frmark_headshot_150x150Some housekeeping matters…

First, parishioners are surely aware that several non-Catholics regularly participate in STM liturgies and other activities. Some of these are non-Catholic spouses of Catholics, while others are simply non-Catholic individuals who have found that STM meets their need to belong to a vibrant faith community. It goes without saying that these non-Catholics are as welcome at STM as any Catholic, and I trust STM parishioners extend them the hospitality that is their due. If any parishioner has a concern about a non-Catholic’s participation in parish activities, the parishioner should speak directly to me or one of the other priests, and not the individual (unless, of course, it is a word of welcome). The parishioner can be confident that we will deal with the matter appropriately.

Second, I want to thank parishioners for their very generous end-of-year financial gifts to the parish. Carol Palmer, our STM Business Manager, tells me that the total revenue this year far exceeded what we received for the same period in past years. The parishioners who count, record, and deposit the weekly offertory and second collections worked all day on January 7 sorting through your contributions. (Many thanks to them too!)

Incidentally, parishioners know that any contribution to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal in excess of our parish goal is entirely returned to STM. Since we met our Appeal goal some time ago, the Archdiocese has returned to us more than $100,000.

STM parishioners are the best.

Third, Archbishop Gregory met with the Parish Council as promised the evening of January 9 to hear Council members’ concerns about the current abuse crisis in the Church and the bishops’ response to the crisis. He stayed for about an hour and a half, answering questions and offering comments on a number of issues. The Council will soon be reporting to parishioners on the substance of the meeting, the Council’s reaction to the Archbishop’s words, and the Council’s plans for next steps.

We thank the Archbishop for giving us his time, and I again thank the Council for its initiative in this project and encourage them as they move forward.

Fourth, one of the great challenges in any large organization is effectively communicating with its members. STM is no exception. Over the past three years, we have tried to improve our communications. First, we contracted with Marbles Media (marblesmedia.com), a local communications company owned by parishioners Shon and Shelly Stafford, to advise us, to manage, and to oversee our communications. From the beginning, Shelly and Shon told us was that we need to utilize a variety of media if we are to have any chance of reaching a broad range of parishioners. In response, we have completely redesigned our parish website, making it more informative and easier to navigate. We redesigned our parish bulletin. We initiated an electronic newsletter that goes out weekly to more than 1,500 households, and we developed the capacity to send out special “email blasts” when some important, time-sensitive news needs to be circulated quickly. We are now on Facebook. We have standardized announcements after each of the weekend Masses, and we have installed pamphlet racks and video monitors in the narthex area. There may be more we can do, and if you have any suggestions, let me know.

If you are not receiving our electronic newsletter and special electronic mailings, call the office so we can add you to our mailing list.

Finally, I encourage parishioners to take advantage of the retreats offered at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Sandy Springs. I recommend two retreats in particular: one led by parishioner, Carl McColman from January 31 to February 3 (“Two Paths to Contemplative Prayer: Spiritual Wisdom from St. Ignatius and Thomas Merton”); a men’s retreat that I will be leading from Feb. 8 to 10 “Freed for Commitment: The Paradox of the Spiritual Life.” Check the Ignatius House website (www.ignatiushouse.org) for the full list of offerings.

And speaking of retreats, I will be making my own annual retreat beginning January 18 and continuing through January 26. Please pray for me. Fr. Mark