A Church on the Margins

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Evangelization

is at the heart of the church- for to share the Gospel is to consistently invite all to continual renewal of heart and to lives committed to the living out of discipleship. This living out of the Gospel in our lives can be the greatest witness to the truth of salvation, and invitation to the world who has yet to know the living Christ. More than a feeling or a philosophical premise for our own individual lives, each of us is called to physical and tangible action. As a church then, together, we bridge the Good News and the social action in the midst of the world that has yet to know the saving power of transformation.

“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world…The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centered on charity.” Pope Francis, Evanglii Gaudium

The kerygma then has concrete social demands in a world that is hungry, suffers violence, sickness, and indignity- it is the language of encounter. As scripture relates, it is the fullness of love expressed in mercy and justice, not just towards a few but towards all for the good of all. Thus while the Gospel is personal for each one of us it is inherently social.

“Beware then of stopping at a sterile contemplation of God present in yourself . Add action to contemplation; to the sight of the Divine presence add the faithful accomplishment of the Divine will.” St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Agreeably these demands of the Gospel can be quite challenging at the parish level as we seek more than a few isolated acts of charity and work towards becoming a committed church on the margins. Challenging yes and yet impossible-no.

This week, our suburban Catholic parish collaborative hosted a community panel of on the ground workers speaking to violence and healing within the inner city of Boston. From the vibrant small Presbyterian church in Roxbury, Rev. Liz Walker has found that the daily struggles of poverty and violence are inseparable from the task of evangelization. Along with fellow vineyard worker Nancy Kilburn, a monthly fellowship was begun to meet the trauma of the families and community affected by violence. In these “Can we Talk” sessions, the church seeks to meet the grief experienced through sharing a meal together, providing mental health support, music and even exercise.  While listening to the story of a mother who suddenly had lost her son to gun violence, our hearts ask how we can ever hope to heal the loss she feels. And yet this church community has helped to ease the loss, by providing the space to give voice to the pain these mothers, fathers and community have experienced.

What is a church on the margins- a church focused on the active work of evangelization?

In short, a home not only where we each experience Christ, but one where we meet Christ in one another daily. The kerygma moves not only within a congregation but through doors that are open, in disciples equipped to share what that love of Christ has done in their lives by committed action to those most in need of love and healing. Perhaps you ask what is the work that I am called to do? Take time today to consider the needs of your greater community that may not be met sufficiently already. For example, in a community where poverty abounds, meal centers are seeds of transformation and healing. Notice how often Jesus came to table?  And still even with a ministry that is presently active, know that there is a way for you too to become involved.

Reflect:

What are ways that I see my own faith challenged in giving voice to the Gospel? Have I given a ready witness to the love of God in my life by my action to love of neighbor? How can my parish community better serve the needs of the larger community, and what role can I serve in working to make this a reality?

Fully Alive: A Parish on the Move

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As far as parish life goes, it has been a very busy weekend for my parish collaborative family. Yet, when I think of it this is not that unusual for these two parishes as there always seems to be something going on. Whether it be school events, bible study, bereavement groups, healing Masses, Adoration, speakers, musical artists, youth events (you get the image) our parishes are always hopping with energy and abounding in community. So, for those weeks where I long for more energy and wish I had the saint’s gift of bi-location..it is only so that I could be present at everything!

 : Friday night, we had a youth fundraiser featuring the musical stylings of our parochial vicar and his former fellow seminarians (The Celtic Clerics) who donated their talents for the evening. With dinner, live auction, and dancing- a fun time at Resurrection Pariah was had by all! The Life Teen youth now have a needed boost to fund their upcoming mission trip to Haiti.  :

 : Saturday and Sunday began the kickoff for our annual community food pantry drive. Paper bags were personally handed out with a list of essential items attached.Next week all items donated will be collected and loaded onto a delivery truck to the waiting arms of more volunteers who will unload and stock the shelves. It is an amazing undertaking and the work done in these 2 weeks helps feed so many who otherwise might be unable to adequately provide food for themselves or their family.

Also this Sunday, we held a Remembrance Mass and reception for all of our parish families who have lost a loved one this past year. From the music and roll call of names, to the roses given out then arranged by the families gathering in fellowship, it was truly a coming together of our faith community.

Finally, my pastor and I sat down for the second meeting of  : Eucharistic minister training for those who have said yes to the invitation to bring Christ to others. The following week they will join the larger community of Eucharistic ministers as part of a spiritual retreat. Always growing,and always deepening our faith lives.

