Advent Update from our Parish Vitality Facilitator

A Game Changer Event!!!: A reflection on last months Parish Vitality Conference

 

In hockey they say that goals change games. The same can be said of last month’s Parish Vitality Conference and the future direction of the Catholic Church of Montreal.

I had the great pleasure of representing the Pillars Trust at the Parish Vitality Conference held at Loyola High School on Nov 16 & 17, along with several board members (John Murphy, Michael Kieran, Mark Shalhoub, Mary Campbell, Michael Gentile, Fr Ray Lafontaine, Fr Luc Lantagne and Deacon Richard Brisebois). This is an event organized every two years by the Office of English Pastoral Services (OEPS) at the Archdiocese of Montreal, in partnership with the English Speaking Catholic Council (ESCC). The Pillars Trust is the primary financial sponsor for this event, which brought together not only members of our English Catholic community and visitors from outside our diocese, but for the first time also included many parish representatives from the Francophone and Cultural communities in Montreal. Inspired by Archbishop Lepine’s pastoral theme for this year, “Together on a Mission”, this edition of the Parish Vitality Conference was a true gathering of the universal church in Montreal.

From the Archdiocese of Montreal, there were parish representatives from 23 English, 12 French, and 5 Cultural parishes. From outside our diocese we also received visits from 3 English, 12 French, 8 non-parish groups. In total, this year’s conference was attended by over 350 people, compared to  270 participants from the 2016 conference.

More impressive then the statistics, however, were the reactions of the people who attended. Person after person who I spoke with at the conference felt a genuine sense of hope and renewed belief that the renewal of our church here in Quebec is possible. The key-note speaker, Fr James Mallon E.V. from the Archdiocese of Halifax (founder of the Divine Renovation Ministry) spoke passionately about the reasons why parish renewal is imperative, and on the principles of leadership necessary to make it happen. His message resonated with virtually everyone in attendance. In addition, Fr Michael Leclerc and his Senior Leadership Team from St Ignatius of Loyola parish provided a concrete example of what it looks like to lead a parish through a Divine Renovation during their panel interview.

I was also personally honored to have been invited to animate one of the afternoon workshops at the conference. I shared insights gathered from my first year and a half working as parish vitality facilitator.  Through these discussions we began to articulate some concrete next steps for how to apply the fundamental principles taught at the conference with our respective parishes.

Although the conference is over, there remains a genuine buzz in the community and an opportunity for the Pillars Trust to continue to lead the way forward in this emerging movement towards greater vitality in all our parishes. On Saturday January 26, I will be joining the OEPS in leading a conference follow-up event to further equip our parishes with more practical tools to turn the enthusiasm they received from the conference into concrete action!

As we continue our Advent journey toward the celebration of our Lord’s Birth at Christmas, we invite all friends of the English Catholic community near and far to please consider renewing your support of parish vitality in Montreal by making a donation to the Pillars Trust. Every dollar we receive will continue to be invested right back into our English Catholic community through our many beneficiaries, making our community “Catholic Strong”!

Message from the President – Fall 2018

Dear Friend,

Greetings from John Murphy, President of Pillars Trust Fund Inc. (Pillars) and Rev. Raymond
Lafontaine E.V. Pillars is the sole fund-raising organization specific to the English-language portion
of the Montreal Roman Catholic Archdiocese. We seek your financial support in this our 46th year.

We urge you to read our enclosed newsletter “The Column”. It explains more fully why we chose
“Catholic Strong!” as our 2018 campaign theme. It details the many wonderful projects that Pillars
has supported or initiated during the past year. It also addresses the dismay that we and all Catholics
felt in learning the extent to which so many young children suffered abuse by members of the
clergy. In “The Column” you will find links to various statements of condemnation with a strong
determination to prevent it from ever happening again. For our part and in our sphere of activity
we must not be disheartened, but we must faithfully carry-on as followers of Christ, continue with
our much-needed good works with the support from each other along with our dedicated clergy.

“Catholic Strong!” encompasses (among other subjects) the ongoing strong bonds being built by
Pillars with parishioners and priests to support them in their work towards greater parish vitality.
To that end we engaged Terrel Joseph as our Parish Vitality Facilitator. With his expertise and
experience, he is focused on supporting the vital role that clergy and lay leaders play in the vitality
of our diocese, parishes and family life.

