Greetings Faithful Parishioners in Christ,
After I arrived in our two parishes and got introduced to how our parishes have been operating, I focused on our parish religious education programs. This was necessary since they had to quickly get started, and the Director of Religious Education in Sacred Heart Parish decided to resign her position. I have always wanted my parishes to be missionary focused with evangelization (bringing people personally to Christ), making Christian disciples, and developingChristian disciplesto become local parish missionaries who evangelize in thanksgiving for the gift of salvation and want to share the Gift of the Holy Spirit with others. This meant our parish religious education programs had to be reworked to become Youth Faith Formation (YFF) parish missions.
I knew I was taking a big risk in making some big changes quickly, but it had to be done for the sake of our parish children. I tried my best in the limited time I had to explain many things through homilies, bulletin and parent letter writings, teaching at missionary team meetings, Parish Council meetings, etc. As expected, our parishioners had the whole range of reactions and responses. Some people caught the vision and understood what I was trying to do the more they looked into my communications; others, took a wait and see approach, others had difficulties with me, etc. I certainly made mistakes along the way. I apologize, but I also hope more and more parishioners have patience with me and answer the Call of Christ to engage.
I have had some very encouraging indications and confirmations that we are definitely on the right track. One example is the following: Early on, I referred to St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter with the Latin title Redemptoris Missio (in English “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer) and the English title “On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate.” I said the mission of our parishes has to be the Mission of Christ and His Church. I insisted that we need to keep this focus.
After this, I received a phone call request from a couple touring through Onida. They asked if they could park their camper overnight in the St. Pius X Church parking lot. I approved of it. On Tuesday, August 24 th , 2021 I started our first meeting in the church with parishioners who were interested in being involved in this new YFF initiative. This couple came into the back of the church to pray, wondering what we were doing.
After we had a prayer service where I preached on the need for our religion teachers to become catechists and I dismissed them to the parish hall, I briefly talked to this couple to explain to them what I was trying to do in our parishes. The retired deacon said that is exactly the problem, we have been having religion teachers in parishes instead of catechists. The following Sunday morning, I arrived at St. Pius X Church. The camper was gone, and I found a copy of Redemptoris Missio on the sacristy counter with the following note: Fr., My most recent re-read. May help with your dream for missionary catechesis. Thanks for sharing your parking lot and allowing us to pray in the church. Deacon Jim Black.
I shared this Divine Providence confirmation in my homily immediately at that Sunday Mass on August 29 th , 2021, the Sunday after our first Wednesday YFF missionary session. One thing is clear in our Sacred Scripture readings for this Sunday. As we hear in the Gospel of Mark (9:30-37) Jesus told