The Western Ohio town of Tiffin in the Diocese of Toledo may not seem like the fiery center of Pentecost, but think again! Led by Fr. Matt Rader, St. Mary’s Parish caught a new dose of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost when Fr. Matt introduced their new parish plan during his homily.

“Imagine yourself in the crowd that day – that first Pentecost,” challenged Fr. Matt to his parishioners. “It was the Holy Spirit coming with power upon those disciples gathered together with the Mother of God. It was the Holy Spirit coming down with the power of God that confirmed those disciples, confirmed them in their identity that they were the beloved sons and daughters of the Father, that they had encountered the risen Christ, glorified,” continued Fr. Matt. “And they, now enlivened by the Holy Spirit, were to go forth. They were confirmed in the values Jesus had taught them, that shaped them, that would direct all of their activity going forward.”

With this powerful reminder of the Great Commission to go, baptize, and teach, Fr. Matt commissioned his parishioners to live these values like never before. He then went on to present the new St. Mary’s Parish plan that would guide and direct the parish’s priorities and activities for the next three years. This plan was accomplished with the accompaniment of Catholic Leadership Institute. The Holy Spirit was being unleashed in a new way at St. Mary’s!

This all began in November 2020, during the pandemic, when the parish took Catholic Leadership Institute’s Disciple Maker Index (DMI) survey. From those results, the parish embarked on the Next Generation Parish planning process with CLI Leadership Consultant, Jim Goodell.

“It was an interesting time,” said Jim. “Even during the difficulties of the pandemic, I was able to work remotely with the parish planning team assembled by Fr. Matt. They were committed to the process and to creating an effective plan to take their parish to the next level. There was no waiting around for the pandemic to end. They got right to work!”

The DMI provided a great baseline from which to start. Right away, Fr. Matt noticed that the majority of those who took the survey said they wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ. “Most of us of were right in the middle,” recalls Fr. Matt. ”I’ve got a bit of a relationship, but I want more.’ Or, ‘I don’t have a great relationship, but I want more.’ That’s hope for me!” said Father. “Hope that we can turn that into an exponential increase!”

From there, Father commissioned the Parish Envisioning Team during one of the Sunday Masses and then had a time of prayer with them. The values they discerned included - a family of joy, a family of love, a family of faith. Those values were the springboard for their parish vision of “Unleashing a culture of faithful, prayerful, joyful discipleship and loving community.” Their parish goals centered on public and private prayer, discipleship, and community.

By the Spring of 2021, the plan was complete and ready to be launched to the parish, and no better time than Pentecost! Not only did Father layout the plan within the context of the disciples being commissioned to go out from the Feast of Pentecost, but he reinforced this with banners around the parish and on poles outside on the parish grounds. He also published the plan on beautifully created flyers and brochures to reinforce the importance of the plan in the life of the parish. This was no plan to be put on the shelf to collect dust. This plan was now part of the fabric of parish life.

Following the Feast of Pentecost, the parish hosted three days of Eucharistic Adoration to invite the Holy Spirit to come and lead this process and to invite the Blessed Mother to intercede for the parish and this new missionary mandate.

“Father, this plan will take a miracle to pull off,” Fr. Matt chuckled in his homily. “You are right!” he said. “But if you read my favorite quote in the bulletin last week from St. John Bosco, you will understand that this can be done. ‘If you believe in the Eucharist and Mary Help of Christians, you will see what miracles are!’”

“We are now in the implementation phase of the plan,” reported Jim. “This is a committed team, and they are diligently bringing this about. It’s a joy and a privilege to work with this team as a CLI leadership consultant.”

Parishes like St. Mary’s are a testament that great leadership and good planning make all the difference. Rooted in their values, the Eucharist, and confidence in Mary, St. Mary’s is on its way to becoming the parish God is calling them to be!

You can watch Fr. Matt’s inspiring Pentecost homily below:

by Chad Peddicord

August 12, 2021

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