Champions for All Souls
As All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day approach next week, it is a joy to think about the souls touched and the saints in the making who Catholic Leadership Institute is honored to serve through our ministry.
Recently, I had the joy of speaking with two phenomenal lay leaders – April and David – from All Souls Parish in Sanford, Florida.
All Souls Parish is one of our Next Generation Parish (NGP) pilot participants. Each NGP parish has its own unique breakthroughs, transformations, challenges, and learnings.
For All Souls, one of the most beautiful revelations about their work is the power of lay leadership. April and David are champions for change, beacons of optimism, and tireless workers in the vineyard for their parish.
April and David shared a letter with me about their experience in NGP. READ BELOW to read their thoughtful and moving words. I hope their passion and drive inspire you as they have inspired me.
In the Words of Two Diligent & Dedicated Lay Leaders
As a culture, we tend to be reactive rather than proactive in responding to what is happening around us. Change is difficult. With a 2000+ year history, the Catholic Church is not always open to change or seeing trends that are outside the accepted pattern of the way “things have always been.”
The NGP process along with CLI leadership has given us information, insights, and “permission” to examine various paradigms and views. People are changing along with their view of religion and its accepted norms. If we don’t adapt to those changes and, at the same time, remain faithful to Catholic beliefs, we will see the trend of losing people continue. The COVID pandemic accelerated this process, especially for those who were already questioning their beliefs and the role and relevance of the Catholic Church in their lives.
CLI has been able to look ahead and make the commitment to support change in how the Catholic Church responds to a changing dynamic among parishioners and lay leaders. It is a vital and important endeavor, and we whole heartedly appreciate the support and encouragement to look at ourselves objectively, especially as we have redefined the Weekend Experience due to COVID.
At All Souls, we are fortunate to have supportive pastors, CLI leadership in Jim Luisi, and the larger CLI team and donors. Going through this process has not been easy, and we have had our challenges. It has tested our commitment, our ability to build a strong team, as well as our willingness to focus our efforts and energies to produce the best results. It will take time, candid conversations and exchange of ideas, and a willingness to make mistakes and then start again.
Without the continued support of CLI and their modeling of change, parishes may enter into this initiative, yet find it just as easy to abandon it. It is a new way of life rather than another program. The commitment to look at everything we do and how it impacts those we serve tests the soul in a personal sense and in the larger parish sense. We can’t afford to abandon these efforts.
What did we get out of Next Generation Parish?
- Allows you to think through things in a more structured way
- Makes you think about the situation you’re in and how you’re going to move forward from A to B. Provides a systematic way for change based on the direction of the Church
- CHANGE: Difficult for people and organizations
- Looked at things from a broader liturgical perspective and built a program/event around that
- Programming was designed to lead us/congregation to something very specific.
- Helped us see a bigger picture of the journey of being a Catholic and the continuing spiritual journey and involvement in the Church
- NGP; if used well, encouraged us to think through the life of being a Catholic
- Create opportunities for various ministries to work together with a common framework and language
- With meetings, always looking at the process to see what was working and what wasn’t
- In the course of the process, the leadership and facilitation, we were resourced from a group that had a larger perspective than just one single church based on changes in the Church.
- Through working with CLI, we had a greater understanding of the Church ministering to 5 active generations and how to serve all those generations. Because each generation receives information differently, we could “hone” our skills using various platforms e.g., bulletin vs. online including FlockNotes, social media, etc.
- Focus on communication aspect of spreading the church’s message through activities, spiritual development, special Masses
- The survey in its complexity did provide us with demographic information so we could see how people felt based on gender, socioeconomic status, time in the parish, age, etc.
- [NGP] allowed us to tailor the message that the Church is changing for everyone by being more careful and more deliberate about what we’re doing.
- NGP allowed us to be creative, analytical, driven, and organized in moving the Church forward to reverse the trend of losing members.
- As a group, we were able to share how Catholics feel about their faith.
- Created measurable goals and objectives to focus our efforts on what is most important for the parish and for our priorities.
- Catholics tend to be a reactive culture rather than proactive.
- Enabled All Souls to work through a myriad of challenges in response to the COVID pandemic. CLI was able to suggest and recommend various approaches based on their worldwide experience.
David McGhee, All Souls – Director of Liturgy and Music
April McManus, All Souls – Liturgy and Music Assistant Volunteer
I have so much admiration for the dedication of April and David. Their passion is complemented by their pastor, Fr. Jeremiah. Coming to the parish towards the end of the NGP endeavor, Fr. Jeremiah sees the value and recognizes the good work. He is committed to keeping the momentum of NGP going. Beginning this Advent, he will lead his congregation through a reinvigoration of the NGP vision, plan, and goals.
All Souls Parish’s vision is as follows:
“With Christ as our center, we will embrace ALL SOULS as we worship, welcome, educate and serve in an environment of love and compassion.”
Catholic Leadership Institute believes in All Souls Parish as they continue to work at making change and moving the needle. The work is hard and takes time, which they realize. But it is worth it to bring more souls to Jesus. Or “worth it to help more souls know Jesus.”
Friends, this All Souls’ and All Saints’ Days, know that CLI is praying for you, for your parishes, and all of the souls and saints in your lives.