Pastor & Staff Revive Parish Community With Help From Catholic Leadership Institute
The parish was a busy place. With a lot going on. What was lacking was cohesiveness. "There was no guiding vision to say this is who we are and this is our focus," said Fr. Charlie Mitchell, pastor of St. Mary Magdalen parish in Altamonte Springs, FL.
That was the state of affairs at St. Mary Magdalen seven years ago.
Times have changed.
In 2006, at the urging of then Bishop Wenski of Orlando, Fr. Charlie Mitchell enrolled in Catholic Leadership Institute's Good Leaders, Good Shepherds leadership formation program. "The program gave me a way of approaching how I managed my own gifts and talents as well as those of my staff and parishioners. It provided me concrete and practical ways to support the parish structure," said Fr. Charlie. It also gave Fr. Charlie and his brother priests a
setting to discuss their common concerns, fears, needs and longings. "That was a real plus," he said.
When Fr. Charlie graduated from the program in 2007, he knew where he wanted to lead the parish and was also confident in the tools that would help get him there. One of the critical pieces to the puzzle was his staff. He invited seven of his staff members to attend Tending the Talents, Catholic Leadership Instituteâ€™s leadership formation program for parish staff and diocesan leaders.
"Participating in Tending the Talents helped us to support Fr. Charlie in achieving his vision for the parish. With all of us having the same language and the same vision we were able to be more cohesive and bring that back to the ministries where we were serving," said Lois Locey, Pastoral Associate for Administration and Stewardship. Together with his staff, Fr. Charlie articulated a vision that focused on developing a community of disciple makers. As a result of having a unified vision, they established priorities and goals which changed the way they approached the aspects of parish life.
For example, prior to 2007, most parishioners were selected to serve in ministry based off of availability and willingness versus talent and skill level. The ministries suffered and individuals became easily frustrated and burnt out. Utilizing similar leadership tools, the staff and Fr. Charlie created a move cohesive plan to grow and support the gifts and talents of the parishioners and better align their efforts to the vision for the parish. As a result, they now have 2,813 individuals supporting more than 185 ministries and services that are dedicated to advancing the mission of Christ within and outside the parish.
Fr. Charlie also committed to developing and delivering more unified messages on Sundays. In doing so, he has found a greater connectedness amongst parishioners. Now, Lois says, "they are talking about the messages outside of Mass. That never happened before."
Are all these ministries where they want them to be? "No," says Fr. Charlie. "But we are constantly refining and revising and sharpening the call to leadership and discipleship within the parish and with those who are given the charge of being disciple makers. So ultimately the ministries are working for the common good."
"We are always growing," said Lois.
Thatâ€™s the state of affairs at St. Mary Magdalen parish today.
The times have changed.
"We are setting the parish on fire," said Fr. Charlie. Pope Francis has challenged Catholics to live as "missionary disciples" and that's exactly what the people of St. Mary Magdalen parish are doing with a renewed vision, mission and priorities.