Merger Clarification

This weekend we “open wide the doors to Christ” as we welcome Connie Saldivar, an Associate of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.  She will be speaking to us about their work in Africa and Latin America.  I know you will give her a warm welcome.  And I trust you will be generous (as you have been in the past) in responding to the Annual Mission Appeal.  Simple envelopes have been provided in which to place your donation if you wish to use them.  [A second collection will be taken up at the Masses this weekend]. Please note that any checks should be made payable to Saint John Paul II Parish.  In a few weeks, one check for the total amount will be sent to the Mission Office and they will forward all donations directly to the Congregation of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.   Thus, if you are unable to make a donation to the Mission Appeal today, you still have a couple of weeks in which to do so. 

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is speaking to the crowds and his disciples.  He is speaking about the Pharisees and is very clear in stating that those gathered must observe all things the Pharisees are saying.  However, he is very strong in his directive to the crowds and disciples not to follow their example because they do not practice what they preach.  This is not just a New Testament phenomenon.  I am sure that most of us can testify to the same kind of experience: people who get on their soap boxes and try to tell everyone what they should do, yet they themselves do not take to heart the words of Jesus and fail to put the Gospel into practice in their own lives.  Some people get discouraged by this and it dampness their spirits and sometimes causes them to take a back seat or be uninvolved in their parishes or even leave and go elsewhere.  We will never have a perfect Church; we are a people in need of continual conversion.  All of us need to heed the words of Jesus and make sure that we are faithfully living out the Gospel ourselves.  And once in awhile, we just may have to invite, remind, or challenge others to do the same.

I have decided to address several issues in my column today and next week because there continues to be need for clarification in several areas, perhaps because people missed a bulletin article, an announcement, or a meeting.  I will try to be as thorough as I am able in writing about these issues.

I will begin first with a clarification on the merger itself. 

  • As of July 1, three parishes (Saint John the Baptist, Saint Josaphat and Saint Matthew) merged to form a new parish which was named Saint John Paul II.
  • In no way was this a matter of Saint Josaphat Parish simply changing its name to Saint John Paul II Parish and then incorporating into this newly named parish the two other parishes who would be expected to follow and adapt to the customs and practices of what was formerly Saint Josaphat Church.
  • The newly formed parish is brand new and, thus, members from the three merged parishes all have a voice in who we are and who we want to become as a parish under the patronage of Saint John Paul II.    
  • None of the three church buildings have been closed.  One church building was designated the main worship site: Saint Josaphat Church (building).  Two others were designated churches for Occasional Use: Saint Matthew Church (building) and Saint John the Baptist Church (building).  Mass and other liturgies may be celebrated in the churches for occasional use as long it is not Sunday Mass, or the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
  • Saint John Paul II Parish has three sites and, presently, a total of 12 buildings.  Any buildings may be used in the best way deemed appropriate, in light of responsible stewardship based upon parish needs, income generated from their use and expenses incurred due to their use or non-use.
  • The new parish must have a Pastoral Council and a Finance Council which are the primary vehicles of setting policy and of overseeing the budget, buildings and parish grounds.  These bodies must be representative of all three of the merged parishes.  Pastoral Council and Finance Council along with the other Commissions (Worship, Christian Service Ministry, Faith Formation, and Stewardship) are advisory to the Pastor or Pastoral Administrator.  These councils and commissions follow Diocesan guidelines which were presented to them during the process of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes. 

The second clarification is the role of the Pastor or Pastoral Administrator.

  • The Pastor or Pastoral Administrator is appointed by the bishop, as an extension of his ministry, to serve a given parish.  In the case of the appointment of a Pastoral Administrator, the bishop also appoints a Sacramental Minister to the Parish.
  • Since the Pastor or Pastoral Administrator’s ministry is an extension of the ministry of the Bishop, he or she must reflect the direction the Bishop has set for the diocese.  You may find it helpful to read or re-read Bishop Cistone’s Pastoral Letter entitled: A Future Full of Hope which was mailed to every household.
  • Anyone who serves or ministers within the Parish in any way is an extension of both the ministry of the Pastor or Pastoral Administrator and the ministry of the Bishop.  Thus, anyone who ministers within the parish must respect and implement the direction the Bishop has set for the Diocese.
  • A Sacramental Minister is either a senior priest or a priest who is engaged in full or part time ministry elsewhere with the added responsibility of celebrating Mass on the weekend in a given parish.  He is appointed by the Bishop and is an extension of the Bishop’s ministry and therefore, responsible to help carry out the direction the Bishop has set for the Diocese.  The Sacramental Ministers celebrates funerals and weddings and weekday Mass as his schedule allows.    The Sacramental Minister has no authority in the day to day matters of administering the parish, nor is he expected to attend parish meetings or events (though on occasion, he may be invited to them).
  • As you know, Father Jim’s full time ministry is Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Diocese of Saginaw.  He meets regularly with the Bishop on liturgical matters.  As Father Jim has said on more than one occasion, as the Director of the Office of Liturgy, he follows the guidelines set and promulgated by the Bishop through the Office of Liturgy.  He has also told us on more than one occasion that we could be the model parish of the Diocese when it comes to liturgy. 

