy pastors now serving our merged parishes, listening to observations, discussing the future dispositions of the “second sites,” and discussing such matters as possible new names for the merged parishes, and the progress of unified trustees, staffs, organizations, and administration.
In the meantime, the “clusters” of parishes have reconvened, moving ahead on more expansive collaboration in areas such as Mass schedules, religious education, youth ministry, and sharing of parish managers.
What we have to keep in mind is the reason for all of this: not a reduction of parishes, although we realize we had way too many; not a downsizing in the massive expense of maintaining aging buildings no longer being used, as wise as that is; not better stewardship of the energy of our priests, deacons, and parish staffs, as urgent as that was. Indeed, those alone are pressing and convincing reasons for our parish planning.
No, the real motive for Making All Things New was to unleash us from the burden of maintenance so we could concentrate on mission! As Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and our current beloved Holy Father remind us, the Church is not at the service of buildings, boundaries, structures, what “has been,” but at the service of evangelization, passing on the invitation to know, love, and serve Jesus as His disciples in His Church.
As one wise priest observed, “We’re not about maintaining buildings but about filling them up!” We’re not managers but missionaries! The Church is not a “museum” about how things used to be but a “field hospital”—cf. Pope Francis—welcoming the wounded—you, me, and the folks “out there”—into the saving embrace of Jesus, the Divine Physician.
This essential step of Making All Things New begins to take place this Advent with a series of missions in each of the clusters of the archdiocese, to be followed by a second series next year, so that all of our vast archdiocese will host such events close by.
A mission is a classical part of the Church’s toolbox, as most of you can recall. Here’s what happens: the parishes of a cluster, gather for three evenings of prayer, listening to preaching, and celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick. Religious orders skilled in preaching missions, e.g., Dominicans, Paulists, Vincentians, and Franciscans, send priests to preach, encourage people, hear confessions, and help folks revive a faith that may have gotten tepid. That’s why this new initiative is called Revive: Faith Every Day; because all of us can use an opportunity to renew our commitment to Jesus and to follow Him each day. All parishioners are invited, and a special effort is made to encourage those who have “fallen away” to come home.
Missions work! Just last Tuesday, for instance, we celebrated the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, who founded a religious congregation, the “Vincentians,” or, technically, the “Congregation of the Mission,” and succeeded in reviving the dormant, lax faith of France four centuries ago. St. Alphonsus Liguori did the same with his Redemptorists, as did St. Paul of the Cross with his Passionists.
You can find more information about these exciting Revive missions by visiting www.FaithEveryDay.com. Check back often, as we will be adding testimonials from people after they attend these missions, as well as practical tips for living your faith every day. You will hear more about these in the coming weeks, but for now, here are two important points: First, will you please pray for this new effort and for the revival of our parishes and ourselves? Second, consider yourselves invited! This is what parish planning is really all about: “Making All Things”—especially our hearts and souls— “new.”