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
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!