Our theme is also underscored by our support of the Diocesan Priesthood Guild (DPG), which helps
defray the seminary costs of young seminarians to the priesthood (of which there are four this year).
We chatted with Father Peter Sabbath, a recipient of assistance from the DPG and pastor at
St. Thomas à Becket church, about working with Terrel to enhance parishioner engagement at
St. Thomas à Becket.

“Catholic Strong!” begins with our youth. Read about Pillars’ successful cooperation with Mission
Jeunesse, which sent 44 local teens to the Steubenville Catholic youth conference in Toronto in July.

In a nutshell and with your help, Pillars continues to donate to causes and initiatives that build a
strong Roman Catholic community in the English-language parishes of Montreal.

The success of our campaign again requires the strength of prayer and we again call upon the patron
saint of parish priests worldwide, Saint John Mary Vianney (Curé of Ars), to be the Special Patron of
our 2018 Fundraising Campaign. Read on for some exciting news, which we feel is due, in no small
way, to the special blessings he has brought to those considering priestly vocations in Montreal.

Your donation to the 2018 Pillars Trust Fund Campaign is an investment. It ensures a strong
missionary community living The Gospel. Our work together will continue to ensure that your
donations serve the temporal and spiritual development of people in Montreal. Please be
generous, we all benefit. Let us be “Catholic Strong!”.

Sincerely in Christ,

John G. Murphy Rev.                                         Raymond Lafontaine E.V.
President                                                           Director, Office for English Pastoral Services, Pastor, St. Monica Parish

EASTER REFLECTION FROM OUR PARISH VITALITY FACILITATOR

EASTER REFLECTION FROM OUR PARISH VITALITY FACILITATOR – TERREL JOSEPH

Pillars this Easter: The Resurrection of Jesus and signs of life in the Church

 

Greetings everyone,

First off…Christ is Risen!!!  Truly He is risen alleluia!!!!

With Holy Week behind us, we have just kicked off the Easter season, in which the Church invites us to reflect on and appreciate anew the fact that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead just over 2000 years ago.  Through our faith in Him and our baptism into His Church, we all share in the hope of the resurrection of our own bodies and of the whole world at the end of time.  Pretty cool stuff if you sit down and really think about it!

As Catholics, at our core we are people of the Resurrection.  People who live in the hope of the life of the world to come, and in the hope of the resurrection of the Church and our world, right here and now.

Since its inception in 1972, the Pillars Trust Fund has been an organization living in the spirit of the Resurrection.  Its initial mandate from Bishop Crowley called us, among other things, to “encourage individual initiative”.  Individual initiative and the leadership required to make it happen has long been the engine driving growth and renewal in the Church.

As winter 2018 slowly draws to a close (emphasis on “slowly”), we can look proudly back at the many “individual initiatives” undertaken by our beneficiaries that have helped to bud new life into many different corners of the English speaking Catholic community.

Catholic Professionals Network event 

On Thursday February 8, Sacred Heart High School hosted the latest Catholic Professionals Network event, sponsored by The Pillars Trust.  The mission of these events is to draw together Catholic working professionals from all over the island for an evening of relationship-building and reflecting on our shared catholic faith. This year’s key-note address was given by Deacon Marco Argentino of St Ignatius of Loyola parish.  He gave a moving testimony about his faith journey and the discovery of his vocation to be a family man, a business man, and a deacon. Over 100 people attended.

Challenge 38

On the weekend of Friday, March 9 to Sunday, March 11, the Montreal Catholic Challenge Movement (Challenge) held their 38th bi-annual Challenge weekend retreat for young adults.  This Spring’s retreat was co-sponsored by The Pillars Trust.  Challenge is a Catholic movement run by and for young adults , promoting evangelization and engagement in the life of the Church.  Like all Challenge retreats, Challenge 38 was the fruit of months of planning on the part of over 50 young adult volunteers.  The Challenge movement is also entering its 20th year of ministry in Montreal, having been co-founded in October 1998 by Bishop Thomas Dowd, V.G., among others.

