By: Fr. John Jasica
LAST WEEKEND’S NEWS CONTINUED….
Last weekend I shared an article regarding our IGNITE THE MISSION pastoral plan and discernment moving forward. If you missed it, I encourage you to read it first, before reading this article. I shared that we are not presently going to close any churches because none meet the threshold according to the Diocese of London closure policy.
Closure is a last resort and due to some positive financial gains in all our churches in 2023 (thank you so much for your support—for more details read the 2023 Financial Review included in this weekend’s bulletin), St. Agnes Parish, which prior to Christmas was recommended for closure will for the time being remain open. This does not alleviate the financial concerns for all our churches—but most especially for St. Agnes, who has no capital reserve funds remaining. Without continued increasing financial support—it will close.
HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD?
As the Chatham Catholic Family of Parishes, we need to move forward keeping our main goal in mind—our overall pastoral plan as one united family is to form disciples who reach out to all. In order to do this most fully—we all need to see the bigger picture beyond our own church buildings. I know this is difficult to do but our mission is to transform the world so that future generations know and love Christ. How do we continue to unfold our pastoral plan as we move forward within our present circumstances?
(1) We are seeing positive trends in the family
There are three main contributing factors that I think has allowed us to see positive trends in our family of parishes. First—I think we have seen more people return to our churches following the pandemic. We saw a clear increase at Easter time in 2023. Second—we see more people moving to Chatham and with that, parish registrations to our churches. Third—I think the pastoral plan is taking root and growing which is attracting people to support the vision and get involved.
I am thankful to the staff, Pastoral Council and Finance Committee for their hard work, leadership and support. I am also thankful to our volunteer ministers who are serving in various ministries, programs and outreach that are making a difference. With your support—I hope and pray that these positive trends continue to grow. This can happen if we all work together and spread the Good News!!
(2) We must use current resources creatively
There is no question that church closures will be necessary for us if we want pastoral care and outreach to be most effective in our world today. Maintenance of what we have is not the answer. Being missionaries like the first Apostles is what our world needs.
While we delay closure, we cannot reduce our operating expenditures—which means we do not have funds to hire more staff who can help form, train and support volunteers in our family (Co-Ordinator of Youth & Family Ministry and another Pastoral Minister). So we must adapt and use the current resources as creatively as possible to continue the positive momentum. In this way we can grow, serve and empower more volunteer ministers in our family to form disciples who reach out to all.
(3) Practical actions for our pastoral plan to grow
Reduced Weekday Mass Schedule
Pastoral Council has asked the Pastoral Team to review the weekday Masses and propose a reduced schedule that in particular, allows priests the time to visit our schools more regularly, support/train/form volunteers for ministries/programs and minister to those in our nursing homes and the homebound.
You may not realize how many demands the priests have in the family of parishes beyond celebrating Mass. We are regularly on call for the hospital & hospice, we average two funerals a week, we have school visits, Masses and confessions, business administration and church maintenance, deanery meetings, diocesan meetings & commitments, appointments with parishioners, homily preparation and so much more. We need to create some space and time during the week to offer pastoral care and leadership along with our amazing pastoral ministers (Colleen Keane and Ali Chinnick). Our present circumstances are overwhelming and not sustainable. A reduced weekday Mass schedule will take effect in the coming months.
Forming & Supporting Volunteer Ministry Leaders
As we implement our pastoral plan, we will continue to increase our efforts to recruit, train and empower volunteer ministers to take on leadership roles. This means that some ministries that took place prior to the pandemic that come back often need new leaders while also implementing new ministries/programs that require the right people in place.
I am very thankful to the staff who work so hard to create opportunities for parishioners to get involved and to our amazing parishioners who bring our various events, ministries and outreach to life.