As I mentioned in my last bulletin letter, we are looking for more people to be team members in our Faith in our Future Cohort. I did not have enough space last week to share any details. So, I’m going to take some time now to explain what the Cohort is and what we have accomplished so far.
Faith in our Future is a program implemented in the Diocese in 2015 to evaluate how to best reorganize and revitalize the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Trenton. The Reid Group was asked to look at all the parishes and form them into cohorts which are groups of parishes that work together. Then, each cohort met for a year to recommend what kind of model they would follow. A model is a working definition of what kind of relationship the parishes will have with each other. Some parishes were set to merge with each other (becoming one entity), others became centers of specific kinds of ministry (usually to specifically aid a certain ethnic group) and others were linked (which means they are two or more parishes that share one pastor). Holy Innocents is a member of Cohort 18 with Mother of Mercy, Asbury Park and St. Anselm, Wayside. We were given the “collaborative model,” which means each parish will remain distinct but we will find ways to work together in areas that we cannot do effectively alone. So, we are finding ways to share staffing, resources and programs. Also, Mother of Mercy was designated as a Center for Hispanic and Haitian ministry and outreach.
Specifically, the Diocese wants us to focus on 5 goals in this collaboration. First, we need to focus on evangelization which is the all encompassing effort to bring the Gospel to people. Second, we should focus on collaboration which is finding ways to share resources and staffing. Third, we need to focus on stewardship which is finding ways to do more with less. Fourth, we need to focus on accountability , which means we needs to find ways to be more transparent in what we do. And fifth, we need to focus on service which is the spiritual and pastoral outreach to people in need including the sick, elderly, poor, the immigrants, youth, young adults, and people who have been estranged from the faith. All these goals are for the sake of evangelization which is our ultimate goal and what Christ commanded the Church to do.
Our Cohort picked three goals to focus on over the last year (the first year of implementation) and in all honesty we may have tried to accomplish too much in one year. The area in which we have been the most successful is establishing a Center for Hispanic and Haitian Ministry. That sub committee met almost all of its goals which included recruiting volunteers for teaching ESL, addressing worship needs and finding social and legal resources for those in need. The second goal was to increase enrollment and awareness of our schools. But, we found that to be more of a diocesan issue than a local parish issue. The last goal was to engage the youth of the parish. But, the conclusion of that subcommittee was that it was better for each parish to have their own distinct youth group and that is why I have been working on that ever since.
As we are about to enter year two of the implementation of Faith in our Future, what we really need is people who really care about the future of their church to step up. We may not like it when things change and we may not like it that we have to try new things. But, the Diocese is giving us a great opportunity to shape that change. If you find yourself complaining about why the Church does not do this or that program, or in this or that way, I invite you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Parish Office x11. We are currently setting goals for the next year and if you really have a strong opinion on what those goals should be and you are willing to talk to others about them, then you could be a team member and work for the good of our parishes and Church.