Jillian Buhl is a member of the Envisioning Team at St. John the Baptist Parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She joined a group of lay men and women who dedicated prayerful time, skill, and discernment to creating a priority plan and vision for their parish as part of its Next Generation Parish initiative.

Over the course of several months, the Envisioning Team came together to ask questions such as – what are our priorities as a parish family? What are our goals?

St. John the Baptist parish community had a lot to discern for the future, having merged with another parish within the last decade and seeking focus on how to address the needs and challenges of the parish. The decisions that come from such conversations have a lasting impact on every member of the parish. It is no wonder then, that prayer is at the heart of every step of this process.

While the Next Generation Parish initiative provides countless ways for parishioners to incorporate prayer into the initiative, encouraging intercessory prayer to diocesan or parish patrons and inviting the entire church to pray with and for the team, St. John the Baptist got especially creative with the resources they had on hand.

Every time parish leaders came together to discern the priorities, goals, and vision of the community, Jesus was exposed in the monstrance in the same building - and parishioners prayed specifically for the intentions of the parish.

“I reached out to people I knew who were prayer warriors,” Jillian said. “Our meetings took place in a conference room within the rectory. It just so happened that daily Mass chapel was in the same building. This made it possible for us to have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament taking place whenever we met.”

Jillian began sending Flocknote updates to nearly three dozen people who agreed to come to pray. “Our goal was to have people in the chapel praying for the Envisioning Team an hour before and during every hour of the meetings.” Adorers could even hear the murmuring of voices while they prayed, which brought a unifying presence to their shared love for God and the Church.

Not everyone could make it in person, so Jillian also organized homebound prayer warriors. When she ran into scheduling conflicts and ended up with a need for more adorers, she reached out to the young adult community. They often filled unadopted hours with prayer on short notice.

Jillian also reached out to small group ministries and asked them to lift up the Envisioning Team and their work in their prayers. This not only added to the spiritual support, but also gave Jillian a chance to share about the Next Generation Parish initiative and to keep parishioners updated on the progress.

St. John the Baptist created a prayer for the Envisioning process that was included in parish materials and distributed to the Flocknote prayer team list. The prayer was printed on bookmark sized pieces of paper and left in abundance inside the chapel so that all adorers could be united in praying for the planning process. Adorers also found rosaries, copies of the Litany of Light, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and resources with spiritual encouragement for the parish. Jillian even made sure to have bottles of water on hand for those who came to pray.

Such prayer provided the parish leaders with the support they needed to listen for the voice of God and cast aside worries and doubts. Lucille Smith, the Leadership Consultant for St. John the Baptist shares, “...having the prayer warriors is inspiring, comforting, and challenging. I felt the power of those prayers throughout the process, prepping for the session, during the sessions, and as we discerned the plan. For St. John the Baptist, prayer is the center of Next Generation Parish.”

Soon, the Envisioning Team will present a Pastoral Priority Plan to the parish, complete with a vision, purpose statement, and goals specific to their parish and their needs. They will then hand off the work to the next group of lay leaders for implementation in the months ahead.

While the Envisioning Phase is almost over, plans to continue to grow the prayer team are already underway. Jillian is working with the parish to invite more adorers into the little chapel to pray for the future of the parish. Please join us in asking the Holy Spirit to come into their work by praying their Envisioning Prayer:

Envisioning Team Prayer

St John the Baptist, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

O God and Father, We ask that the work of our parish Envisioning Team be inspired by your Holy Spirit and that by your grace our efforts will invite and encourage each member of our faith community to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, to be gradually transformed into committed disciples, and to be empowered to meaningfully, joyfully, and respectfully give witness to how Jesus Christ lives in their hearts, influences their lives and calls them to grow in holiness. We hope that the results of our work will ignite within the community a desire to share our encounter with Jesus with others so that they too can be transformed and on fire for Christ. We ask this in the name of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and through the intercession of our patron Saint John the Baptist and Mary, Mother of the Church and true model of Discipleship. Amen.

by Mike School

August 03, 2023

Discerning Insights About Leadership

Our CEO Daniel Cellucci's weekly email, the DIAL: Discerning Insights About Leadership.

View all
Emboldening Our Clergy

CLI serves Church leaders, helping them rediscover their potential and forming them to be more intentional with those they serve.

View all
Forging Our Future

CLI provides vision and hope about the future of the Church with a humble, yet strategic approach.

View all

Browse past updates and insights.

View all