Human Rights and Bioethics: A Workshop on the Critical Questions

On Saturday, March 17th , the Newman Centre hosted a panel discussion and workshop discussing questions related to bio-ethics, co-sponsored by The Pillars Trust.   The Newman Centre hosted this event in partnership with the newly founded Gianna Molla Society, Cardus, the Association Jérôme Lejeune des médecins catholiques de Montréal and the Diocesan Centre for Marriage, Life and Family.  The afternoon of activities was capped off by the Newman Catholic Students Society’s traditional Saturday Night Supper, which is a homemade meal prepared by the students.

The Lenten Armchair Retreat

The 6 weeks of Lent this year also saw the continuation of a decades-old annual collaboration between the Ignatian Spirituality Centre and the Newman Centre, known as the Arm Chair Retreat. Each Lent, trained spiritual directors from the Ignatian Centre are paired with students from the Newman Centre for 6 weeks of one-on-one spiritual direction.  Both the Ignatian Centre and the Newman Centre are long time beneficiaries of The Pillars Trust.  We are proud to see our beneficiaries working together towards a common goal.

Parish Vitality Conference November 2018

While this event is still many months away, the Office of English Pastoral Services (OEPS) at the Archiocese, in partnership with the English Speaking Catholic Council (ESCC), is busy coordinating and planning the next Parish Vitality Conference.  This November’s key note speaker will be Fr. James Mallon, E.V. of Parish Renewal for the Archdiocese of Halifax and author of Divine Renovation: From maintenance to mission.  The Pillars Trust is proud to co-sponsor both the ESCC and the Parish Vitality Conference.

As we move into spring, we at the Pillars Trust will continue to seek out “individual initiatives” like these to help to build up the life of the Church and manifest the Resurrection of Jesus right here in Montreal today.

Terrel Joseph,

Parish Vitality Facilitator

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

Lenten reflection from our Parish Vitality Facilitator

Lenten reflection from our Parish Vitality Facilitator – Terrel Joseph

Pillar’s this Lent: Journeying with young people to the foot of the Cross of Jesus

Greetings everyone,

As we continue through these early weeks of this year’s Lenten season, I wanted to share with you a short reflection on the gospel for the second week of Lent. I will also be outlining some of the tremendous work of youth ministry in our Archdiocese made possible in part by The Pillars Trust Fund.

Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent 2018

Mark 9:2-10: The Transfiguration of our Lord

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

                And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbit, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

                Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

                As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

During Lent, the Church invites us to journey with Jesus to the foot of the cross on Calvary and to witness again the greatest of all acts of love. In a few short weeks, we will re-live Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and remember again our Lord’s death and resurrection.

The Gospel account of the Transfiguration of our Lord on the mountain top is rich in meaning.  However, the one theme I would like to reflect on briefly is the last line of the gospel passage when Peter, James and John wondered for themselves, “what this rising from the dead could mean.”

Along with these three apostles, we can ask ourselves: What does it mean, not only to rise from the dead at the end our days, but also to be resurrected and transfigured in our world today. The promise inherent in this event is good news for people of all ages, but is especially good news for young people.

This past Sunday’s gospel was a reminder that God wants to transform our lives right here and now.  One powerful example of this is the way Christ has inspired His Church to reach out to teenagers and young adults, to help them encounter Him and experience this transfiguration.

For many years now, The Pillars Trust Fund has been a proud sponsor of youth ministry in Montreal in a number of different ways. One of its primary financial beneficiaries is Mission Jeunesse, the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office. This dedicated team of passionate women and men is devoted to helping young people encounter Jesus and become His disciples.

Take a look at Mission Jeunesse’s special Lent Challenge email to young people for this year Click Here

A sizable portion of donations to the Pillars Trust Fund goes to Mission Jeunesse, enabling them to organize major events like Diocesan World Youth Day (WYD). This event takes place every year at the beginning of Holy Week on the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend. The Archbishop of Montreal invites young people from all over the diocese to join him for a day to celebrate young people living in the heart of the Church, and to journey with him all the way to the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Diocesan WYD typically begins with parallel “youth festivals” for teens and for young adults, respectively. This is followed by a procession with palm branches through the streets of Montreal to St Patrick’s basilica for a blessing and then on to Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral.  The event concludes with Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, including a dramatized reading of the Passion of Our Lord.  Well over 1000 young people attend each year, their lives touched and often transformed by Christ through this event.  This year Diocesan WYD will take place on Saturday March 24, 2018.

