Friday, August 31, 2012

If I Were Pastor

Surfing the net, this morning.  Musing over a cup of coffee.  I came across this chart and planned my own parish.

What Parishes are most successful at:

1.       Managing parish finances                                                                90%
2.       Recruitment and retaining ministers/staff                                           89
3.       Communicating with parishioners                                                     89
4.       Educating parishioners in the faith                                                     86
5.       Welcoming new parishioners                                                            85
6.       Promoting ministry opportunities                                                       85
7.       Listening to parishioner concerns and input                                         83
8.       Effectively using committees and councils                                          79
9.       Providing social activities and programs                                             77
1.   Providing accessibility for persons with disabilities                               77
11.   Ministering to the elderly                                                                   76
12.   Ministering to families                                                                       75
13.   Ministering to those who are grieving                                                  75
14.   Ministering to those in financial need                                                   66
15.   Collaborating with other parishes                                                        61
16.   Providing cultural, ethnic, or national celebrations                                 59
17.   Celebrating cultural diversity                                                               56
18.   Providing Mass in preferred languages                                                 56
19.   Ministering to young adults                                                                 56
20.   Outreach to inactive Catholics                                                             43
21.   Ministering to recent immigrants                                                          35

   If I were Pastor I’d put # 15, first.  I figured I’d get more accomplished with others.  Yes, that might be more work, but the more people, the bigger the talent pool.  The first thing I’d do is publish and coordinate the Mass schedule and other sacraments.  The Mass Schedule would always be posted in my bulletin: if St. Joe’s has a 7:00 Mass, then I’d have a 7:30, and St. Mary’s would have an 8:00.  I definitely wouldn’t forget evening Masses.  One of us should have a Saturday Evening Mass, and another a Sunday Evening.  Confessions—likewise.

   Our Deacons would be involved in all of the above, especially the funerals of people who are Catholic, but don’t request a Mass.  I’ve been to a family funeral where the family were fallen away Catholics.  They weren’t anything.  Although if you asked them, they’d say, “Catholic.”  They were grieving.  But they would have been extremely uncomfortable if a priest ministered to them.  A Deacon was there and explained that he was “like” a priest, but he was married with children.  The family loved him.  He was perfect.  If there were a Mass, they wouldn’t have known what to do or how to act, and that would have just caused them more discomfort in a difficult time.  The Deacon was a godsend.

     The priest can’t do it all, but I think he can be perceived as doing it all.  CCD/religious ed for example: he should always make an appearance .  Five minutes out of a day to show up.  Sometimes it would be to greet the kids; sometimes it would be to say good-bye.  Even a walk through, is something.  For gosh sakes, wish the kids a “Merry Christmas”.  Just casting the priests’ shadows, now and then, is enough.

      I also think my priests should do likewise (make an appearance) at EVERY single event and group the parish runs.  That’s every sodality, Bible Study, prayer group, etc., cast a priestly shadow as you walk through.  Five minutes is all the time I’d ask.  The priests can alternate with the Deacons and parish administrators, or seminarians.  I’m after the perception that the parish administration cares.
Outside of # 18, lay people can coordinate all the efforts.  The priest would know what’s happening, because he’s casting his shadow everywhere, but I think all of the above can be coordinated by lay people.  Every week or two they’d be a team meeting where everybody would give an update on their ministries.

      I’d get rid of parish councils.  They are not representative of ALL the people.  Just by the fact that they’re chosen by vote tells you that it’s a popularity contest.  Newcomers, who should be welcomed and invited into ministries, don’t have any say on a parish council because they aren’t known enough to garner the necessary votes to get elected.  In fact, I’d bet the ranch, that most of the people on the parish council are elderly because they’ve been in the church the longest; therefore they know most of the people.  Next, I bet the rest of the parish council are Lectors, because they come out before Mass and introduce themselves!  No, parish councils will be out, and the Ministry Teams will replace them.

     The Ministry Teams definitely will meet no less often than bi-weekly.  For gosh sakes, parish councils only meet seasonally, at best—that tells you how necessary they are! 

     Since the laity is coordinating everything but the sacraments, the priests should have a better prayer life.  And pray in and with the people.  Join the Rosary before Mass.  Be seen praying in church—pray your Office in front of the Blessed Sacrament, pray in the sacristy with the altar servers, and no cop out excuse that the people keep interrupting your prayer.  What would John Vianney say about that?  Over a priest’s life span, someone asking for Confession, or help, during private prayer, doesn’t happen the majority of time.  Priests must be seen praying.  Perception is important.  Make the perception reality.

      The problem I’d always have is “money.”  As pastor, I am a priest first, not the financial executive officer of a corporation.  My parish would not be a business.  I’d need enough money to meet expenses, and the rest would be given away.  I’d pray that if I were ministering to my people well, they’d support the parish.  I’d do what I could; the rest is up to the Holy Spirit. 

      Such as it is, this is my model for pastoral leadership. I had fun planning my parish.  Surfing the internet this morning I was reminded of my mother, who’s been gone for over thirty years.  Somebody has her name on Facebook.  The name is an uncommon, old Lithuanian name.  I read her page and saw that she works for the Archdiocese of Boston.  She’s into Lay Ministry.  That’s how I came across the chart posted at the beginning of this article.  You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know on the web site of Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership. 

Rest in Peace, Mom.  

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