Every parish is different and each has it’s strengths. Yet, if your believe your parish is stagnant..

Odds are others feel the same way. Yet, what can you do? You are just a parishioner sitting in the pew. Or maybe you have mentioned your concern and things have yet to change.

1. First let me say that our parish priests are overworked, often understaffed, and are lucky to sit down and enjoy 15 minutes to eat in peace. They need not only helpful ideas but people willing to implement those ideas and motivate others to volunteer their time as well. If your pastor has given an event the go-ahead, and you are such a motivator take time to make a plan and consider parishioners that might be interested in being a part of it.

2. Invite: So, if there are others like you sitting in the pew or just a few people doing everything in the parish, maybe then the problem is a lack of invitation. Many people assume, albeit incorrectly, that they are not needed. Time and talents is a REAL thing folks. God has given each of us many ways to serve and at different times calls forth each of those gifts.

3. Do not underestimate the personal invitation. If you have invited and still there is a lack luster response..reconsider how you are inviting. Group emails via your parish’s  Constant Contact work for some, but nothing beats a well timed conversation. Even if you receive a no this time, thank them for their consideration. People want to know that you value their commitments too. Not to mention, next time it will be even easier to ask.

4. If the cost of an event is a consideration, perhaps there are those who cannot volunteer time but can volunteer food, expenses or supplies. What would we do without those parishioners that give so generously to sponsor or provide the means for hospitality to occur? It isn’t that there is a shortage of ways to spend money these days, or organizations vying for these funds. What is it that your event, devotion, or activity adds to parish life or community? The answer to this question and an awareness of  the mission of your parish will help guide you to who to ask.

5. Remember, you are offering a gift too. It is not uncommon to feel so grateful for the service that your volunteers would provide to forget that in serving they too are given a gift. As anyone that has served in ministry can attest to- the gift of serving is that God will never be outdone in terms of gift giving. Though not always quantifiable, the grace experienced far outweighs the time and energy spent. It may also leave you with a longing to serve even more!

So don’t be content with the excuse that your parish is dead..but be a catalyst towards a parish community that is on the move and fully alive!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Family Mission

While we often give much thought to how we can individually allow others to see Christ in us, it occurred to me that as a family we hadn’t really given this much thought.  So, this Lent I  want to focus on 5 qualities that we as a family consider important. Not only those that we feel we do well at, but those that we have to consistently strive towards. 

Pray Constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) “Pray without ceasing”//To this my youngest, Thomas age 9 said, “Oh I do that one all of the time! I pray in the morning before school that I will have a wonderful day, or if I have a problem. Then at night, I pray as a family and say and Our Father and Hail Mary’s as I fall asleep.” What a neat insight into my son’s spiritual life that this exercise had given me!

Speak Truthfully  (Proverbs 12:22) “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,but those who are truthful, his delight”// Surprisingly here, Thomas added, “That one can be tough because sometimes I say yes or no to questions before I really think about whether I have done what is being asked” “So, I pressed, do you do this on purpose?” “No, I don’t really mean to- just answer because I am used to giving that answer..but sometimes I haven’t done what I am supposed to have done. ” Do, you try to fix that? To make your answer truthful by then doing it?” “No, and that is what I am working on”

Serve Faithfully (1 Samuel 12:24) “Serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you” // Our family places great importance on serving others both within the parish setting and in those we encounter. Over the past 12 years, though my service in various ministries has increasingly grown I find that I actually have more time. Or perhaps the time that I have apart from serving is simply more enjoyable because of the joy that it has given me. As a Eucharistic minister to the nursing homes, My husband has also stepped in to lead Why Catholic when needed and to serve at mass through the collection and communion. 15 year old Peter has been an altar server since 3rd grade and now serves additionally at mass in his school. Thomas helps me prepare for Children’s Liturgy and is fervent in supporting the missionary Childhood association and the needy in our area.  I say this not to praise these works but to speak to the call to serve that we feel so profoundly.

Love Patiently (1 Cor 13:4) “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated”// Perhaps one of the most beloved wedding readings, it is so incredibly important to keep in mind in our families. Hand in hand with

Forgiving Generously, (Col 3:13) in “Bearing with one another and forgiving one another”// it requires being accepting of one another’s faults, failings and misgivings and meeting these with Love. This is a daily challenge for me as a mom, in my desire to lead with love while also helping to form them in their chosen paths in life. For my 15 year old it means committedly resolving this Lent to be kinder in his responses to his little brother, as he seeks to annoy. Without a doubt,  I am sure that each of us can find ways to be more loving and forgiving to one another not only during this season of Lent but all year long!

