Where is God calling Saint Mary’s?
This is the question we asked as we began to anticipate our 150th anniversary.
This is a journey with three seasons:
The first season – DISCOVERING – was an opportunity to work together to identify clear, compelling shared reasons for making this journey.
- In December 2011, many of us completed a Parish Life Survey developed for Saint Mary’s with professional assistance from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Click here for the SURVEY (PDF).
- In January and February 2012, leaders from Saint Mary’s reviewed Georgetown University’s analysis of the survey…attempting to identify emerging themes…and these themes were developed into TALKING POINTS. Later, during the Easter Season, many of us gathered for Sundae Fest and shared the fruit of our Talking Points discussions. Click here for TALKING POINTS .
- Our Season of Discovery captured a great deal. Our review of the Survey data led to opportunities for us listen to one another’s hopes, concerns, and ideas – all with a view to identifying important issues. These issues have a long-term impact on our lives, will not go away by themselves, and need to be taken seriously as we look to the future. These issues create the environment in which we live and from which God is calling us into a faithful future. We embrace these issues as opportunities and challenges for our future. Click here for CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES (PDF).
The second season – DISCERNING – is an ongoing opportunity to prayerfully discern God’s Vision…What is God calling Saint Mary’s to be and do? Want to learn more? Click the play button to watch the video.
- Our Season of Discernment began in September 2012 with a menu of opportunities that led us into deeper prayerful listening. Our anchor was a “Salt and Light” Scripture Study – either in Small Church Communities or in our own self-directed groups. Other opportunities included studying the gift of Vatican II at nearby Chicago Theological Union (or in a series sponsored by the Diocese) and sharing the wisdom of Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.
- A panel of parishioners – our “Vision Panel” – was commissioned to prayerfully listen with us for the movement and guidance of God’s Spirit – with the hope of receiving the gift of God’s Vision for Saint Mary’s.
- We gathered on the 1st Sunday of Advent to begin “Unwrapping the Gift of God’s Vision for Us” – a grace-filled day of prayer, study and discussion. We shared insights, perspectives and visions that we believe reflect God’s call for us here and now at Saint Mary’s. This was a dynamic occasion to gather wisdom and other fruits of God’s Holy Spirit as we began to unwrap the gift of God’s future for Saint Mary’s.
- In mid-December 2012, our Vision Panel began a period of intense listening, prayer, and study. Trusting the gifts of God’s Spirit, expressed through the community of Saint Mary’s. they began to write … and in January 2013 their intense efforts gave expression to a Vision.In early-February 2013, our parish received the Vision with open minds and hearts of faith. Click here for VISION (PDF).
- We began praying the Vision during Lent. We continued praying the Vision during the Easter Season – and beyond – in a variety of settings:
- Sunday Mass
- Eucharistic Adoration
- Women using Yoga to meditate on the Vision
- Men engaging one another and the Vision while enjoying pizza and beverages
- Men and women engaging the Vision while enjoying a wine and cheese social
- Men and women reflecting on Father Timothy Radcliffe’s Take the Plunge in a Book Club
We continue to pray the Vision to help us align our hearts with God’s Vision.
- Our effort to embrace God’s Vision led to experiences that were quite diverse – not unlike the experience of the early-Church. The diversity of our experiences is on display in this video. Click the play button to watch.
The third season – EMBODYING – is our ongoing effort to embody God’s Vision in our lives as disciples of Jesus.
- Our Season of Embodying began in June 2013 with DREAMFEST when we gathered on a Sunday afternoon to imagine God’s Dream for our future.
- During the summer months, the wisdom shared during DREAMFEST became the prayerful focus of our Parish Pastoral Council. Analysis, Study, Discussion and Prayer led us to believe that God might be calling Saint Mary’s to concentrate our efforts on a specific annual theme.
- During the next year, our over-arching theme (flowing from our Vision Prayer) is “OPENING OUR ARMS TO SERVE OTHERS.”
- In early-September, seventy parishioners who presently serve as leaders in ministry were invited to a special Evening of Reflection. Our time together included 1) time to notice our personal experience of ministry and 2) listening to the experience of others…all with a view to anticipating a parish-wide event in late-September for all parishioners to imagine how God may be calling them to “OPEN THEIR ARMS TO SERVE OTHERS.”
- A MINISTRY FESTIVAL on the last Sunday of September offered an opportunity for us to respond to God’s invitation to “Come Dance With Me” by volunteering for a ministry presently offered at Saint Mary’s. By day’s end, our volunteer ranks increased by 249!
- Ministry leaders gathered in early-December to notice 1) how each ministry is presently “Opening Our Arms To Serve Others” and 2) imagine how we might “open our arms” wider.
- Ministry leaders will meet in January 2014 with all those who serve in their respective ministry community to notice 1) how Saint Mary’s is presently “Opening Our Arms To Serve Others” and 2) Imagine how we might better serve others in the future.
- Ministry leaders gathered in February 2014 with those who serve in their respective ministry community to consider how God is calling us to “Open Our Arms To Serve Others.” How does it look in what we do in our ministry? What do we emphasize?
