Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
I was giving a morning of reflection last Saturday morning near Hagerstown to the pastoral council of Saint Augustine’s Church in Washington, D.C. Their pastor, Fr. Pat Smith, asked me to come and give a presentation on Making Intentional Disciples and the fruits we have experienced at Saint Mary from the Called and Gifted Workshop.
By the way, did I mention, we have another Called and Gifted Workshop coming to our parish on October 9 and 10?
Anyway, I returned here that day to a flurry of activity. Volunteers were setting up for what became not only the most beautifully-weathered Parish Life Weekend we have ever had, but also the most successful. There was a spirit of real goodness, enthusiasm, and mission among all the people who spent the weekend at tables telling parishioners about their ministries and inviting them to join in service. More parishioners than ever before came over after Mass and visited with parish leaders and learned about different ministries. We have rarely had such a perfect day with regard to call and response. Maybe we are beginning to really take our thankfulness seriously, reflecting on the gifts we have received and doing something about it.
The proof will be this weekend and in the few weeks to come, to see if people follow through with their Commitment Cards.
Please remember, please fill out a new card, even if you are simply continuing to do what you did last year. Without a new card submitted, you will not be counted. Commitments must be renewed!
The experience at Parish Life Weekend was so amazing. One of the texts from Sherry Weddell’s book kept going through my mind and I thought I’d reprint it here for your reflection. It is about one woman’s experience, Ellen Piper, who changed the lives of many. She is a licensed social worker who leads Boise’s Catholic Worker community. She helped found the first day shelter for the homeless in the state and also started two transitional houses for homeless men and women while getting her M.A. in social work. She began twelve years before as a restless parishioner:
“I had a nagging sense of a call to do something. I was praying and saying, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ I had a dream in which I heard the words, ‘Do the works of mercy.’ I asked a priest what the ‘works of mercy’ were. Then I went on the Evangelization Retreat, and something set me on fire. I decided to go work with our St. Vincent de Paul Society. It seemed safe. The I went to the Called & Gifted workshop. I scored high on mercy on the gifts inventory and thought, ‘This is supposed to be what you are doing. Without the Called & Gifted workshop this wouldn’t have happened. Seeing the gift of mercy on that inventory sheet really empowered me.'”
Sherry continues: “We have seen it happen over and over. The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything: a parish’s spiritual tone, energy level, attendance, bottom line, and what parishioners ask of their leaders. Disciples pray with passion. Disciples worship. Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples give lavishly. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in a parish or diocese. Disciples manifest gifts and discern vocations. They clamor to discern God’s call because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.
“The Holy Spirit is planting charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of all his people. Like the graces of the sacraments, they are real, but they are not magic. Just as the gifts of children must be fostered deliberately by parents to reach their full potential, so vocations must be fostered by the Church.
“In this area, we are not asking for too much; we are settling for too little. God is not asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of a few people; he is asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of millions. Our problem is not that there is a shortage of vocations but that we do not have the support systems and leadership in place to foster the vast majority of the vocations that God has given us.”
For us, at this moment in history, on the corner of William and Stafford, it begins with your Commitment Card. God bless you.