Take a look at the Archbishop’s invitation to the youth of Montreal for Diocesan WYD 2018, and please share it with all the young people in your parish Click Here

In addition to sponsoring youth initiatives indirectly through Mission Jeunesse, The Pillars Trust Fund also supports youth ministry directly through other projects.

One of our big youth investments for 2018 is to help local teens (14 to 18 years old) attend the Steubenville Toronto Youth Conference. The Steubenville conferences were developed at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio.  Over the decades, these conferences have spread all over North America and become known as the “best of the best” of Catholic youth events.  The next Steubenville Toronto conference is planned for July 13-15, 2018, and over two thousand young people from Canada and the United States are expected to gather for three days of music, prayer, world class speakers, Eucharistic Adoration, and the sacraments.  Steubenville conferences have a reputation for challenging lukewarm Catholic teens to light their faith on fire.  Corpus Christi parish in the West Island of Montreal has brought several groups of teens to Steubenville conferences, which have inspired several of their young people to become leaders in their parish youth ministry.  This sort of transformational (transfiguration!) experience is the hope of the 5+ parishes who are already committed to sending youth from Montreal to this conference with the help of The Pillars Trust Fund.

This year’s Steubenville Toronto Conference is taking place July 13-15, 2018. For more information, check out the event website (http://www.steubenvilletoronto.com), and contact our Parish Vitality Facilitator (terrel@pillarstrust.org) and/or Mission Jeunesse (jeunesse@diocesemontreal.org) for more details.

Our hope for this special one-time investment in this year’s Steubenville Toronto delegation is that this year’s multi-parish delegation will be the first of many from Montreal in the years to come, ultimately strengthening the faith of hundreds of future Catholic leaders for tomorrow’s Church.

So on behalf of all of us working for The Pillars Trust Fund, we would like to wish you a very blessed and holy Lenten season. We will continue to pray that you and the young people in your parish can experience the transfiguration of our Lord in your lives.

 

Take care and God Bless,

 

Terrel Joseph

Parish Vitality Facilitator

The Pillars Trust Fund of Montreal

 

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

Advent Video message from our Parish Vitality Consultant

Season’s Greetings! A video reflection on the gospel for the second Sunday of Advent

Greetings Friends & Happy Advent!

Click here: Advent video message from Terrel Joseph!

I recently had the great privilege of being invited by the Archdiocese of Montreal to share a short reflection on the gospel for the second Sunday of Advent. The gospel passage for this Sunday is the opening verses of Mark (Mk 1: 1-8):

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In my message, I spoke about how John the Baptist is challenging us to prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, both with the celebration of his birth at Christmas, as well as with his second coming at the end of time. I concluded my message by underscoring that John is also calling us to prepare to encounter Christ, today, in the midst of our ordinary lives, and in our parishes.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est published on Christmas Day 2005, that “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

So I invite you to prepare with me this Advent to be ready for this encounter or re-encounter with Jesus Christ, and pray with me that our parishes can continue to increase their ability to be places where ordinary people experience this encounter.

And last but not least, my work this year in parish vitality and all the other good works in the English Catholic Community supported by the Pillars Trust, are only possible because of the ongoing generous financial support of ordinary Catholics like yourself.

So this Advent, I invite you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the annual campaign of the Pillars Trust Fund by clicking here (insert link to donate now page).

God Bless you all and happy Advent,

 

Terrel Joseph

Parish Vitality Consultant

The Pillars Trust Fund

 

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

Christmas Message from the President

December 2017

Dear Friend,

Greetings from John Murphy, President of Pillars Trust Fund.

In these waning days of this blessed season of Advent, we are readying ourselves and preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It’s sometimes difficult to remain focussed on what’s important about Christmas and too easy for our preparation to be sidetracked by the “noise” of our busy lives.

But at the end of the day, what matters is that we love God, love others as ourselves and spread the joy and the light we share as Christians to our families, our community and beyond.

