There are often unexpected surprises in a Next Generation Parish (NGP) engagement, and in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, some of the greatest surprises came from one parish: St. John the Evangelist. Named after the apostle who rested his head on the Heart of Jesus, this parish has a particular love for the Lord and desire to grow in holiness and hospitality. Much of the growth experienced in the Next Generation Parish experience was led by the pastor, Fr. Royce Gregerson. His participation had an effect on him, his parish, and as God would arrange it, his two most recent associates, Fr. Logan Parrish and Fr. Brian Florin.

Early in the NGP engagement, Fr. Royce recognized the need to grow in leadership skills. He reached out to Catholic Leadership Institute Leadership to ask for personal Leadership Coaching which ultimately equipped him with the tools to lead more effectively and to foster a culture of unity and growth within the multicultural parish.

Fr. Logan Parrish became the associate at St. John the Evangelist in 2021 and worked closely with Fr. Royce on the Next Generation Parish initiative. He too grew significantly during his time at St. John. "Logan came in with very strong people skills and a heart for those disconnected from the Church," Fr. Royce reflected. "Through Good Leaders, Good Shepherds, and our NGP efforts, he developed into a leader who could manage personnel and inspire our staff to work together more effectively. NGP gave him the ability to see how his passions could be incarnated in the parish so that more people could do this kind of evangelizing work." Fr. Logan is now the pastor at another Next Generation Parish, St. Thomas, and carries what he learned with him.

Fr. Brian Florin was installed as the next associate at St. John in 2023. Fr. Royce shared, "Brian came in with a lot of zeal and strong interpersonal skills," Fr. Royce noted. "His time here, especially as we closed out the implementation of our first priority plan, showed him the importance of planning and executing a vision. It motivated him to be a stronger institutional leader."

When it was announced in May 2024 that Fr. Royce would be transferred to another parish, Fr. Brian was named the new pastor of St. John. It was a decision influenced by Fr. Royce. "I encouraged Bishop Rhoades to name Fr. Brian as our next pastor because I thought he was the best positioned priest in our diocese to continue the work that the Holy Spirit has done here through us," Fr. Royce explained. "Without a commitment to continuing that project, we were at risk of backsliding into the two-parishes-in-one-building model. Brian understands the importance of this work and is dedicated to pursuing our goals."

Fr. Brian was both honored and humbled by the trust placed in him. "Fr. Royce is a strong leader with a clear vision for this parish," Fr. Brian said. "Some new priests struggle to know what they should be doing to contribute to the mission. Royce provided clear expectations and the tools necessary to fulfill them. This allowed me to focus on my priestly duties with conviction and confidence. I hope to carry this forward as a pastor: clarity on the mission, and a contagious conviction and energy for the people to feed off of."

Reflecting on the fruits of the NGP experience, Fr. Brian added, "The excitement that builds up over the course of meetings is incredible. People are invested in the parish and have a space to express that in an organized way. It also helped unify our diverse parish by bringing together people from both the English and Spanish-speaking communities. Getting clarity on our parish priorities has provided confidence in how to best move forward."

As Fr. Royce prepared to leave, he felt a deep sense of peace, knowing that St. John was in capable hands. "The NGP process and our pastoral planning will undoubtedly benefit this transition," Fr. Brian concluded. "I am grateful to inherit a plan already well underway and a team of people eager to move the needle on parish engagement."

Fr. Royce’s work with Next Generation Parish and Leadership Coaching had not only strengthened his own priesthood but also inspired and equipped those who followed him, ensuring that the mission of St. John the Evangelist would continue to flourish under Fr. Brian's capable leadership and in other parishes throughout the diocese.

by Mary Serafino

May 29, 2024

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