In Peace and Love,

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Worth Revisiting: Go Light the World!

‘Being Christian is a gift that makes us go forward with the power of the Spirit in the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” And “baptism is enough, it is sufficient to evangelize,” to preach Christ even amidst persecution or when one lives in insecurity.’ Pope Francis, Vatican City Apr 17, 2013

As a Catholic, few can say that they remember the experience of their own baptisms…that is unless they too are a convert. Looking back, I have often thought what a blessing God has given in allowing me to so vividly recall the details of this incredible undeserving gift.  Along with those later made in choosing to become a Catholic, I can see how these sacraments have formed me, and continue to transform me throughout my journey with God.  For those who have yet to hear my story, as well as for my own children, I feel today is a good day to share.

Having grown up in a strong Southern Baptist family, I would venture to say that I spent almost as much time at church as I did at home. Yet, there was no pressure or time set aside when I was to decidedly become a Christian. This was a time of Sunday school, a time to color, to play, listen to bible stories, and sing in the Children’s choir. However, early on I began to realize that, while young, more was being asked of me. One evening, sitting with my mother I had inwardly been praying. It was a deep soul searching prayer, one in which I sat in conversation with Christ asking what I needed to do. To any onlooker, I must have looked a bit odd because I was totally immersed in the moment, unaware of things going around me. “Be baptized.. Come you are loved and forgiven” were the words that resounded in my heart. Tears streamed down my little 7 year old face as I opened my eyes and related this to my mom. Now, so intimately I knew what sin was and that in choosing to follow Christ I could not also follow sin.

Though excitedly awaiting my baptismal date, it was only to be postponed by- chicken pox. An outbreak had hit all the schools and I was among the many, including the boy that I was to be baptized with. By the time the day finally arrived, my anticipation had truly grown. My mom and grandma sat in the congregation as I expressed my commitment to follow Christ’s teachings. Then, three times my head was slowly pushed back into the water and I joyously heard the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.

As a funny aside, I was so little and lightweight that with the gown I was wearing my feet automatically sprang to the surface with each submersion.  I literally popped to the top of the water, my grandma would later tease, just like an apple. Standing up and turning to face the congregation, I was greeted by a wave of applause and a chorus of Amens. This was, as Pope Francis would be the first to add, my new birthday in the Church.

Just a few months afterward, a couple of teens broke into that church taking any items of value before setting it ablaze. I remember the sadness that I felt at the sin that had caused so much devastation. I prayed for them, asking God to help them to realize this and to find their way to Him one day. While all church records were lost, my mom provided a living witness to my baptism and letter of testimony when I sought to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. Oh, and that small Baptist church would be replaced by a new one just 2 years later..three times the size.

Father you are everything new and good in this world! You created me anew through my baptism and called me to share in the life, love and mission of your Church here on earth. You have given me a light to guide me, and an open door through which to grow and embrace a sacramental life with you within the world. Please enable me Lord to always show your light and love to the world!

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith- June 15-19th

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Real Life Radio daily at 4pm EST.

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This week’s lineup is part of our Mission and Evangelization Week. A week where we discuss what it is to be a Church of mission, and evangelization engaged in the work of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 

Monday: Maureen Crowley Heil, Director of  Programs and Development for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, in the Archdiocese of Boston speaks on World Mission. 

 

 

 

Tuesday: Maureen Crowley Heil, Director of  Programs and Development for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, in the Archdiocese of Boston speaks on the work here in the US with the Missionary Childhood Association. 

 

Wednesday: Mary Margaret Kerry,FSP Daughter of St. Paul and current author of “Live Christ, Give Christ”, a collection of prayers for the New Evangelization

 
Thursday: Mission and Evangelization, Connections: ‎Looking at this idea of Mission and Evangelization within our local communities. Laura Chun, Loyola Chicago alum shares with us the beauty of living and serving within the Franciscan Mission of San Luis Rey Parish in Oceanside, California .

 

Friday: Weekly Recap Join me as discuss the past week’s news, events, tweets and posts! What does our Catholic Faith have to do the compassionate care and service to others, including those who are living around the world?