When Fr. Ron Clark was made pastor of St. Dorothy in Glendora, California a year and a half ago, he inherited a parish that had seen several pastor changes over the past 20 years. Along with a constant pastor turnover, the parish itself had experienced an ebb and flow of change, growth, and priorities. Fr. Ron is a late vocation himself, having been ordained at the age of 57 after raising a son. He worked in the construction industry and has experience in business management.
“Any business I’ve ever managed or any place I’ve ever worked, you regularly take inventory, just to see what you have. I thought it would be a good thing to take an inventory at St. Dorothy’s, especially in the midst of COVID.” Fr. Ron wanted to ascertain the strengths and needs of the parish as they were, rather than what he and the community thought they might be. “Anybody who runs a warehouse thinks they have 100 cases of whatever and they get into the warehouse and there’s only 85 – they wonder: where are the other 15?”
DMI Keeps St. Dorothy on Course
It was the late Bishop O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and a friend to Catholic Leadership Institute, who asked Fr. Ron Clark if he would like to participate in Next Generation Parish along with four other parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. St. Dorothy has, to date, already completed the planning and envisioning phases, in which the Disciple Maker Index survey was administered, and a team selected to create three parish priorities. Thy are now in the Implementation Phase.
The parish received around 800 responses to the survey which revealed and confirmed their actual current strengths and challenges. Fr. Ron shared that the results are doing exactly what he hoped for: “It’s showing us where we’re doing well and where we’re not. Most employees do an annual review, not to knock down the employee, but to help them become better at what they do. So how can we at St. Dorothy be better at what we do? I think Next Generation Parish is guiding us right there.”
The DMI did not reveal too many surprises, but it did reveal that St. Dorothy’s Catholic identity is strong. “I’m excited about that. You read about all the surveys that have gone around in the United States and learn that so many people don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches. Ours came out very strong.”
Endurance, Perseverance, & Patience
The results from the survey informed the parish in creating three priorities to complete in the next three years: Communication, Community, and Renovation. Fr. Ron shared his optimism, “I’m really excited at this point, not only to complete these tasks that have been put before us, but to find out where we’re at in three years! I wonder what sort of insights we’ll learn at the end of this process.” The people are excited about this work, too. "They want this to happen tomorrow,” Fr. Ron shared.
Fr. Ron leads this optimism and excitement with prudence, often saying that, “I see this planning process as a marathon and not a sprint. This is not something that is going to happen tomorrow. This is a lifelong process for this parish. In our case, we want to be sure that our ministries at the parish reflect the common mission and goals of the parish. Are we going in the same direction? Are we using the same model? Are we aligned together? And does that align with where the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is going?”
“We’re doing something that is going to work slowly and it’s going to come with the help of the people of the parish. When you put your hard work, your sweat and tears into something, you’re going to see that it keeps moving forward.” Fr. Ron is careful to put the people first and help them build a future for their children and their children’s children. “Sixty years ago, somebody built this church and this community, so we have a place to worship. Do we have the insight to make sure the parish is prepared to serve our great-grandchildren and our great-great grandchildren?”
The Greatest Finish Line
Together, Fr. Ron and the people at St. Dorothy are running a marathon and they’re covering miles after mile of careful planning and preparation for the future of not only their parish, but the future of the Catholic Church. “We’re called to bring the Kingdom of God here and now. It’s not this far off place. We’re responsible to bring the Kingdom of God to Glendora, California. Right here, in this space. Do we do that? He invited us – let’s go.”
Friends: At the end of of every marathon, there is a sense of accomplishment and joy. But what could be better than a finish line with Jesus’ open arms waiting for us? That’s the type of finish line that Catholic Leadership Institute’s ministry, Fr. Ron, and the dedicated people of St. Dorothy are running towards!
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