Dear Good People of St. Mary,
In the next few weeks we will be very busy putting together the Catalog of Parish Ministries for the upcoming annual Parish Life Weekend, September 20/21. For those of you who are new, each September St. Mary has several major events which, in a way, mark the “beginning of the ministry year”: once everyone is back from vacations and summer activities, we start school at Holy Cross Academy, we open Religious Education for the year, and we have a big celebration Ice Cream Social, Cakewalk and Dance out at Holy Cross (September 14, this year it actually falls on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross).
The following weekend, September 20/21,every ministry in the parish (nearly 100) presents their work under tents outside the church before and after all Masses, to let people get to know what the possibilities might be for their own participation in ministry, and know they are welcome to get involved. Ministries include all the major areas of work represented in committee by the Parish Advisory Board: education, outreach, liturgy, operations, and parish life (the social committee). We call this “Parish Life Weekend.”
Included in the catalog packet that all 5,200+ households receive after Labor Day is a Commitment Card. Between Parish Life Weekend and the following weekend, “Commitment Sunday,” all parishioners are asked to enter into a period of discernment, to ask the question: “How is God calling me to serve this year?” Sometimes, I think, this period of discernment is not taken so seriously, and people don’t realize how seriously we need to take this matter of active participation/involvement in the life of the parish. Every parishioner should be involved in the work of the Church in some way, to give back in love what we have received in love. Everyone is asked to return the card as an outward sign of their internal disposition to pray, serve, support. Even those who are already serving in a ministry or ministries are asked to renew their commitment by completing a commitment card.
Anyway, on the weekend of September 27/28, Commitment Sunday, we offer these Commitment Cards as the second offering, an offering of how we commit to pray in the coming year, how we commit to serve, and how we commit to support the active mission of the parish which is the salvation of souls and service of others to the glory of God. In a recent interview with a marketing firm who is seeking ways to best promote the services of Catholic Charities, I was asked what I thought was the role of the Pastor in getting people involved. I knew the answer they were looking for: the Pastor’s job is to be the cheerleader, to encourage, to plead, to offer bribes where necessary and guilt as a last resort to those who will eventually wear down and give in to the request to take on a particular ministry as their extracurricular activity. How many times have people taken on a “job” in the Church because “Father asked.” And how many times have people, after a long period of time (or even a short one) begun to resent the time and energy that it takes? Ultimately, “I’m doing it for Father” doesn’t cut it anymore. We see this so often. People burn out, and when their term is up they feel bad about the resentment they feel and drift away. Sometimes they disappear. It’s like we use up and call it mission.
This year our period of discernment will have a different approach. I am going to ask all of you to look into your hearts. In what way has God prepared this place for you so that your gifts—the gift that is you—might be realized? Not just used; realized. Because, you see, it isn’t “Father” who calls the Church into being, it is God. Jesus isn’t the sign of God’s love, he is God’s love. And he started the Church—us—to be the living signs of his presence in the world.
It’s a big job, but somebody has to do it. And we can only accomplish it in communion with him, together. For this reason, our theme this year is “Given in love, Called in love.”