Looking Back Over the Past Year

Amidst the pandemic, Catholic Leadership Institute has seen that families – both biological and spiritual – have experienced much of what the Holy Family did: joy, pain, suffering, miracles, death, inspired (and at times scared) leaders, glimpses of heaven, important work, love, resurrection, and yes, a world forever changed.

We have been blessed to see so much HOPE…

Here are some stories of hope that we have been blessed to witness over the last year. And below is an amazing story of ministry from our colleague, Miguel Santos, who is doing beautiful work around the country for our Catholic Leadership Institute family and also serving and leading in his home parish: Holy Family.

Ministry Magnified

At Catholic Leadership Institute, amidst the pandemic, not only has every one of our ministries moved forward… they have thrived. Not one bit of technology, planning, envisioning, pr growing has halted. In fact, some have even accomplished more than expected or dreamed of. Some of our partners have even shared that their partnership with Catholic Leadership Institute prepared them to face these challenging times with a vision, healthy organizational leadership, and equipped them with the skills and knowledge of their parishioners to keep them connected and growing in their faith.

  • Next Generation Parish is alive and at work in five dioceses across the country.
  • Called For More served close to 500 priests and 420 parishes in the first year alone, and five more dioceses began the program during the pandemic.
  • The Disciple Maker Index has grown to close to 280,000 responses, adding 50,000+ responses during the pandemic – amazing.

Colossal Confession Goal

One thing we have learned from our Disciple Maker Index survey is that reconciliation is more essential to our spiritual life than we had realized. To bring people closer to Jesus through this sacrament, a pastor working with CLI set a goal of conducting 600 confessions by Easter Sunday. As of 2 weeks ago, he had 307 individual confessions… a beautiful example of caring for souls.

“I Miss You in the Pew”

Across the country, our ministry has uncovered so many pastors and parishes connecting to their parishioners like never before. Here are just a few examples among many:

  • Fr. Heron from St. Matthew in Conshohocken, PA, has been hand-delivering written notes to the families in his parishes in which he tells them, “I miss you in the pew,” to let them know he is waiting to welcome them back.
  • A priest in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, started “Monday with Fr. John,” a series of 5- to 7-minute videos that has a large number of followers. He does catechesis, general information, Covid updates, and relevant, inspiring programming.
  • Another parish began a “Calling Ministry” and called all households to ask if there were any special needs and if they would like regular calls or if they needed any specific pastoral or other services. Over 20 households requested regular follow up calls.
  • All of the parishes CLI has been working with started utilizing technology, including live streaming, YouTube for Mass, Flock Notes, streaming special liturgies, and celebrating weddings, funerals, and sacraments.
  • St James in Biloxi now live streams their ministries for teens to keep them connected, engaged, and growing spiritually.

Leaders RISE to the Occasion

What a blessing to see lay leaders – some brand new to helping their parishes – rise up during this time when they are so needed. Tim Gavin, CLI Leadership Consultant, shares, “My pastor [a CLI Good Leaders, Good Shepherds participant from Philadelphia] jumped in immediately even before the Archdiocese gave any mandates or directions. He created a Parish Leadership Team to assist his decision making… he filled the team with outstanding parish members.” I will tell you, the leadership team they assembled is phenomenal and includes professors, executives, parents, school officials, medical professionals, engineers, attorneys, and more!

Prayerful Parents

Several parents within our communities have shared that they have done more for more children spiritually this year than ever before. Without simply relying on school programs to teach children about faith, parents have taken on the role, and families have grown together. One parent shares, “As parents, we can never go back; this new version of our job is ours forever now.”

Carrying Crosses Together

At Catholic Leadership Institute, we have seen challenges: parishes shaken, physical and spiritual sickness, normal ways of doing things changed, children unable to enjoy pre-COVID joys and experiences, jobs altered, and loved ones passed (In particular, we at CLI have seen so many wonderful mothers within our community pass from our world to join Mary, Our Mother, up in heaven). But we have relied on each other, prayed together, moved forward together, and hoped together…

Just like the Holy Family.

Below is an amazing story of ministry from my colleague, Miguel Santos, who is doing beautiful work around the country for our Catholic Leadership Institute family and also serving and leading within his home parish, Holy Family.

Emmaus Ministry: Outreach of Holy Family Catholic Church in La Grulla

By Miguel Santos

The ministry began by God’s providence at the break of the pandemic when the first parishioner infected with the coronavirus in the community of La Grulla, Texas happened to be a regular volunteer at the parish. While quarantined, she began to stream the rosary from her bedside and people united together in prayer for her healing and that of others. The prayer community continued to grow as more people were sickened by the coronavirus. 

Every family in the community who contracted the coronavirus received a personal letter from Father Juan Rogelio, letting them know how the parish and others were uniting in prayer for them. The family would also receive a written ramillete espiritual, a spiritual bouquet of prayers the community had offered for their healing. This spiritual bouquet acknowledged the Masses, rosaries, Lord’s Prayers, fasting, Holy Hours, and so on offered for the family that month.

Following her healing, Father encouraged the parish volunteer to consider not only the spiritual healing of those affected by the coronavirus, but also their physical wellbeing. Together, they organized a group of women to cook and coordinate the delivery of meals, as well as cleaning supplies and disinfectants to families fighting the virus. Children in these quarantined homes would look forward to the deliveries, which often included crayons, coloring books, and other crafts for the little ones. As families recovered, they pledged their support to this growing ministry by donating funds where possible, giving their time to cook for others, and most importantly, uniting their hearts in prayer.

The ministry continues to grow as a remarkable example of solidarity and a love that truly builds hope in the lives of others. The ministry was named Emmaus to remind us that Jesus always comes to walk alongside us, more so in times of sadness, distress, and suffering to remind us that Love Builds Hope.

Prayers to you and all of your families and loved ones for a blessed Lent. In this special year of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Families, may he watch over you and your loved ones this Easter season!

by Mike School

March 25, 2021

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