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Amy Reddy, a parishioner at St. Ferdinand, sang during a Wednesday Night Service April 24 at St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant. The weekly gatherings are one way the parish is integrating former parishioners of St. Sabina and St. Martin de Porres, which were subsumed into St. Ferdinand as part of All Things New.
Amy Reddy, a parishioner at St. Ferdinand, sang during a Wednesday Night Service April 24 at St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant. The weekly gatherings are one way the parish is integrating former parishioners of St. Sabina and St. Martin de Porres, which were subsumed into St. Ferdinand as part of All Things New.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

New sense of community

Subsumed parishes build bonds, evangelization efforts

Amid meetings taking place on the St. Ferdinand Parish campus in Florissant on a recent Wednesday night, several dozen people gathered in the church to break open God’s Word and give Him praise.

The weekly Wednesday Night Service is a new opportunity for praise and worship for a new community formed at St. Ferdinand since Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announced parish changes on Pentecost one year ago as part of All Things New.

Father Nick Muenks, associate pastor at St. Ferdinand, spoke during a Wednesday Night Service April 24 at St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Evening sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows as people settled in their pews to listen to pastor Father Lijo Kallarackal read from the Acts of the Apostles about Peter and John, who preached in the temple courts that Jesus had risen from the dead (Acts 4:1-31). A music minister led the congregation in song between the Scripture reading and the priest’s reflection.

“We see Peter standing bold and with conviction now,” filled with the Holy Spirit, Father Kallarackal said. “What the Church needs today is people like him. That is a great witness that we can give to the world.”

Mary Swarthout has been a regular at St. Ferdinand’s Wednesday Night Service since it began in Lent. She had been a parishioner at nearby St. Martin de Porres in Hazelwood for about 50 years before the parish was subsumed into St. Ferdinand last year, along with St. Sabina in Florissant.

“For me, this time is putting everything of the outside world and leaving it at the door,” Swarthout said. “It’s so different than Mass because it’s not as structured as coming to Mass — this is an entirely different atmosphere.”

One of the primary goals of All Things New was to address the decades-long decline in active parishioners and clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Throughout the planning process, Catholics were asked to consider new ways to foster viable, sustainable and vibrant parishes, schools and ministries that would support the Church’s evangelizing mission.

Swarthout said the weekly gathering is one example of how the parish is moving forward with the changes and working toward becoming a more vibrant, evangelizing community and leaning on the strengths of the people from all three parishes.

Stephanie Koenig, a parishioner at St. Ferdinand, attended a Wednesday Night Service.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
“I told Father (Kallarackal) as soon as the announcement was made that this can work as long as everybody works to one goal, and bring the best of the best together and focus on that — and not focus on what we have to leave behind,” she said.

Soon after the announcement, representatives of St. Sabina, St. Martin de Porres and St. Ferdinand parishes formed a transitional committee. Jenny Leverich was among those invited to serve on the committee, which has examined more deeply how to combine the gifts of all three communities.

Leverich grew up in St. Ferdinand Parish. As an adult, she moved out of the area for several years but returned to Florissant and joined St. Sabina. Returning to St. Ferdinand has been like a homecoming for her.

“We immediately asked what are the groups and ministries and clubs that we have, and what do we need to do to make sure that we effectively blend them and don’t leave anyone out?” she said.

In October, the parish held a festival of ministries for current ministries and new ones that parishioners wanted to establish at St. Ferdinand. Participation in several preexisting ministries, including the Men’s Club, Ladies’ Sodality and Knights of Columbus, has increased.

Children’s Liturgy of the Word, a program for young children to hear the Scripture readings proclaimed and explained at an age-appropriate level, was reintroduced after it had fallen away during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We put a table out there in case people wanted to get involved, and we found we had parents interested and adults wanting to help,” Deacon Jack Hofmann said. “Some said, ‘I want to help, but don’t want to lead.’ But we got enough people to help, and a transition (committee) team member can organize it. Now we have up to five to six adults that are coming in to help.”

Another consideration was how to make everyone feel welcome. Parishioners were invited to wear lanyards with name tags to help put a name to faces at Masses and other church activities. During the transition, parish bulletins and Mass announcements at all three churches were used to communicate with one another.

Mass attendance has roughly doubled since all Masses transitioned to St. Ferdinand during Advent, Deacon Hofmann noted. “That’s what All Things New was meant to do, and we’re seeing that come to fruition,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how busy the parish is — there’s something going on all the time. We’re finding different ways to engage, but the new evangelization is what we’re trying to aim for. We’re just getting started, and people are up for it.”

>> Explanation of subsumed parishes

Some parishes have experienced one of several scenarios as a part of the archdiocese’s All Things New restructuring. St. Ferdinand is an example of a parish that subsumed, or merged, with two other parishes: St. Sabina and St. Martin de Porres. In this configuration, one (or more) parishes are united to another parish in such a way that the first parish no longer exists and the second remains. This type of modification occurs where the parish(es) being subsumed are significantly smaller in numbers of parishioners than the remaining parish. The parish church is the church of the remaining parish.

>> Wednesday Night Service

Not long ago, Father Nick Muenks had been invited by a friend to attend a weeknight prayer service at a Christian church, so he decided to check it out — and take a few notes. The evening centered on diving deeper into scripture, while incorporating an extended period of praise and worship music.

Father Muenks, associate pastor at St. Ferdinand, said the activity got him to thinking more about opportunities for discipleship and evangelization at his own parish. “First, Catholics need to know the Bible better, right? And they need more reasons to pray,” he said.

Noting that some Christian churches incorporate a mid-week prayer service, he thought, “why couldn’t we do something like that?” During Lent, St. Ferdinand debuted a Wednesday Night Service, an hourlong gathering in church that includes an extended scripture reading, a reflection from one of the priests or deacons, prayer and praise and worship music.

Father Muenks said other Christian denominations have a reputation for inviting others to their church community. “When we invite someone to church, we invite them to the most sacred thing we have, which is Mass, and they often feel lost and confused that they can’t receive Communion,” he said. “It’d be nice to have something that you can invite somebody to that is authentically Catholic, but something perhaps more accessible.”

Wednesday Night Services are held from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the church at St. Ferdinand, 1765 Charbonier Road in Florissant.

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