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DEAR FATHER | Spiritual preparation is vital component of All Things New

I am worried that my parish will close as part of the All Things New process. If this happens it will be very painful. What can I do?

Your concern is one that is on the minds of many people. While there is no preconceived plan in place to close specific parishes, it has been made clear that every parish will be affected and a sizable number will be closed or merged. No matter how necessary this is, it will demand huge amounts of patience and generosity. It will also involve working through the grief that is a natural part of letting go. Change is not easy and it is important to acknowledge that reality.

There isn’t enough space here to outline the details of the All Things New strategic pastoral planning initiative, so please visit allthingsnew.archstl.org for more information. However, I would like to touch upon one very important aspect: spiritual preparation. The first two goals of All Things New are to deepen our relationship with Christ through unceasing prayer and to reflect on our commitment to evangelization. Only after that will we be able to strategically plan for the future. This process also demands that we place God’s will above our own, which is always a challenge. At my parish, we held a Lenten day of recollection during which we reflected on the third line of the All Things New prayer: “Help us be totally free to follow wherever you lead us, totally generous to be good stewards of your many gifts, and totally passionate to suffer all in order to be more closely united to you.”

We then connected this prayer to St, Ignatius of Loyola’s “First Principle and Foundation” in which he states that if we are serious about doing God’s will, we must achieve a kind of holy detachment: “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one … our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me” (translation by David Fleming, SJ). We then asked ourselves the following: Can we reach the point as a parish where we will not fix our desires on staying open or closing, but only on what will lead to a deepening of God’s life within the local Catholic community? It is a question we are still discerning.

Again, none of this is easy and we shouldn’t pretend that it will be, even with strong spiritual preparation. But spiritual preparation is vital if we are to complete this process in a loving and generous way and with hearts full of hope for the future. Through it we will see God’s hand at work. We will also see that change is nothing new. For two thousand years, the Church has been changing to meet the needs of the day and that change will continue until the end of time.

Father Jones is pastor of Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish in St. Louis.

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