From the Pastor…frmark_headshot_150x150

Frequently parishioners and staff come to me with ideas that, if implemented, might well result in a wonderful addition to the life of STM. I would like to pursue several of these promising ideas when the summer break concludes and the parish resumes its usual pace.

One idea is to create a St. Thomas More Athletics Board. This would be a committee of parishioners – men and women, and perhaps a high school student – who would be charged with developing and managing the parish’s sports programs. The Board would encourage the full use STM’s athletic facilities, especially the gym. The Board would be responsible for developing policies governing the use of parish facilities, scheduling the use of these facilities, sorting through various requests to use the facilities, and seeing to the maintenance and development of the facilities. STM parishioners have generously provided these facilities; I’d like to see them fully used.

Another idea is to develop and offer a marriage prep program here at STM. Presently, when engaged couples come to us looking to do the marriage prep program required of all engaged couples, we must refer them to established prep programs offered elsewhere. Some of these are better than others. But with the imminent arrival of two new staff persons – Andy and Sarah Otto – to supplement our present education and faith formation staff, we will have an opportunity to develop and offer a strong, innovative marriage prep program of our own. I envision a program that would have several STM married couples acting as mentors/supporters, a program that would not only inform engaged couples of the Church’s teaching regarding marriage, but would also help them develop the practical communications and other skills that are part of a strong foundation for successful marriage.

A third idea is to create a regular coffee/social hour after the 9:30am Sunday Mass during which parishioners with an interesting background or work experience can share this with other parishioners in a relaxed, informal setting. STM is blessed with parishioners who are advocates for refugees and immigrants, scientists, historians, and labor lawyers; who are public health officers, artists, musicians, authors, and elected officials; and who are family therapists and business entrepreneurs. I think many of us would enjoy listening to them and learning from them over a cup of coffee.

A fourth idea is to have an STM family assume a major responsibility for the 9:30pm family Mass. Each week, a different family could work with parish worship staff to prepare the sanctuary for Eucharist, to compose and offer the general intercessions, to bring up the gifts and “set the table” at the Preparation of the Gifts, and, after Mass, to clean up and prepare the sanctuary for the next Mass. At some Catholic churches, the chosen family even provides the wine and bake the bread used at the Mass. If we made this happen, this could be a marvelous service to the parish by an entire family.

Another idea is to establish a committee of as many as nine parishioners to advise me and other parish staff in the area of faith formation and education, including our parish sacramental preparation programs, our religious education programs for our children and teens, and our adult education programs. This committee would also work with Andy and Sarah Otto to develop a program to teach and promote the practice of Ignatian prayer and spirituality among parishioners. We have already established committees of parishioners who advise in the areas of parish mission and identity, parish finances, and social justice. A committee of interested and experienced persons who can advise in the area of spirituality, faith formation, and the religious education of parishioners of all ages is the next step.

Finally, I would like to find and develop ways to increase the number of small groups of parishioners that have formed at STM for prayer and mutual support. Four or five such groups are presently currently meeting, and a prayer and support group for men in the parish is presently forming. These small groups can be composed of parishioners who live in the same neighborhood, or of parishioners who share an interest in doing Ignatian-style prayer, or of parishioners in similar life situations. Regardless of what draws individual parishioners together, they can share how they have experienced God in their personal, family, and parish lives.

Notice that the common denominator in each of these ideas is to provide an opportunity for parishioners to engage more fully in the life of the parish, and not only as participants, but as parish leaders. This is the right and responsibility of all the baptized.

Let’s watch and see how these and other ideas develop in the next several months.

And if you have an idea that promised to enliven our parish community, please share it with me.

Fr. Mark