Annunciation focuses on needs of parish, surrounding community
December 25, 2018
Through its parish pastoral council, Annunciation Catholic Church is working to serve the needs of its parishioners and the ever-changing community that surrounds the parish in downtown Houston. For example, the parish welcomes opens the church to visitor heading to a Houston Astros baseball game and offers the chance to view and pray inside the historic church. File photo by James Ramos/Herald.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on parishes that are adopting Pastoral Plans by responding to Galveston-Houston’s multiculturism with active mercy through initiatives of stewardship and service.
HOUSTON — Founded in 1869, Annunciation Catholic Church is grounded in a tradition of Catholic faith and service. As the second Catholic church established in Houston and at one time serving the entire Catholic population of Houston, it is often crowded with many people drawn to a reverent and spiritual atmosphere and Masses.
From the beginning, Annunciation church members were a strong influence on social problems in the Downtown Houston community serving in charitable ways. Early parishioners located the poor and needy throughout Houston so that coal, wood, clothes and other necessities could be shared with them. Besides distributing food and clothing, the members also visited the jails, homes for the aged, convalescent homes, and hospitals to distribute used Catholic books and magazines.
Father Paul Felix, Annunciation’s current pastor, carries on this tradition of social influence.
“Father Felix feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to the community and leads the parish in proactively serving the growing needs both within and outside the boundaries of the church,” said Kathy Marietta, parishioner and parish pastoral council member.
In Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, Father Felix ministered to the thousands of flood victims staying at the shelter in the downtown convention center just blocks away, offering daily Mass. Parish staff, volunteers and Missionaries of Charity joined Father Felix in helping the displaced.
The church still partners and collaborates with Catholic Charities, San José Clinic, and others. Father Felix works with city leaders to learn about new needs and ways the parish can continue to serve.
In 2019, the parish is marking its 150th anniversary. A series of year-long events that began in September 2018 will honor the historic landmark’s history and legacy, ending with a gala event. A capital campaign is underway to renovate the aging church and start new outreach programming.
To recognize leadership in the parish, Father Felix established a parish pastoral council that represented the parishioners’ voice that would guide the parish in growth and address the evolving needs of the parish and surrounding community. He appointed council leadership who then embarked on developing a five-year Parish Pastoral Plan.
The council first reviewed the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and then engaged in activities to stimulate their thinking about the strengths and needs of the parish. They also utilized a facilitator, provided by the Archdiocese, to start the planning process. After going through some exercises, the group identified what they envisioned the future state of Annunciation should be.
“I must admit the biggest hurdle in creating the Parish Pastoral Plan was putting pen to paper,” Marietta said. “We knew where we had successes and challenges and what tangible activities we wanted to consider, but we also wanted our mission statement and values to further the objectives of the Archdiocese.”
Marietta shared the following excerpt from the executive summary: “The initial action items to implement the plan and further the objectives are contemplated in the plan. The plan has been prepared in a way that allows parishioners (through working groups to be formed to support each objective) to actively implement the plan. Through implementation of the plan, many opportunities will surface for leadership roles within the parish. The sense of community within the parish and active involvement of parishioners will thrive as we move forward together!”
The Parish Pastoral Council at Annunciation recognizes that the five-year plan is important to the growth of the parish especially with so much development and revitalization nearby. In light of this, they built in flexibility to allow for modification of the plan and its objectives, as the Pastoral Council deems necessary during annual plan reviews.
“We all agree that it is essential to continue our role as a team player and active participant in the community and seize the opportunities to be an example of inspiration and encouragement to all who wish to enter through our church doors,” Marietta said.
One unexpected way of how the church’s location spiritually supports people of all faiths is during weekend Houston Astros’ baseball games. The parish is located right next to Minute Maid park.
2017 was the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima and the parish wanted to promote praying the Rosary. Members of the church started a fundraiser as a small way to assist Annunciation’s capital campaign.
Parishioners made Rosaries — many of them in Astros colors and even some baseball-themed versions. The Rosaries were sold during weekend home games so when people walk by the church on their way to the game, the Rosaries catch their eyes. Fans and visitors alike would stop to look at the merchandise in the pop-up gift shop, tour the church, and often ask questions about the parish.
Theses Rosaries presented an occasion to minister to people of all walks of life and evangelize. This initiative caught media attention and has been reported locally, nationally and internationally — bringing positive light to Catholicism.
The words “Commitment to Christ, to one another, and to the betterment of the community” are seen on the church’s website. In the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 appears to be a perfect description of The Church of the Annunciation’s wonderful example of serving the needs of others through faithful service: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” They look for opportunities to welcome all and support those in need with extraordinary love.
For more information on Pastoral Plan tools and resources, contact Jim Barrette at the Office of the Secretariat Pastoral and Educational Ministries at 713-741-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.archgh.org/PastoralPlan. For more information about The Church of the Annunciation visit acchtx.org. †