Don’t miss this one: July 31 is the feast day of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola; since it falls on a Sunday this year, we will celebrate the feast in grand style. We will have many guests at our Sunday mass, who will also join us for a special reception afterwards (with brunch hors d’oeuvres and mimosas! – see the registration link elsewhere in this eNews).  The Jesuit Community where I live at the University of Detroit Mercy usually invites Jesuits and lay colleagues from all the Jesuit institutions in the Detroit area to a mass and reception on this feast day.  This year our parish will host that gathering.  But there is more!

On the previous day, Saturday, July 30, our sister Jesuit parish, Gesu, is concluding its 100th anniversary year with a grand celebration at their church. Given that circumstance, they will not have mass on Sunday, but instead their parishioners have been invited to join us for mass at our place.  As you hopefully know by now, as of July 1 the Archdiocese joined our parish together with Gesu Parish as a “Family of Parishes” (explained just below). This celebration of St. Ignatius on July 31 will be the first public gathering of this new “Family.”  Come and meet your new brothers and sisters! Between these two groups of guests we anticipate that about 100 guests may join us on Sunday, July 31.

This coming Sunday, July 24, is the day Pope Francis has established as the World Day for Grandparents and Elderly, a day of encounter across different generations. We will have special prayers and blessings at the mass for those of the “wisdom generation.”


Third Installment: Our “Family of Parishes”

This is my third and final article explaining the basics of the Family of Parishes (FOP) that we have just formed with Gesu Church and School, the other Jesuit parish in Detroit.  In the first article (read it HERE) I set forth the general concept and purpose; in the second (HERE) I explained the new consultative bodies of parishioners who will help guide the Family. Today I would like to describe the possible changes in the staffing of the parishes; this is perhaps the most exciting and interesting aspect of the change, but also – in my estimation – the most difficult or challenging.  I say “possible changes” because these are suggestions, or a kind of ideal scheme, but they are not mandates.  Each Family will have to figure out over time what will actually work best for their parishes.  You aren’t going to see changes immediately, since it will take much time and discernment to discover what staffing changes might truly help our two parishes to thrive individually and as a Family.

The Family structure was first presented by the Archdiocese as a way to deal with the priest shortage, by having a team of several priests jointly serve a grouping of parishes.  But as the planning began, it quickly became apparent that if the priests were going to be freed up enough to do more pastoral ministry, they would have to be supported by a strong staff of lay people.  Furthermore – and this is something I think we all hope for – most parishes need more than a reorganization aimed at greater efficiency of personnel; they need to be more alive and more centered on mission – the mission of Jesus to bring the hope and healing, the joy and consolation of God, to our world.  How might parish staffs be restructured to ensure this renewed focus on mission, and engage parishioners in that life?

There are two parts to the plan.  The first is to free priests from the heavy administrative burdens almost all of them face today as solo pastors of parishes.  To this end, each Family of Parishes is to designate one lay staff person as “Mission Support Director,”  who will oversee all the support services staff in all the parishes in the Family, relieving the pastor of that burden – including finance and accounting, record-keeping, human resources, facilities and maintenance, communications, and IT (computer technologies). What a blessing it would be if I, as pastor, never had to worry about such matters again! – and that’s the goal.  But how will that actually work out in our Family of only two parishes with limited staff? At our parish most of those support services are all provided by one person, our Operations Director. At first glance that doesn’t leave much room for change or re-organization! On the other hand, Gesu has several people in those areas, so perhaps some collaboration will truly help us.

The second part of the plan concerns the pastoral life and mission of the parish, and proposes five areas to be staffed: Discipleship Formation, Engagement, Worship and Music, Evangelical Charity (Service and Social Justice), and Family Ministry.  Since the demographics and social contexts of parishes vary so much, not all of these areas will be equally pertinent to every parish, and they will certainly look very different from one parish to another.  The ideal paradigm is that staff persons in the Family would be designated as the Directors in each of these five areas, coordinating all the other staff and volunteers who serve in those areas.  Again, this sounds great in theory, but it will be very challenging in practice, especially in city and rural parishes due to their smaller congregations and smaller staffs.  In our Family of two parishes, outside of the area of music and worship, we currently have a grand total of one full time and one part time person in pastoral ministry.

In concluding, let me return to some themes in my first article.  Our Family is constituted on a different basis than the other Families in the diocese, which were organized mostly on the basis of geographical proximity.  Our Family is based rather on the Jesuit mission and Ignatian spirituality that characterizes and animates our two parishes.  Our Family’s purpose must be more than mere staffing efficiency; any changes we embrace must be directed to strengthening our Ignatian identity and enhancing our contribution to the overall Jesuit mission in the Detroit area. We are a part of a much bigger “family” that includes U of D Jesuit High School, Loyola High School, the University of Detroit Mercy, the Pope Francis Center, and Manresa Retreat House.  That’s a perspective and purpose that goes beyond any Family of diocesan parishes.  Let’s see where the Spirit leads us in this great adventure!