Prayer for Parish Discernment
God of mercy and source of all wisdom, we ask your blessing on our parish discernment journey: May we be a place to encounter you in Word, Sacrament, and Service. May we be a “family of families,” diverse and yet one. May we embrace lifelong learning, formed by Church teaching. May we be people of charity, justice, and peace - authentic witnesses to the dignity of life and the common good. May we grow in holiness by sharing your Good News with others and serving those who are most in need, both within our parish and beyond its boundaries. May we celebrate your abundant gifts and be good stewards of all that you have given us. May we be a community that exists not for ourselves, but for your saving mission. Most of all, may we embody your son Jesus, alive in our midst. As we seek to discern the spiritual and material needs of our parish, help us to pray fervently, listen attentively, and decide where you are calling us to go. We ask this through your son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever, Amen.
Everyone is invited to participate in the upcoming parish listening session which will be held on Saturday March 17th from 9-11:30am at St. Helen Parish Center. This parish gathering will allow us to reflect together on the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst, and provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts and perspectives as we prayerfully plan for our future. Thank you in advance for your prayerful participation and the valuable insights you will bring to this process as we plan for the future of St. Helen and Our Lady of the Caves, together.
Points to Ponder
As we embark on a Parish Discernment Process where we seek to acknowledge the ways in which God has abundantly blessed our parish and discern His will for the future of our parish, we invite you to read the following quotes from Archbishop’s pastoral letter and ponder the questions that follow.
“Special attention should be given to families who struggle and are in need of support.” – Archbishop Kurtz
How can we get there together? When helping and serving families in our parish, what can we do together? What specific programs or activities do you recommend as priorities for supporting families in our parish?
Education and Lifelong Formation
“Our emphasis is not on institutions but on the persons being served.” – Archbishop Kurtz
What is God’s hope for our parish? Please identify two or three ways our parish’s education and formation ministries could be strengthened or improved in the future?
How can we get there together? What specific programs or activities do you recommend as Education and Lifelong Formation priorities for our parish?
“In our parishes, we have made an extraordinary commitment to the lifelong formation and education of adults, youth, and children.” “Catholic schools have exceptional gifts and unique challenges that need to be addressed where they exist. In addition, our concern is to ensure that all parishioners continue to learn and be formed by Christ and His Church by attending to the legacy of Catholic education and religious formation of children, youth and young adults, adults, and to ongoing formation that emphasizes family life.”
– Archbishop Kurtz
What are some moments in my life when I have been drawn closer to Christ through my experience of Catholic formation?
When I think of my own experiences of education and formation in faith, I am….
Service and Outreach
“As we carry on the work of justice, we seek ways to be engaged mutually in the life of other local churches throughout the world.” “We seek to support and sustain these efforts by exploring new opportunities to make our church and our society authentic witnesses to the dignity of life and the common good.”
– Archbishop Kurtz
What does our parish have to celebrate? Reflect on two or three ways our parish currently fosters service and outreach. What is God’s hope for our parish? Please identify two or three ways our parish’s service and outreach ministries could be strengthened or improved in the future. How can we get there together? What specific programs or activities do you recommend as Service and Outreach priorities for our parish?
In a special way, we heed the call of Pope Francis to go out to the peripheries, serve those who are poor, extend mercy, work for peace, and care for the Earth.”
“To be authentic, this growth in mission begins with the call to holiness. We are not simply concerned with growth in numbers, programs, or facilities.” – Archbishop Kurtz
What are some moments in my life when I have been drawn closer to Christ through service and outreach?
When I think of my own experiences in service and outreach, I am….
Parish Discernment Process
On the Feast of the Holy Family of 2016, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz promulgated a pastoral letter, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst. In his letter, the Archbishop described his experiences of shepherding and visiting the many parishes of the archdiocese. “In nearly a decade,” the Archbishop shared, “one of my great joys has been to visit you in your parishes” and, “Each time I confirm youth of your parish, dedicate a new ministry or building, install a pastor, or celebrate a parish anniversary, I have seen firsthand your goodness, your commitment, and the vibrancy of the parish. Indeed, parish life is at the heart of where and how we grow as the Body of Christ.” While looking to the future with hope, and in the light of knowing that God has blessed the Archdiocese of Louisville abundantly, the Archbishop has called parishes to discern their own future. This process of discernment enables parishes to pray, listen, decide, and develop together a future for their parish. At the end of the discernment process, parishes will have created a vision and statement of priorities to respond to God’s call for the parish both now and in the future.
What is Parish Discernment?
Parish discernment is an opportunity to gather as a parish family, and through prayer and reflection, call upon God to reveal His Will for the parish community. While there are similarities to strategic planning processes, what makes discernment unique is that parishes are not beginning by asking, “What do we think is best?”, and instead asking, “What is God’s hope for our parish?” While strategic plans are good and important, they are also devised and directed. A discerned plan is received from God, and is an invitation to respond to the one who calls us all, and in this case, through the life of the parish.
At the end of the process, the parish community together will have prayed, celebrated its gifts and heritage, listened for God’s call, decided how to move forward together, and ultimately develop the gifts, charisms, and resources needed to respond to God’s call for the parish. Recognizing that God’s will is often revealed with and through people, a process has been created to facilitate discernment about parish life in the areas of Family Life, Education and Lifelong Formation, and Service and Outreach.
A Letter from Fr. Kenneth
Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. On the Feast of the Holy Family, Archbishop Kurtz promulgated a Pastoral Letter, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst, that contained an invitation to all the parishes in the Archdiocese to enter into a process to discern the future of our parishes. In response to this invitation from the Archbishop, we at St. Helen & Our Lady of the Caves will be participating in this process of prayerful discernment in the coming months.
In the spring of 2016, the Archdiocese commissioned an independent study to decide how to fund a variety of ministerial needs. During that study, more than 300 people were engaged in one-on-one conversations, focus groups, and e-surveys. While participants involved during the study affirmed the need and their willingness to fund ministries, they surfaced other fundamental issues for consideration as well.
Participants emphasized the importance of family, education, and service and they indicated many parishes had a need to discern their own future. At the conclusion of the study this information was shared with the Archbishop, pastors, and key lay leaders, and we affirmed the views surfaced.
After this process of listening closely to the faithful of the Archdiocese, taking time for personal prayer, and reflecting upon the words of the Holy Father, the Archbishop wrote and promulgated Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst. In it, he called for a renewed emphasis on the life of the parish and the areas of Family Life, Education and Lifelong Formation, and Service and Outreach.
The purposes of the parish discernment process are to reflect on the Pastoral Letter, discern how we can grow in holiness and vitality as a faith community, and to plan through a process of prayer, listening, deciding, and developing the parish in the areas of Family Life, Education and Lifelong Formation, and Service and Outreach.
I invite you to participate fully in this process over the coming months as we seek to listen to God’s call for St. Helen and Our Lady of the Caves and discern His will for our future. At the conclusion of this process, we will have had the opportunity to prayerfully reflect on the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter, recognize and celebrate the ways in which God has already abundantly blessed our parish community, and identify new, or confirm existing, priorities in the areas of Family Life, Education and Lifelong Formation, and Service and Outreach.
The pastoral letter and accompanying study guide are available at www.archlou.org or in hardcopy at the parish office. Additional information will be distributed through Mass and bulletin announcements in the coming weeks.
Yours in Him,
Fr. Kenneth Soroko, CPM