- Ministry leaders gathered in March 2014 to share with one another the fruit of their February meetings: the new initiative(s) emerging in each ministry community. This Grace-filled meeting was an opportunity for leaders to share wisdom – affirming support and naming concerns regarding new ideas. Leaders were urged to begin implementing these new initiatives by completing a formal proposal for the Pastor’s review – with a view to gathering in May 2014 and September 2014 to share with one another the progress in developing new initiatives.
- Ministry leaders gathered in May 2014 and September 2014 to share progress on new ministry initiatives with a view to noticing opportunities to collaborate with one another.
- During the month of November, members of the parish joined our Ministry leaders in a three-part study series. We prepared ourselves by reading Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning...and this wonderful story was our gateway into praying the Psalms.
Our conversation included:
- The personal experience of MEANING
- The importance of RELATIONSHIPS
- The challenges we all face in dealing with circumstances over which we have no control.
In all of this, we noticed God moving in Frankl’s STORY...and God moving in our own STORY...and God moving in Saint Mary’s STORY.
- Ministry leaders gathered in January 2015 to continue our reflection on the Story God is writing at Saint Mary’s. During this Anniversary Year, even as we continue “Opening Our Arms to Serve Others” we will strive to allow ourselves to be inspired by our patron, our Blessed Mother – who did not spend all her time doing. She spent time pondering. And so will we! We will strive to ponder – to go deeper – into PRAYER, EUCHARIST, and SACRAMENTS.
- During February and March 2015, there will be special opportunities at Saint Mary’s to go deeper into Lent:
- Family Lent Day – with a special guest who will use the story of Martha and Mary to help us appreciate the benefits of pondering.
- Masses on Ash Wednesday – and the Sundays of Lent – will include a special opportunity to ponder what God is asking of us during this Lent.
- Eucharistic Adoration
- Stations of the Cross featuring the reflections of Saint John Paul II – including an additional optional opportunity to ponder the Stations in my life.
- “Letting go…” a special time to meditate and ponder.
- Sacramental Reconciliation.
- During the Easter Season and early-summer, have been striving to be more intentional about pondering – moving deeper into Prayer, Eucharist and Sacraments.
- In August 2015, we received the special Pastoral Letter “Poverty at the Crossroads” written by the five bishops of Indiana. The arrival of this Pastoral Letter during our ongoing Season of Embodiment is remarkable! Even as we have been striving to Open Our Arms To Serve Others, these last seven months we have been intentional about taking time to ponder. Now, praying with this Pastoral Letter provides is with a splendid opportunity to notice how God may be coaxing Saint Mary’s to MORE: to PRAY more … to BE more…each one of us a disciple on our journey back to God!
- In October 2015, Pope Francis announced a YEAR OF MERCY to begin on December 8th – the very same day planned for the closing of our Anniversary Year of Celebration!
- In December 2015, Bishop Don Hying visited Saint Mary’s for our Advent Family Day to discuss the Year of Mercy. The next day, many of our ministry leaders gathered to begin a conversation of how Saint Mary’s might embrace the Year of Mercy.
- In February and March 2016, our ministry leaders gathered with those who serve with them in ministries at Saint Mary’s to discuss, in the context of the Year of Mercy: 1) how our ministries can intensify our present efforts, or 2) how our ministries might imagine new initiatives.
- During Lent, many of us read Father Ronald Rolheiser’s The Passion and the Cross and gathered in mid-March for a discussion of our experience with the book.
- During Spring, Summer and Autumn 2016, the fruit of our February and March gatherings emerged! Several of our ministries intensified their present efforts or began to propose new initiatives. We are especially proud of our young people - eighth graders! - who wrote and produced their own musical - inspired by Pope Francis’ YEAR OF MERCY and their study of the Pastoral Letter “Poverty at the Crossroads”.
- In February 2016, Bishop Donald Hying wrote a Pastoral Letter – the beginning of an ongoing conversation about the future of the Church in northwest Indiana. Soon thereafter, our Parish Pastoral Council began a careful study of that Pastoral Letter – section by section – that continued thru the Spring. So too, our parishioners were encouraged to read and study the Pastoral Letter.
- In October 2016, all were invited to four gatherings to share our wisdom regarding the topics included in the Pastoral Letter. Soon thereafter, the wisdom of the 239 participants was passed along to the Bishop’s Office where it was collated by the Diocese.
- In February 2017, ten delegates from Saint Mary’s accepted an invitation from the Diocese to participate in a gathering of parish leaders living in the Southlake Deanery. The wisdom shared in this gathering will be collated by the Diocese and form the substance of a special Synod gathering planned for June 2017.
- In January 2017, members of our Parish Pastoral Council participated in their annual Retreat – this year joined by members of our Parish Finance Council. The theme of the weekend retreat was GRATITUDE. An outcome of the retreat was the formation of a committee of Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council members – our GRATEFUL HEARTS COUNCIL – seeking to understand how Saint Mary’s might embrace GRATITUDE as a Way of Life.
