This past June, 19 collaboratives began the work of strengthening their parishes for the work of evangelization. Last month, the pastors of those Phase 6 collaboratives attended the orientation and workshop that addressed some of the specific issues and concerns they might face when working in a multi-parish setting. Some "best practices" were offered and some individual consultations were provided. Now, these Phase 6 pastors are back in their collaboratives with some specific tasks that need their attention.
Among the tasks to be done is encouraging their councils, staffs, school boards and parishioners to attend the three workshops: Forming Disciples in Mission, Forming Collaboratives for Mission and Forming Leaders for Mission. Each of these workshops focuses on a different aspect about evangelization and the tasks related to becoming an evangelizing parish. These workshops are intended to help the leadership in the collaboratives, as well as the parishioners to better understand that evangelization needs to be part of everything we do as a Church. This is an ongoing task and takes a shift in our thinking about putting our faith into action.
Of course, these workshops are not limited to those who are already in a collaborative, they are open to everyone in the archdiocese. If you are interested in participating in any of these workshops, the dates and locations of future workshops can be found at: www.Disciplesinmission.com under the "workshops" tab. One new feature that has been developed is that the Forming Disciples in Mission workshop is available in several languages. The other two workshops will be available in those languages by springtime.
As the Phase 6 collaboratives are busy attending the workshops and considering the practical application of all that they learned at the workshops, preliminary steps are underway for the 10 Phase 7 collaboratives. The pastors in each of the 15 parishes that makeup the Phase 7 collaboratives have submitted their resignations to Cardinal SeŠn. Consultation meetings with the councils and staffs for each of the collaboratives are underway and the data from those sessions is being passed along to the Clergy Personnel Board. Over the next two to three months, the personnel board will review information about the parishes, prioritize the names of priests who have applied and make their recommendations to Cardinal SeŠn for the pastor of each new collaborative. In February, the pastors of the Phase 7 collaboratives will be named; however, they will not take on their responsibility of leading the collaborative until June 2019.
Meanwhile, in the earlier phases of Disciples in Mission, collaboratives are hard at work implementing their local pastoral plans and tracking their progress in accomplishing their goals. Pastors from these earlier phases report that one of the biggest challenges they face is getting parishioners to accept that they are disciples and that they have a role to play in the work of evangelization. Parishioners are reticent to step out of their comfort zone and to speak about their relationship with Christ to others. Parishioners also have a narrow view of evangelization and think that it means they must go knocking on people's doors to spread the good news. That may be one way to be an evangelizer, but for the most part it is much simpler. If we listen to the gospel that is read each week, we can learn from Jesus some of the best examples of how we are to be disciples/evangelizers. He took time with people, ate with them, listened to them, felt compassion for them. Simple human interaction made a world of difference. Try smiling at the people you meet at Mass, or praying with someone who asks for prayers, or going to coffee and donuts next Sunday with the intention of speaking to someone you have not met before. Over and over, people ask for examples of best practices. The collaboratives are using great programs to bring people back to church, but the places that are seeing more parishioner engagement in their faith are places where these simple best practices are given emphasis. Evangelization needs to be part of everything we do. That being so, where might Christ be calling you to be an evangelizer in your parish/collaborative?
Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Bostonís Office of Pastoral Planning.