In this spirit of giving, and if you haven’t done so already, I would humbly request that you consider making a donation to Pillars in support of our 45th annual fundraising campaign.

If you have donated, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your generous support to our beloved Roman Catholic Church in the Montreal archdiocese.

Your gift ensures that good works for those in need are sustained, projects to revitalize our parishes are launched and programs to help our hardworking and dedicated pastors and priests are implemented.

When you donate to the Pillars Trust Fund, we all benefit. Please be generous.

 Merry Christmas to you and yours,

 

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

Adventures of a Parish Vitality consultant – Episode 5

Episode 5: Reflections on the Newman Centre and other Unsung Heroes – my experience in campus ministry at McGill

 

Tuesday November 28, 2017 started out as an ordinary day for me. Follow-up emails and phone calls to parish leaders in the morning, and a series of meetings with my vitality advisory committee in the afternoon. But then after work I was treated to a very special evening at a very special place.

Members of the board of directors, staff, and students of the Newman Centre of McGill University held a pot luck dinner in honor of the completion of my six years of service as their campus minister.

It was a night of delicious food, and reminiscing on all the memories that we have built together as a community. Especially touching were the testimonies of former students and friends from many years ago who came out to show their appreciation for me and for the Newman Centre.

People who work in pastoral ministry I’m sure will agree with me that we can sometimes feel a bit like farmers. We scatter seeds of God’s word in people’s lives, and sometimes we are not always around to see those seeds grow into plants that bear fruit.

This is especially true in campus ministry where most of our students are in and out in four years. But nights like Tuesday remind us that our labours are not in vain and that God does bless his servants’ efforts with fruit on His own time.

The 11 years I spent frequenting that cute early 20th century era mansion house on Peel street that is home to the Newman Centre and my interactions with all its staff that preceded me have had a massive impact on my becoming the committed Catholic and the missionary disciple of Jesus Christ that I am today.

Her bible studies helped me to gain a mature appreciation of the beauty of God’s word in sacred scripture. Her Saturday Night Suppers and student socials allowed me to build lasting friendships with other young Catholics that I still cherish to this day. Her lectures and academic events gave me a taste of the rich theological tradition of the Catholic Church. Her social justice events allowed me to experience the joy that comes from living out Jesus’ call to love even the least of our brothers and sisters. Her retreats helped me experience the power of contemplative prayer and learn how to speak to God as a friend. Her Faith Study small groups helped me to encounter Christ in a personal way and build my relationship with Him. Her catechesis and RCIA helped me to take a closer look at my specific questions about the content of our faith and the moral teachings of the Church. Her ecumenical events allowed me to experience both the beauty of fellowship with other Christians, as well as, the pain caused by the divisions in the Church that persist to this day. Her liturgies and accessible sacraments helped me worship God with unconfined joy and remain close to Him event amid the craziness of school.

But above all else, Newman Centre, from my time as a student, through my years on staff and up to this day, has always been for me and many others, a home away from home.

Today, while I no longer work directly for the mission of the Newman Centre, I do have the unique privilege of working for arguably the greatest of the unsung heroes of the Newman Centre, the Pillars Trust Fund. That long list of good works that I mentioned above that so affected my life personally and the lives of many other young adults would not have been possible without the consistent reliable support of the Pillars Trust Fund.

From its inception under the leadership of the late Bishop Crowley, the Pillars Trust Fund has been committed to supporting the Newman Centre, notably by assuming responsibility for a significant portion of its operating budget through its annual fundraising campaign. It is this support that has enabled the Newman Centre to do all the things that she does to enrich the lives of the students and faculty at McGill, one of Canada’s leading universities.

So while on Tuesday night I personally received the applause and edification of the Newman community for my brief contribution to her life and mission, today I would like to take this opportunity to raise my glass in toast to the men and women of the Pillars Trust Fund, who have worked so hard over the years  to raise and manage the funds necessary to keep the Newman Centre open, permitting her (and other organizations like her) to actively build up the Church in the English-speaking Catholic community of Montreal.

So I invite you to please pray for the new pastoral team at the Newman Centre and for all the past and present Board members of the Pillars Trust Fund who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make Newman’s mission possible.

Our lady of Ville Marie,

Pray for us!

