Today marks the start of a new year in our church’s calendar. It’s a good time to think about a new phase in the life of our parish, because this year will almost certainly see some major changes. As I wrote and spoke about through November, our accustomed ways have led us to a dead-end. If we keep on going the way we have been, we’ll be unable to pay our bills some time in the spring. That’s not going to happen, because we’re going to change.
I thank those of you who have responded to our appeal for sacrificial giving. Our weekly collections have risen, over the past four weeks, from about $13,500 a week to about $18,000. That’s still not enough to let us keep going as we have been, but it’s a valuable resource to keep our mission alive. We need to do the work Christ has commissioned us to: worship of His Father, witness and teaching of the Gospel, and care for the needy – especially among our own. And we will continue to do those things, although soon in new ways.
In the Member Engagement survey we took in October, you told us that, by and large, you approve of what’s happening in Our Lady of Grace. (Our “positivity ratio” was 62%.) But we can do better, and we will. Again based on the survey, a few things stood out to pay particular attention to. First, you told us that you’re more clear than in the past on what it means to be a disciple. We’re going to build on that as we make changes. I’ll be communicating even more about what any changes mean to you and for you, and about what membership in the parish implies. You’ll find that here, and occasionally from the pulpit. (I anticipate that I’ll be speaking again at all the Masses sometime in January as the first phase of changes takes place.) I want to encourage you to be hopeful and confident about our shared discipleship; I’m in this with you, and I trust both God’s Holy Spirit and the energy and wisdom of engaged parishioners to build something new and wonderful on the foundations already laid down in our parish.
Second, we learned that our members’ engagement in parish life (and thus our growth in holiness) is being dragged down by a strain of negativity among some parishioners. (Our “strong disagreement” scores are higher than the typical Catholic parish by a factor of four to seven on some measures of engagement.) We need to turn that around, and you can help, beginning today. Again from the survey, 92% of you say you “speak words of kindness to those in need of encouragement.” (We score better than the typical parish, Catholic or not, on that.) Yet that doesn’t seem to happen around the parish: Only 35% of parishioners say that they are recognized or praised here at OLOG in a typical month. Why do we drop from 92% to 35% when we step onto parish grounds? Can we each work to change that, first by inspecting our own conversation and attitude toward fellow-parishioners? Why are we not “on our best behavior” when we’re at church?
Later in the spring, and especially during Lent, you can look for some parish initiatives about changing habits toward being more affirming toward one another – letting the existing goodness come out when we’re at OLOG. But there’s no need to wait for Lent. Each of us can begin the church’s new year with a resolution to listen more before we speak; one to see the best in others, even when it’s difficult; one to end every interaction (at church and elsewhere) with the person we’ve talked to feeling better about him- or herself that before meeting and speaking with us. (That doesn’t mean we have to agree with, or encourage, everything everyone does. We can honor someone’s dignity as made in God’s image through respectful listening, then disagree when we judge that’s appropriate.)
So thank you again to all who took part in the ME25 survey, and all who have committed to sacrificial giving to support the mission of our parish. You will see, week by week and day by day, that your gifts and your opinions count. Have a blessed (church) new year!
Until next week, peace.