- In February 2017, the GRATEFUL HEARTS COUNCIL began an intense period of prayer, learning and study – prayerfully listening to the movement and guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. Their intense efforts gradually influenced our experience of Prayer:
- When we gather for Eucharist, the Penitential Rite often encourages us to be honest: sometimes we are not grateful – so we seek God’s Mercy.
- The homilies of our priests and deacons encourage us to imitate Our Lord’s grateful heart.
- When we offer our petitions during the Universal Prayer at Eucharist, we are encouraged to respond, “With grateful hearts, we thank you Lord.”
- In June 2017, delegates from Saint Mary’s participated in the Diocesan Synod convened by Bishop Hying.
- September 2017: Saint Mary’s received Bishop Hying’s Pastoral Response to the Diocesan Synod – and all were encouraged to read it carefully.
- October 2017: Our Pastor appointed a Synod Action Planning Team to begin an extended period of intense listening, prayer and study – echoing the initiative that began at Saint Mary’s in 2011 – seeking to understand "Where is God Calling Saint Mary’s?"
- March 2018: Our Planning Team finalized a Synod Action Plan – a plan that will serve to guide our efforts at Saint Mary’s thru 2020.
- April 2018: Our Synod Action Plan was formally presented to Bishop Hying – and a summary of the Action Plan was mailed to all parishioners:
- SMALL CHURCH COMMUNITIES represent a proven practice through which to engage adults in a deeper experience along their journeys as disciples of Jesus Christ. They help our parish respond to the hunger for Faith-enriching experiences expressed by members of our community. Our goal is to develop and launch a new set of “Small Church Communities” – at least one new Small Church Community each year thru 2020.
- WELCOME GATHERINGS for new parishioners. New members of the parish report that it can often be challenging to integrate themselves into the full life of the community. In the past, these gatherings to welcome new members helped to meet this need – so we will resume our practice of formally welcoming new parishioners. Our goal is to host one “Welcoming Gathering” each calendar quarter beginning in Fall 2018.
- COMING HOME. Research reveals that one in ten Americans is a former Catholic. If former Catholics were counted as a distinct denomination, it would be the third-largest such group in the United States! We have a genuine responsibility to reach out to our estranged brothers and sisters – so our goal is to develop a COMING HOME initiative to launch at Saint Mary’s in October 2018.
- ADULT FAITH FORMATION with a renewed focus on DISCIPLESHIP. During our Mission 150 Journey, parishioners expressed a desire to learn more about our Faith. Our annual Advent and Lent Family Day Programs will continue to be wonderful opportunities for catechesis. Our goal is to continue engaging highly regarded speakers at the beginning of the Advent and Lent Seasons – to address topics pertaining to Discipleship – and to develop complementary sessions appropriate for children (to be hosted simultaneously with the sessions provided for adults). We anticipate that our Advent and Lent Family Days will align well with our Synod priority: a renewed focus on Discipleship.
- PRAYER. The Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our lives. Saint Mary’s has complemented the celebration of the Eucharist with a robust mix of Worship opportunities to foster individual and community-wide relationships with Jesus Christ. These opportunities include Friday Night Novena, Lenten Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary, and Contemplative Prayer. In the past, the pastor reviewed this mix of opportunities on an informal basis. More recently, we recognize the value of a more intentional discernment process – seeking to better understand where God might now be inviting us in this regard. This discernment has already been fruitful with the introduction of Evening Vespers during Advent and Lent, the choice of liturgical music when we gather for Eucharist during Advent and Lent, and the recent arrival of SoulCore. Looking ahead, our experience of public prayer will be well-served if we intentionally review the mix of public prayer forms and other expressions of Worship hosted by St. Mary’s and add, augment, or amend particular public prayer forms and expressions of worship, including our liturgical music, as deemed appropriate. Of course, the Eucharist remains the Source and Summit of our lives.
- ENGAGING YOUNG ADULTS is a priority! Our recent matching grant proposal, administered by the Center for Congregations and funded by the Lilly Foundation, seeks to help us better understand how Saint Mary’s can effectively minister to Young Adults. For example, research shows that Millennials tend to engage in volunteer activities differently than do members of the Gen X, Baby Boom, or traditional generations; they prefer experiences that are hands-on, communal, and episodic in nature. Several of St. Mary’s ministries reflect these characteristics (e.g., God’s Groceries and Habitat for Humanity). They may thus represent “Gateway Ministries” for Millennials, many of whom report a tenuous attachment to the Church. We intend to invite Millennials— in a more intentional way – into key ministries at St. Mary’s. Our goal is to recruit a minimum of 5 millennials – no later than 2019 and each year beyond – to ministries identified as “Gateway Ministries” at St. Mary’s.
- HELPING PARISHIONERS APPRECIATE THEIR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS is a significant element in our continuing effort to be Disciples of Jesus. We are using STRENGTHFINDERS, a proven diagnostic tool, to help us understand our gifts. Our goal is to engage at least 250 parishioners in a sustained reflection on their gifts and what this might mean in terms of their Praying, Serving and Sharing as faithful disciples of Jesus.
“I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”