Engaging in Parish Life
The pastoral objective of “engaging parishioners in the life of the parish” requires each church to provide opportunities where parishioners can offer their talents and skills to serve in groups and ministries, while also foreseeing a recruitment, formation, and empowering process. Read more below on how parishes addressed this pastoral objective.
Because of Holy Family parishioners attending ACTS retreats, workshops and leadership meetings throughout the Archdiocese, the Pastoral Council decided to charter its own ACTS group. The parish found this initiated more communications between the English and Spanish speaking parishioners.
Their action plan simply reads: “Charter an ACTS group.”
Holy Family also collaborated with the Social Concerns teams of neighboring St. Laurence and St. Angela Merici via the St. Vincent de Paul Conference to address the needs of the poor within each parish's respective boundaries. Through the combined efforts, they have assisted the community through the food pantry, with financial assistance for utilities and furniture needs, home visits, distribution of items at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and back packs, shoes, and school supplies for children at the beginning of the school year.
Therefore, their plan indicates: “Address the needs of those less fortunate living within the community.”
Parishioner participation within some ministries was low at Holy Ghost, so the pastoral planning committee first developed a survey to understand why. Then, they used several communications channels like the parish bulletin, web site, and fliers to introduce and explain the ministries and programs.
The church also hosted a "Get Acquainted" meeting inviting all the leaders of both the Hispanic and English-speaking groups. Archdiocesan Planning group facilitated the meeting. The meeting was quite beneficial and one goal established is for membership of the Parish Pastoral Council to be more representative of the multi-cultural Holy Ghost community.
By being proactive in fostering ministry understanding, Holy Ghost “Creates opportunities for parishioners to be more involved.”
At Mary Queen in Friendswood, the first Financial Peace University class was held in early 2015. Participants learned about budgeting, saving, eliminating debt and financial stewardship of the resources God has given to them. Twenty-three families successfully completed the nine week class.
So, their action plan reads as follows: “Establish a Financial Peace University (FPU) ministry to educate parishioners and community members on how to be better stewards of the financial resources that God has entrusted to them.”
Queen of Peace in La Marque, offers Mass and Communion services in Pine and Sea Breeze Nursing Home in Texas City, when a priest is available. Members of the community are receiving blessings and parishioners are making a difference in the lives of those unable to worship at the church.
They engage more people by reaching out to physically limited as they “Offer parish services to retirement and nursing homes within the community.”
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Manvel had several Filipino parishioners. A Filipino member of the pastoral council mentioned activities among Filipino parishioners at Sacred Heart were held in their homes rather than on church grounds. This conversation created the catalyst to promote these Filipino programs and invite all parishioners. The first activity was the October Bazaar where there was a Filipino food booth.
Two other activities, a weekly event, and a yearly celebration, were initially also held at a Filipino home. Now, they are celebrated in the parish hall and open to everyone. The parish is benefiting from the new level of vitality and sharing among the parishioners.
This beautiful inclusion initiative is depicted in their plan to “Engage Filipino community to incorporate their traditions and celebrations into all parish activities thereby exposing all parishioners to multi-cultural celebrations and activities.”
During Advent and Lent, the entire Sacred Heart of Jesus parish took part in "W I D F O" (What I Did For Others) by writing their personal acts on small paper cut-outs, made by CCE students. Each individual act was then transferred onto large posters hung on either side of the altar. Every week Father would acknowledge the acts.
Deeds were recorded in more than six languages as well as simple XXXs and OOOs from the youngest parishioners. Each week, the plain brown poster transformed with more colorful acts of service, love, and sacrifice for others, in imitation of Jesus, in His Name, as one parish community.
Their action plan states: “Engage the parish community to come together as one by performing acts of service, love, and sacrifice for others. Acts of service for the week are posted on Sunday for parishioners to see, and hopefully become involved.”
St. Edward, Spring has 48 active ministries. To publicize information about each ministry and its successes, each weekly bulletin includes a Ministry Spotlight. A paragraph, highlighted with two pictures, includes information about the ministry, meeting times, spiritual and social activities, contact information and a call for volunteers. The goal is to get more parishioners involved regardless of the amount of time one can volunteer.
St. Edwards’ plan to engage in their rich parish life states: “Increase awareness and celebrate successes of parish programs with a Ministry Spot Light in the weekly bulletin.”
St. Ignatius Loyola, Spring created an organizational structure with five major groups for 80 ministries. The goal of this structure is to better serve the parishioners, increase participation levels and develop a stronger sense of belonging within the Parish. 'Leadership Nights' are conducted with each ministry to solicit ideas/challenges/successes and keep each group moving forward. The parish is also establishing 'term-limits' for ministry officers.
Through this reorganization, the parish can sustain the considerable activity going on while also enriching parish life. The parish plan can “Promote knowledge of all parish ministries and encourage cross participation.”
St. Ignatius also holds an annual ministry fair after first Mass’ Sunday. All ministry groups are encouraged to host an information table where they can share information about the ministry, its successes and needs. Parishioners can sign up for one or several ministries.
The sign-up forms are entered into a main spreadsheet to analyze the results. This gives the pastoral council a clear picture of which ministries were successful in the membership/volunteer drive and which ministries will need further attention. The analysis also shows where there is sincere interest and parishioner participation.
The action plan simply states: “Hold an annual Ministry fair.”
St. Michael, in the Galleria area, put together a comprehensive action plan. The first activity was a Movie Night for parish families held on the sports field at St. Michael. It was a huge success and is now planned to be an annual event. In addition, an annual festival/picnic is being established. Other ideas include an outdoor mass or a "come as you are" mass invitation at the Saturday evening mass. They described this initiative as: “Reformulate both direct and indirect efforts to welcome new parishioners with families.”
St. Michael's Director of Social Justice Ministry established a collaborative approach to invite St. Raphael's youth to St. Michael's Youth Faith Formation programs and events. The annual Christmas Party for children became a joint effort with great success for both parishes. Also, both parishes enthusiastically created an annual St. Raphael Festival beginning in October 2013.
While engaging the youth in the community they “Partnered with a ‘sister´ parish on youth/young adult activities.”
To foster greater parishioner participation, young adults who sing or play musical instruments, gather, and create music for the Sunday evening Mass. So, they decided to “Revitalize the Children's Choir and Contemporary Choir.”
A new Welcome booklet was developed and is mailed along with the Monsignor's welcome letter to each new parishioner. Pastoral Council members also take turns each week to call new parishioners; response is very positive. The church now has a fully stocked Welcome Center in the Usher's Closet and at the Church Office with all registration and sign-up forms both for Parish and outreach activities. The action plan emphasized: “Reformulate both direct and indirect efforts to welcome new parishioners.”