Padre Paul's Ponderings: Commissions: How we Live out “We Are Saint Joe’s”

Padre Paul's Ponderings: Commissions: How we Live out “We Are Saint Joe’s”

A seasoned pastor once told me when I first became a pastor to “be wary of those who

meet you at the train station.” The point was that once you start at a parish, there

typically will be those who greet you (many of whom are nice) but also those who

quickly want to have you do something. Typically they did not like something the prior

pastor did, and this is their chance to get something they want done in a parish.

Indeed, there were some people who “met me at the train station” of sorts when I

became a pastor. People had all kinds of ideas of where the parish was to go. The only

problem is that for a pastor, this can be a bit overwhelming. For while a pastor has to

lead, when a decision is made while some may like it, others may not. And when

someone doesn’t like it, that can turn into gossip and negativity directed towards (guess

who?) the pastor.

I know full well there is no way around making decisions as a pastor. It goes with the

job. But one thing I always have believed in is collaboration. When I became a pastor,

changes were made, but gradually. We formed a building committee to look at adding a

social hall. We met for nearly a year to set up a commission structure. We had

committees for hiring personnel. And we also met tirelessly together as we looked at

where to go in merging two parishes. This was all during my first pastorate, and while

there were some bumps, one of the things I can look back on is that through

collaborating, things were able to get done.

Arriving in Saint Joe’s now nearly 2 years ago, the only people who met me at the

“station” were people with positive comments about the parish. (Well Patty too, she

made sure there were doughnuts on day 1 for the new guy. Now that’s what I call a

good first day.) It was quite refreshing that hardly anyone said “Father you need to do

this.” And I think that’s due largely in part to the fact that thanks to the efforts of Fr. Paul

Jarvis, Jerry Roth and a number of others, a commission structure had been set up in

the parish.

It’s a system I’m quite familiar with. At my first assignment of Holy Name of Jesus, they

were called “Ministerial Area Commissions” or “MACs.” Much like we have here, the

various commissions would meet one night a month following a meal, and then the

parish council would meet.

The benefit of this is it really puts the ball in the court of the parishioners. Thanks to

commissions, parishioners get together and talk about ideas for the parish. These

include namely the areas of faith formation, parish life, administration, the school,

pastoral care and worship. The commissions meet once per month, and discuss various

topics related to these areas of the parish. Some of these are ongoing discussions;

others are action items. The parish council may then discuss these, and a final decision

will be made by the parish council and pastor, who consults with the commissions, staff

and parish director. Of course there’s a lot of things that have to be addressed that are

beyond the scope of the commissions too, such as costs, timing, impact on other people

or ministries, etc. The meetings last about 90 minutes.

There will be things that I as pastor will do of course without input from the commissions

or just input from staff. But the commissions are very helpful to me as a priest as they

are able to give me an idea of what parishioners are thinking, and a way for us to talk

through these ideas before they are implemented.

As you heard last week, Joanie Somes and Lori Hannasch who are on our parish

council spoke to the parish prior to Masses about how we are looking for new people for

next fall to be on our commissions. This weekend after Masses we have information on

the commissions, and in May on Wednesday, May 10th, we’ll have a discernment night

where people who are interested can come and discern which commission might be for


It’s a joy to see how active our parish is and how people care so deeply about Saint

Joe’s. My hope is that you will prayerfully consider serving on a commission next year

as a way to share your input on the direction of our parish. Meetings are run well, and

the time commitment is just one evening per month excluding July and August. We’d

love to have you on a commission next year, and if you know someone who might be a

good fit, encourage them to stop by after Mass or to come on May 10th. Commissions

are a big way how we together say “we are Saint Joe’s!”

Have a great week – and listen to the Holy Spirit who may be tugging at your heart to

get more involved in your parish!


Fr. Paul

Scroll to Top