The third clarification regards the parish staff.

  • The directive to be followed according to Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes was that all positions be posted “in-house” and if they were unable to be filled “in-house,” then they would be posted publicly. 
  • All employees were aware that they had to re-apply for positions in the new parish of Saint John Paul II.
  • Employees are hired by the Pastor or Pastoral Administrator (and not by the Pastoral Council as mistakenly thought by some). 
  • Two committees were operative in the creation of our staff: one committee (some members of the Finance Council) that looked at the needs of the parish, the staff (both paid and volunteer) necessary to meet those needs, and possible job titles and job descriptions to meet those needs – and the other committee which was an interview and advisory committee made up of three individuals (one from each of the merged parishes).
  • The staff that is now in place are former employees (hired by and on the payroll) from all three of the merged parishes: two from Saint Matthew Parish (Alex and Jim), two from Saint Josaphat Parish (Amy and Dennis), and two from Saint John the Baptist Parish (Patrick who has been playing for all three parishes this past year and Patricia), and one more employee who has worked for all three of our parishes for the past eight years (Natalie).
  • Staff members have been attending regular meetings and are aware that they have a three-month evaluation (as is the case in any new position in the Diocese).  Since we are a new parish with new positions, we follow that guideline.

The fourth area of clarification regards what is perceived as change.

  • In one sense, being a new parish means that everyone is experiencing change.  As we blend people and ministries together, nothing is the same as it has been in any of our churches: from the people in the pew (including children and people with special needs), to the place where we sit, the ability to see what is happening at Mass, the environment within the church, and the way in which a ministry is done.  Take into account that we had to merge in the summer, not an easy time to acclimate people to smooth transitions, which is why we need patience and understanding.  In another week, we will only be two months old, and in two months, one can’t expect miracles, but one can expect some snags and growing pains. 
  • This fall all liturgical ministers will receive formation and training in their specific ministry.  The Bishop will be promulgating and presenting guidelines for all liturgical ministries first to priests, deacons and pastoral administrators.  Then a series of workshop will be presented by the Office of Liturgy.
  • Throughout the past year, and as the date of the merger approached, discussions took place with the Joint Finance Councils, the Implementation Committee, the Interim Pastoral Council, the Worship Commission, Dave Tagget (a diocesan architect), Father Pat O’Connor from the Office of Liturgy (whose expertise is the worship space and enhancement of the church environment), and Tim Muter (who is overseer of parish buildings and grounds throughout the Diocese).  All had input regarding the worship space, how it could accommodate some of the various needs of our parish community, and what we could do to provide a welcoming atmosphere in which people, when they entered, knew we were a new parish.  Numerous ideas surfaced, many which were not implemented.  I encouraged those involved in these discussions to worship in our space for awhile before we make any major decisions, that, by praying in this space for some time, we might better understand our needs and then make some recommendations based on our experience of worship together.

The fifth area of clarification relates to the inside doors of the Church.

  • The suggestion to remove the doors was made by the Worship Commission (again a representation of all three merged parishes).  The rationale they presented to me was to create a welcoming space that reflected the words of Saint John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ!”   (You may remember that the two far doors were never open because of the congestion in the vestibule, and even when people entered or left Church, they basically had to exit through the center doors). 
  • Once again I called Father Pat over to church to discuss the removal of doors along with some other changes that I hesitated making.  We talked about the inside doors of the vestibule creating a buffer zone for air conditioning and heat (so our committee members are aware of this).   Father Pat saw no reason why we couldn’t or shouldn’t remove the doors (even if it was temporary), as long as we stored them securely and made it possible that they would be able to be easily put back into place if and when we wanted to do that (depending upon our experience).

This is a great deal of material to digest in one week and I have much more to share.  Next week, some of the topics I will cover are: handicap and special needs, financial policies, and the food pantry.

Blessings on your week!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