Spiritual Growth and Liturgy
As parishes look at spiritual offerings and education initiatives for their parishioners, this pastoral objective is meant to help further the parish activities: Evaluate, develop, and plan liturgical and spiritual development opportunities that promote individual spiritual growth and an increase in holiness, while facilitating active participation by the faithful in the celebration of the liturgy. Let’s see what’s working at these parishes.
Because of Missouri City-based 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. The parish action plan addresses the desire to “Charter an ACTS group.”
Holy Ghost in West Houston is promoting growth in prayer life. Morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH) is held weekday mornings in the church. The parish sourced reproducible booklets for the prayers through the Internet. The parish also holds Eucharistic Adoration monthly that begins with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The parish’s spiritual journey continues through the action plan to “Develop spiritual development opportunities through prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.”
Holy Rosary's St. Valentine's Marriage Guild created opportunities to include Spirituality of Communion messages for engaged and married couples. Activities included:
- An Italian dinner with Deacon Tom Vicknair, the leader of Marriage Matters!, as the guest speaker.
- A Lenten meal and reflection after the Sunday Vigil Mass
- A family picnic and barbecue.
These events have been instrumental in helping the parish's married couples appreciate the goodness of their Sacrament as well as make new friends. The parish action plan declares: “Foster a Spirituality of Communion in the sacrament of marriage and plan parish events that enrich couples’ marriages.”
At Prince of Peace in Northwest Houston, a reflection question about the Gospel is published on the screens in the Church between Masses. Parishioners have said the question draws them into the Gospel message and is something they look forward to. Many also use the question as a point of discussion after Mass. Everyone in the parish, from the pastor who designs the questions to the Twitter followers, has their own private opportunity to reflect on the question but it has also served as a point of unity for parishioners. The parish action plan wanted to give prominence to the Word of God to “Spread the Gospel message each week across all available media including the bulletin, electronic screens, homily, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Parishioners at Queen of Peace in La Marque offer a spiritual bouquet of prayers with different intentions monthly. A Eucharistic Adoration is also held every Friday at the parish. Adult bible classes are held every Sunday and Monday. The classes are filled and parish leaders are delighted more parishioners are involved and being nourished with the Word of God. The intention of this parish action plan was to “Provide more spiritual development opportunities to parishioners and the community-at-large.”
The parishioners at Sacred Heart in Crosby promote liturgical and spiritual development through praying the Rosary before Mass, Catholicism DVDs, and installing acolytes. The result is more parishioners getting involved in other aspects of the Masses and church community. Also, the Homily is published via social media prior to Mass. This helps prepare parishioners for the Gospel message. It also gives time to develop a Spanish translation of the Homily for a "whisper translation" performed real time at all Masses. The parish also purchased missalettes in Spanish. The parish’s first action plan speaks to “Promote liturgical and spiritual development through a variety of activities.”
Also at Sacred Heart, prayer is promoted using the resources of the Legion of Mary (members of the Legion of Mary become instruments of the Holy Spirit through a balanced program of prayer and service). Another focus for the parish is confession. Kneelers have been placed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for penance. This prayerful action plan focuses on ways to “Provide a model of reverence to the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.”
The parish of St. Laurence in Sugar Land developed Small Faith Communities that meet in parishioner’s homes during Lent. More than 500 parishioners participated. The action plan is designed to “Engage parishioners in spiritual growth and holiness through Small Faith Communities.”
St. Martha in Kingwood developed several action plans to help parishioners toward spiritual growth. First, the Priests and deacons at St. Martha use PowerPoint slides/pictures to further the homily message. Not only has this improved the retention of the homily, it is allowing the parish to reach across the cultures and ages and bring people closer to Christ.This action plan addresses ways to “Improve retention of the Word using PowerPoint slides during homilies.”
In a Parish Action Plan writing session, seven parishioners at St. Martha acknowledged the churchgoers’ hunger for developing better prayer lives. Based on this need, the group created a series of workshops on prayer, using methods of prayer that the average person could begin to practice immediately.
These workshops were held on consecutive Tuesday evenings that focused on the following four methods of prayer:
- The Jesus Prayer
- Praying with Icons
- Ignatian Spirituality (Praying with Imagination)
- Eucharistic Adoration
The goal of this second action plan is to “Assist in the development of personal prayer by offering spiritual development opportunities.”
A committee at St. Martha was formed of three representatives each from the Anglo and Hispanic communities to share ideas and to develop a program. Both groups learned much from the planning process and developed a better understanding of each group’s perspective for the Blessed Mother. The group focused on two devotions: The Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) and Posada to bring together the Anglo and Hispanic communities. The result was a parish celebration, not just a Hispanic celebration. It stimulated a sense of unity. This third action plan emphasizes a “Focus on special devotions, especially from all cultures represented within the parish.”
Finally, students at Kingwood High School who attend St. Martha formed a Catholic Club, F+SHS (Father, Son and Holy Spirit Club), with the purpose of sharing their faith with like-minded individuals. The students also had a desire for a day of reflection, which was organized using materials adapted from another Action Plan, where the participants could develop a closer relationship with our Lord.
This all began among a few amazing teenagers with a yearning for a closer relationship with God. Leveraging the successes from the Parish Action Plans allowed the team to quickly develop this follow-on day of reflection. This action plan addresses ways to “Deepen spiritual experience for the youth of the parish.”
The parish pastoral council at St. Raphael the Archangel in Woodlake/Briar Meadow created new programs around faith formation. They are:
- Conduct pre-baptism classes at the parish rather than sending parishioners to St. Dominic Center
- Formed a new prayer group for families with Virtus trained facilitators
- Started a Charismatic group
- Hold a night adoration group
- Incorporate Legion of Mary activities.
These undertakings are attracting many new volunteers.
The parish action plan simply states: “Create programs around faith formation.”
St. Raphael also started evening Bible study in Spanish reading scriptures from the Holy Bible. Participation in the classes continues to grow prompting the addition of more classes. This parish action plan addresses the need for multi-lingual bible study classes and declares: “Form multi-lingual bible study classes.”
In cooperation with St. Anthony of Padua, teams from both St. Anthony and Sts. Simon & Jude in The Woodlands developed a Hispanic Ministry Council that delivers Spanish liturgy and access to Spanish Sacraments, as required, at both parishes every weekend. The parishes hired a bilingual retired priest and share the cost. The parish is also pleased to see former parishioners returning, who had migrated to other parishes offering a Spanish Mass.
The action plan underscores the advantages of working with nearby parish and sharing resources: “Partner with ‘sister’ parish on multi-cultural activities.”