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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Apr 28, 2024)

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Last fall there were several councils of the wise at the parish to address the issue of volunteer burnout following the confluence of the parish festival and the Fall Rummage Sale in the space of a fortnight. One thing was clear: our parish was small but active. Compared to other parishes of our size, there is a lot going on! That means that our parishioners are engaged with parish life to an above-average degree. It also means that we need to be judicious in what we asked of the community and when. Next time, we said, would be different! Strategically space our events! Refrain from multiplying new activities and events until we grew our volunteer base! 

So, of course, this year we decided to schedule a completely new event, the Feast of St. Mark, on the second day of the Spring Rummage Sale. And that right before the week of Parish Directory Photos and the month of May blossoming of busyness!  

All the same, I’m not sorry. Not that it was all my doing. But it would be a shame for our patronal feast day to come and go without a parish agape in his honor. Granted, the concept seemed simpler three months ago (“Hog roast! Easy! Just get meat and heat!”). Turns out gathering and feeding 200 people either requires a miracle of multiplication or a lot of work. But a day after the two-day affair (liturgical feasting on Thursday, corporal feasting Friday), I am filled with gratitude, to God, for blessing our efforts. And to the many already over-committed community members who stepped up to make the dream a reality, despite all the other things on their plate. 

I am still committed to exercising pastoral prudence when it comes to new initiatives. Even those which are right and just don’t necessarily need to be enacted immediately, or even this year. On the other hand, when something seems to crop up again and again in different groups; when the same suggestion arrives from several directions; when a vision crystalizes and promises to address a present need in a way that generates enthusiasm and excitement… well, these are signs that Spirit may be behind it, encouraging and ripening a work that ought not be postponed  simply because people are busy. After all, if we limited ourselves to what human prudence and our meager resources could guarantee, we’d probably never get around to proclaiming the Gospel. 

Such have been my discernment criteria. Despite its buzzword status, I really do think there is something important, even essential, in acting “synodally.” Which is to say, acting as a body, walking together, listening to all and deciding on the basis of what the Spirit says to and through the Church. 

This is all to warn you that there may be new initiatives in the works. Among the parish staff and at the various council and ministry team meetings, as well as in more informal conversations among parishioners, ideas are discussed and debated, needs are identified and possible solutions proposed. We don’t want to fall into the temptation of simply “doing what we do every year” as a parish, as if we had already arrived at the perfection of parish programming, and the community and world around us were in stasis. When a thing is alive, it moves and grows! This parish is alive, thanks be to God, and we must not stifle the Spirit that animates it, even as we strive to discern well His movements. 

Here, in no particular order or attempt to be comprehensive, are some ideas that, as pastor, I sense are ripening on the discernment vine: 1) an annual “state of the parish” event in which all adult, registered parishioners gather to hear about exactly that, as well as the “theme”, goals, and important events in the coming year; 2) the inauguration of a Campus Master Plan committee to help us develop a long-term vision for how we use and maintain our parish facilities (disclaimer: this is so urgent that I am already taking steps to get it off the ground!); and 3) replacing the floor in our upper church (nave and sanctuary) and developing a plan for the restoration of the lower.

Add to these new initiatives that are already underway, such as the re-envisioning of our parish festival as more of a family picnic, a children’s summer camp at the parish which our PES Sisters are developing for this summer, and, like, eight other new irons in the fire! And all of this arises in the context of a parish that is still striving to fulfill the strategic goals for ministry it set almost three years ago now, an Archdiocese that is moving towards Year II of its Synod Implementation, and a national church that is in the midst of Eucharistic revival.  

But I promise, that is it (for now).

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