Terrel Joseph

 

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

Adventures of a Parish Vitality Consultant – Episode 4

Episode 4: “We confirmed them…and they stayed!!” –  Teen mentorship @ St Veronica’s parish

 

Throughout my visits to English-language parishes in Montreal, one of the most common challenges identified is the poor retention rate of young people who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Across the diocese, it’s not uncommon to hear that 90% or more of confirmed young people and their families stop attending church altogether after the teen receives this last of the Sacraments of Initiation. There is even a popular joke among parish workers that the easiest and fastest way to get people to leave the church is to confirm them. Unfortunately, this joke often seems more accurate than it is amusing.

However, at St Veronica’s, at least one parish is defying this trend.

St. Veronica’s, situated in Dorval near the airport, is a typical busy, mid-sized West Island parish. Her pastor, Fr. Fred Kirouac, has been at the helm for 14 years now, and will typically see about 300-400 people attending their three Masses each weekend.  On any given evening, there might be a meeting of the Catholic Women’s League, the Knights of Columbus, or any of several other groups that use the parish building.  And on the weekend, their Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL), Beverly Wiltsie, runs a truly comprehensive family ministry that includes both the Faith First (FF) program and a very successful teen mentorship program.

Beverly is currently in her 11th year as PCL, and in her fourth year running the teen mentorship program she pioneered. Like many other success stories in parish ministry, this program was initially conceived in response to a need.  Attempting to improve retention of young people and their families after confirmation, Beverly invited the level 6 students in Faith First to help teach the level twos on a few occasions. Both the level two children and the level six teens loved the experience. After that initial cohort of level six students were confirmed in the Spring of 2013, Beverly decided to invite them back to help tutor younger students in Faith First. Fifteen teens returned from that “experimental” group to become mentors and tutors of the younger children. Four years later, she has maintained a group of about 15 teens ranging in age from 12 to 16 years old, who now help teach the younger children on a weekly basis.  The program has attracted an equal number of young men and young women.

When I asked Beverly what makes the teens want to stay involved, she said she suspects it has a lot to do with giving them a genuine way to serve and a true sense of belonging to the community. Over the four years of the program, Beverly has made small adjustments to increase the visibility, responsibility, and recognition of the young teens. Early on, for example, she gave them personalized name tags to identify them as official leaders in their ministry. In the second year, she started inviting the teens to participate every Sunday in the offertory procession with the younger children. At the end of each year, she also hosts a presentation after Mass where the teens are given awards to recognize them for their contributions to the ministry.

Every year, Beverly trains a new generation of potential teen mentors by inviting the level 6 teens to tutor the level twos. She typically has no difficulty in recruiting older students to try the program, because they have grown up watching their older siblings and friends return as teen mentors, making it an integral part of the parish culture.  Another positive side effect of the young people’s continued involvement is that they often bring their parents back to the Church. After all, someone has to drive them to Mass!

In his book Growing an Engaged Church, Albert Winseman, a Gallup poll researcher specialized in religious congregations, notes that the principal factor that driving parish vitality is the concept of Congregational Engagement. Engagement measures the emotional bond individuals have with each other and their parish. Engaged members use language of the family to describe their parish, and ask two key questions: (1) Am I valued? And (2) Do I make a meaningful contribution? Research shows that the engaged are more loyal and more likely to invite, serve, give and be satisfied with life. They develop meaningful relationships within their parish, report strong personal and spiritual growth, and are proud of their parish.

While not the only such program in Montreal, St. Veronica’s mentorship program stands out as one of the most successful efforts at retaining teens and their families after confirmation. By this standard, Beverly is obviously succeeding at engaging her teens by making them feel valued and helping them make a meaningful contribution to the parish.  These small things can go a long way towards improving vitality in a parish.

In my role as parish vitality consultant, I’m excited to continue studying the teen mentorship program at St. Veronica’s, to learn how this program is bearing so much fruit. I hope that the principles I learn at St. Veronica’s can help other parishes keep teens and their parents engaged in their congregations, in the years immediately after their confirmation and beyond.

Please pray for Fr. Fred, Beverly and all the leaders at St. Veronica’s, that the Holy Spirit will continue to bless their efforts at engaging the younger generation.

De Colores,

Terrel Joseph

 

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