Representatives of parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis received tips Oct. 12 for their work on building up the Church.
The theme of the archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly, held at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury, was “Lead Not Leave: How to Be a Leader When the Church Needs Us Most.”
The assembly was the 10th anniversary of the annual gathering along with a question-and-answer session with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.
Deacon Rich Schellhase of Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville walked away impressed with the practical advice. Deacon Schellhase added his own idea: “Just keep a smile,” he said. “A smile helps make people’s day, especially people you don’t know. And it projects your Christianity.”
Jared H. Bryson, vice president for mission and church relations for Mercy, was one of the presenters. He said that, inspired by the gift of hospitality, ministries can be transformed. “We’re called to act, we’re called to lead,” he said.
• Do something about the trends showing a decline in numbers of parishioners. Remind people you meet that the Church is the way to transmit the Gospel. We can’t speak of God without the context of the Church.
• Accompany people in their brokenness — whatever struggles they may have, be there for them.
• Recognize your gifts, your role as a disciple and your ability to transform the world; when you’re called, find a way to respond.
• Make use of Scripture, and speaking God’s truth in love.
• Take advantage of days of service to transform the community.
• Collaborate with others.
Father Craig T. Holway, pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Louis, offered a vision for parish life. A vibrant parish, he said, is one centered around the Eucharist and the call to missionary discipleship. The key, he said, is to make Christ accessible. “Invite people and encourage people to a Christ that’s already waiting for them,” he said.
The parish needs to be “warm, relevant and meaningful,” Father Holway added. “Let people know it’s a place to encounter Christ.”
• Invite people from all parts of the community, following Christ’s command to Paul to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
• Remind people that they are empowered to act. Invite as many people as possible to take an active part in parish life.
• Look outside the parish for places to encounter Christ. For example, following a parishioner’s suggestion, St. Joan of Arc now takes part in Room at the Inn, an organization that provides 24-hour emergency shelter. The parish also has enhanced other outreach efforts.
Dave Baranowski, director of stewardship education in the archdiocese, said people are craving God and don’t know how to talk to others about Him. “Be bold and courageous,” he said. “Be that bold light to the world.”
He noted that he bought 99-cent crucifixes to give to people and sometimes wears a “White House Retreat” T-shirt that both serve as “ice-breakers” to open conversations.
• Share your joy and your personal faith story.
• Listen to God to see how He wants you to use your gifts.
• Learn about the Catholic faith; but don’t worry about being an expert. Simply talk to others about your relationship with God. Your life is the living witness of Christ.
• Invite people individually to be part of ministries and to share their gifts.