By Father Dennis Quint
Special to The Witness
DYERSVILLE — As schools across the Archdiocese of Dubuque engage in a time of strategic planning, local parish leaders at the Spires of Faith Cluster (Dyersville, Earlville, New Vienna, Petersburg, Worthington) decided it would be an opportune time to consider again the mission of a parish and how the parish pastoral council engages in long-range planning. Thankfully, a Vatican instruction, “The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelizing Mission of the Church,” was just issued on June 29 and offered wonderful insights to guide the discussion. On Aug.12, the chairpersons of the five parish pastoral councils came together with their pastor to consider the document and also reviewed practices of facilitating effective meetings.
The Vatican instruction reminds parish leaders of the three-fold ministry at the heart of parish life: proclamation of the Word of God, the sacramental life, and the witness of charity. Parish leaders noted that these areas of ministry are noted in the cluster mission statement, but a shorter tagline might more effectively keep these priorities in the minds of parishioners.
Sue Salow, chairperson of the pastoral council at St. Joseph Earlville and chairperson of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, said, “The document pointed out that ministry unfolds as a journey, much like the RCIA process. It doesn’t come to an end, it develops. The church is like a loving mother who encourages her children to use their gifts well.” The instruction reminds the church that such pastoral activity derives from “a personal encounter with the lord of life.” Pastoral leaders affirmed this truth from their own experience of finding parishioners becoming increasingly active after participating in spiritual renewal opportunities such as “Christ Renews His Parish” and “That Man is You.”
Recently parishioners participated in an evangelization process facilitated by seminarian Ben Valentine called “The 99” produced by Ascension Press.
“Hopefully that experience will spark more desire for opportunities to study Scripture and share our faith,” said Michelle Grover, chairperson at the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier Dyersville. “Sometimes people who are shy about worshipping at Mass will participate in these other creative opportunities for growth,” said Brian Hermsen, chairperson at St. Boniface New Vienna.
The missionary nature of the parish clearly was emphasized in the instruction. Parish pastoral councils must be much more than facilitators of parish meals or caretakers of the buildings and grounds. Leaders must be invested in considering the parish mission and caring for those who may be on the edges.
“As parish leaders, we have to actively participate in parish ministries and offerings. Just showing up for the parish council meeting isn’t enough,” said Rick Domeyer, chairperson at SS. Peter & Paul Petersburg.
Leaders remained hopeful about the future.
“Just gathering together after Masses to visit on the front steps of church after Mass or to assist with labor needs around the parish unites us,” said Matt Hoeger, chairperson at St. Paul Worthington. “It’s great to see lots of young families at Masses.”
An in-service about the instruction will be offered at the parish pastoral council meetings in August, followed by a time to set goals,
Father Quint is pastor of the Spires of Faith Cluster, which includes parishes in Earlville, New Vienna, Petersburg, Dyersville, and Worthington.
Cover image: (Left to right): Matt Hoeger, Sue Salow, Brian Hermsen, Michelle Grover, Rick Domeyer, chairpersons of five parish councils in the Spires of Faith cluster, are shown during an Aug. 12 meeting. (Contributed photo)