Pillars Blog Friday, November 3, 2017
Adventures of a Parish Vitality Consultant
Episode 1: “Jesus loves you…and so does your pastor?!?”
When I started my new role 4 months ago as a consultant for parish vitality, I was given a unique mandate to visit all 34 English language parishes in the Archdiocese of Montreal. Other than Bishop Dowd, I’m not sure if anyone else in recent memory has attempted to visit all of them. I must admit that I thought that since all these parishes (except Holy Name of Jesus in Laval) were all on one relatively “small island” that my visits would quickly become routine.
But on the contrary, the actual experience of visiting 20 of these parishes so far has given me new appreciation for the share size of our “little island” and the amazing diversity of our parish communities, both in terms of their cultural and socio-economic makeup, as well as, the diversity of pastoral styles and approaches used by their leaders.
I’ve meet with big parishes like St Kevin’s that sees over 2000 people at Mass every weekend, and I’ve meet with small parishes like St Francis of Assisi that sees about 150 people each weekend. I’ve met with very busy parishes like St John Brebeuf that sees activity virtually every night of the week, and calmer parishes like Holy Cross which focus on only a few key pastoral initiatives for their neighbourhood. I’ve meet with pastors who are brand new in this role, and I’ve meet with pastors who have been in the same place for several decades.
The only thing in common across the board is the love our pastors have for Jesus, and their love for us, their parishioners. All our pastors seem to love their parishioners with what can best be described as a love of a father for his family.
Our parishes, like our families can be dysfunctional at times. And our pastors, just like our fathers will never be perfect men, but based on my meetings so far they are nevertheless all men striving every day to love us to the best of their abilities. So while all of our parishes are somewhere on the spectrum of lesser or greater vitality, their pastors’ faith in Christ and love for his community is something that every parish can build on towards a brighter future.
Another observation that I’ve made across the board is that being a pastor is a very tough job. Pastors have to simultaneously be administrators, spiritual fathers, teachers, emotional support, complaint handlers, role models, team leaders, and community builders, just to name a few of their more obvious roles. They often have to be all things for all peoples without losing their sense of who they are and what their mission is. No easy task!
Over the coming months, I would like to take you on a tour of our parishes, and share with you their beauty and complexity; their common challenges; their unique strengths; and some of the new initiatives taking place to help them progress towards greater parish vitality.
I believe that the future of our parishes and the English Catholic community in Montreal is bright for all who have the courage to believe in it and fight for it! I invite you to believe again with me in the dream that is the Catholic Church of Montreal, and fight with us to help her to become fully alive.
In the second century, one of the fathers of the Church, St Irenaeus of Lyon, wrote that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive”. If we are able to give God glory when one human being comes alive, imagine how much more glory we can give to God by helping every individual in an entire parish community to become fully alive. This is the goal of parish vitality! To create whole communities of people who have become “fully alive” in Jesus Christ and who are sent out to invite others to come and experience the same.
So with our pastors in mind, I would like to conclude this first blog post with a call to action to everyone who loves their parish. I would like to invite everyone to pray for our priests. To pray for the strengthening of the passion and perseverance of these men who have given up pursuing their own personal ambitions in order to dedicate their entire lives towards building up God’s Kingdom here in Montreal. Parish life, like family life, can be very complicated and at times we might not always like our father or our priest. But we are called to love our fathers and our priests all the same, and it’s their vocation/mission in life to love us in return to the best of their ability. Thanks be to God!
If you’re excited by the work you’re seeing in your community, especially through those efforts of the Pillars Trust Fund, please consider Donating to our campaign: Click here