Saturday, June 12, 2010

Parishes adjust ministries to best use resources

Originally Published May 6, 2010

This is the sixth story in a series on the seven planning principles guiding the parish and school planning process, which were first outlined by Archbishop John Nienstedt in March 2009. A task force has been gathering information from area parishes and schools, and it will present its recommendations to Archbishop Nienstedt in July.

The sixth principle states that: “Every parish will be expected to evaluate its resources and adjust accordingly.” The following story illustrates how a few parishes in the archdiocese have practiced the sixth principle, even before it was outlined in the planning process.

Father Jim Himmelsbach and Father Paul Treacy settled into easy chairs in one of the parlors of the old rectory at Annunciation parish in Minneapolis to discuss evaluating and sharing re­sour­ces.

Conversation flowed like shifting sand between the former mentor and student. Father Himmelsbach, Annunciation pastor, was previously pastor in Waconia, which was the teaching parish — prior to ordination — for Father Treacy, pastor at Our Lady of Peace in Min­nea­polis.

“Sharing resources comes about when you have two small programs that can be combined into one,” Father Himmelsbach said. “It’s not a consolidation, but a coordination, a cooperation.”

Father Treacy said that the parish planning process opened the door to having conversations that otherwise may have caused concern in his parish, which was created by a merger of the former parishes of St. Kevin and Resurrection.

“What we’ve become aware of is that we can have some intentional collaboration, and Annunciation and OLP have embarked on that,” Father Treacy said.

“Father Him­mels­bach has taken the lead and been able to promote it and we’ve been able to benefit from it, where it does broaden the sense of the local church, the broader community, but also so we can strengthen our individual communities. We can tap into the programs or expertise, the staff and resources we have, the volunteers as well, so that each community is stronger because of it.”

Mentorship opportunity

When Annunciation’s liturgy and music director left in August, Father Himmelsbach said budget constraints prevented him from hiring another full-time person. So he talked with Father Treacy about sharing the talents — and salary — of Wendy Silhavy, worship director at Our Lady of Peace.

Planning principles

In his March 2009 column in The Catholic Spirit, Archbishop John Nienstedt emphasized that the planning process will ensure:

1 Full sacramental ministry.

2 Competent pastoral leaders.

3 Special concern for the needs of the poor, marginalized and immigrant.

4 Catholic school support and inclusion in the planning process.

5 Every parish will be involved in this discussion.

6 Every parish will be expected to evaluate its own resources and adjust accordingly.

7 Respect, patience and honesty in all discussions to build on strengths.
Now, Silhavy is mentoring a part-time music director at Annunciation and working with its funeral schola.

“Another thing that’s working exceptionally well is our faith formation program,” Father Himmels­bach said. Annunciation had just 27 children in its program, so two and three grades were meeting together. Father Treacy said the parishes are “in a pilot mode” that will allow for annual changes in faith formation.

Also, “Our Lady of Peace had one RCIA candidate, so we incorporated that person in our educational classes this year,” Father Himmelsbach said. “They still did the rites at Our Lady of Peace, but the educational part here.”

Father Treacy noted that combining the parishes’ justice programs brought that group’s number to about 17, and there are plans to work on a Habitat for Humanity project possibly with St. Peter in Richfield and Visitation in Min­nea­polis. The parishes also advertise each other’s programs and events.

“I think, with the deanery conversations, we realized we have to look for ways to work together,” Father Treacy said.

Father Himmelsbach said they are working to keep both parishes and schools viable. “By co-sharing talents in personnel, we’re able to do that more readily.”

Noise levels rose steadily as faith formation students from St. Charles in Bay­port and St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater recently entered the gathering space between St. Michael Church and St. Croix Cath­olic School.

Although the tri-parish, family-based program has been meeting in the new space for just a few years, the collaborative St. Croix Valley Faith Formation program has been in existence since about 1970, said Jennifer Isackson, longtime SCVFF director, who will retire at the end of this year.

For many years, the parishes had a day-release program that met to­ge­ther in the former St. Mary School. But, transportation costs became prohibitive, so the parishes began their after-school and evening programs, Isackson said.

“The parishes are used to this and work well together,” she said. “They have their own parish identities — definitely three different parishes — but when they come together for the Catholic school and faith formation, they are united as one group.”

The arrangement provides more volunteer faith formation teachers, combined retreats and shared ex­penses, including a combined weekly bulletin. It also provides for a special needs coor­dinator, who planned programming for about 20 children this past school year.

Molly Landgreen, a member of St. Charles who is on the faith formation board, said the biggest challenge is trying to create a sense of community on both the tri-parish and individual parish levels.

But, she added, children don’t have a problem with the concept.

“I like that there is a sense of a bigger Catholic community. My kids get to know people from other chur­ches and other schools that they wouldn’t have met, which only helps when they get to junior and senior high programs,” Landgreen said.

By pooling their resources, the par­ishes have access to three facilities, three priests and a well-educated staff, she added.

Denise Lutz, a faith formation coor­­dinator at Risen Savior in Burns­ville, has been active in Deanery 8 discussions about coordinating catechist training. Although the group offered a training day last fall, registration was too weak to go ahead.

“We spent several meetings collaborating and discussing who had what skills and who would be willing to take certain topics. It would have been a wonderful day,” Lutz said. However, the group learned from the experience that “collaborating together is going to be the way of the future.”

Parishes in similar deaneries, defined by geographic location, will need to continue to work toward sharing expertise and resources, she said.

“Historically, we have become very independent and isolated from parish to parish,” she said. “With the world changing as it is and our church changing, it’s necessary to have a more collaborative nature.” Catholic Spirit

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