By now you’ve probably heard a lot about Stewardship here at Our Lady of Grace. We formally instituted a Stewardship program here in 1997, but prior to that stewardship thrived without the title. Most people think of stewardship as volunteerism and while this is partially true, it is much, much more.
Being a good steward goes far beyond simply filling a slot because it needs to be filled. For years the church operated on this level. Many things needed to be accomplished like teaching the young, caring for the poor, providing revenue through Bingo or Bazaars, etc. The main form of recruiting people to help out was to shame them into it. Little consideration was given to whether or not someone was gifted enough to perform these duties. Instead a “fill the slot with any warm body” approach was taken. This process worked for the church but in truth did very little for the people doing the work. After Vatican II, the laity, (everyday parishioners,) were entrusted with positions that were previously closed to them before. People were strongly encouraged to take up leadership positions in the parish community. They were told that it was their right and responsibility to take up the mantle of ministry, and to work in collaboration with the those already ministering in the church. Many functions that were formally reserved for priests, religious and select groups were now open to participation by all lay people. The Catholic Church literally opened its doors to become, for the first time, a church of its people. Eucharistic Ministers, lectors proclaiming the Word, Directors of Religious Education programs, visiting the sick, ushers, and altar servers are a few of the ministries that now allow all to participate. Post Vatican II was a time for change in the church and change we did. But when it came to finding people to fill the newly created positions in ministry, most parishes continued with the “warm body” approach. Not until relatively recently did the church begin to appreciate that although the work was getting done, the people doing it were perhaps not being personally or spiritually fulfilled. And again the church has changed. We have adopted Stewardship as a way of life. Stewardship simply defined means that we have been blessed by God, our loving Creator, with all that we have, our intelligence, our health, our wealth, everything that makes up our unique personalities.
Being a good steward goes far beyond simply filling a slot because it needs to be filled.
The first step in Stewardship is to become acutely aware that God has been good to us in many ways. The next is to discern what our many gifts are, and lastly, how to utilize them in our everyday lives as a loving tribute to our Creator.
Parish Social Ministry
Our Parish Social Ministry (PSM) office provides many avenues of assistance for the less fortunate in our community. One of the primary functions of this office is to distribute food to those who need it. Many of our parishioners contribute canned and non-perishable food items as well as essentials like soap, diapers, toothpaste, etc. There is a receptacle located in the lobby of the church to deposit these goods. This is one sure and easy way to practice Stewardship weekly. When you do the shopping for your family, perhaps you could remember to pick-up one or two items for those who don’t have enough food to feed their families. Some of the workers in PSM shop, sort, shelve, package, or deliver these staples.
The PSM office also offers limited financial assistance to those who need help with their heating bills, utilities, and rent. Financial contributions are always appreciated. Lawyers, people with financial backgrounds, and advocates work with clients to assist them in cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy that is often incomprehensible. Working with Catholic Charities and other agencies, our PSM office helps people help themselves.
Nursing Home Visitation
Under the umbrella of our PSM office, is a program of visitation to the East Neck Nursing Center. Our Lady of Grace is responsible for the spiritual care of Catholic residents at East Neck. Each Wednesday morning members of this ministry go to the nursing home to offer the residents a Communion service. Eucharistic Ministers and others assist the residents from their rooms, conduct a prayer service, distribute Communion, sing songs and visit with those living at East Neck.
Some members of our parish visit sick parishioners who are patients at Good Samaritan Hospital. These ministers comfort and console our sick members. They spend time with each patient, give them information regarding resources available at the parish, and most importantly let them know that they are remembered and important to our parish family.
Eucharistic Ministers visit our homebound parishioners who don’t have the opportunity to come to the church for Sunday Mass. Many times the Eucharistic Minister is the homebound person’s only connection with the outside world. This ministry literally brings the Body of Christ into their homes. It is a gentle reminder that, no matter what physical state they may be in, they are still a valued member of the Our Lady of Grace Community.
Consolation Ministers work with families who have lost a loved one from the time of death through the funeral Mass. Working in teams, these Stewards attend the wake where they talk to family members and offer the Parish’s condolences for their loss. They assist the family in choosing readings and music for the Funeral Mass. Members go to the Mass in order to welcome the family and assist them throughout the service. On occasion the Consolation Minister may act as a Eucharistic Minister or lector. Some ministers may go to the graveside and lead the family in the committal prayers.
Each year our Religious Education program teaches thousands of our children their Catholic faith. Classes are offered at the Parish Center for students in grades 3 through 8. Catechists, (Religious Instructors,) guide the children as they learn about the wonders of God and our Catholic tradition. As you may well imagine, this is a job of gargantuan proportions, but our Directors of Faith Formation, working with hundreds of Stewards, make this ministry flow smoothly. Keeping up with a program of this size requires many hands. Teachers, babysitters, clerical workers, hall monitors and set-up persons are some of the many positions that keep our Religious Ed programs on track. We are also very proud of our Special Ed Program where teachers work one on one, or in small groups, with children who are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged.
Respect All Life
Team members in this ministry help to promote the Church’s teaching that pro-life philosophy affirms that all human life is precious and deserves protection under the law. They work to prayerfully seek to change hearts in order to dispel apathy and/or acceptance of the notion that premature death is a viable alternative. They also seek to reverse existing negative legislation pertaining to end of life issues, particularly partial birth abortion.
Summer Bible Camp
Each year the parish offers one week of summer fun, centered around a particular Biblical theme, for children who are entering Kindergarten through 2nd grade. The Bible Camp facilitators lead songs, instruct the children in making crafts, and share child oriented Biblical readings. They encourage the child’s participation in games and/or sports, stressing the importance of working as a team. The Bible Camp leaders prepare snacks, kiss boo-boos and most importantly share their faith with the children.
Stewards acting as lectors, ” proclaim” the Scriptural readings to the people of the parish at Sunday liturgy celebrations and on Holydays throughout the year. Lectors read with conviction as they reach the listening ears of the congregation, so all may be able to understand more fully and appreciate the scriptures.
Members of the Adult Choir participate in the liturgy through sung prayer. They present quality musical selections in order to encourage greater involvement by the congregation in Liturgy. Choir members practice once per week on Thursday evenings and sing at the 12:00 PM Mass each Sunday from September to June. They also sing at special services and Liturgies such as Ash Wednesday.
Ministry of Praise
Ministers of Praise assist the parish carry out our mission through daily intercessory prayer. Each month they receive a letter from a member of the Pastoral Staff which outlines the intentions for that month as well as the name of one individual who has asked for prayers for a particular intention. Members of this ministry pray anywhere and anytime they choose. There are no meetings to attend. Ministers of Praise believe that prayer is a powerful tool and understand that through intercessions, God will grace us as we continue to serve the people of our parish and the surrounding community.
Small Christian Communities
Many parishioners participate in Small Christian Communities. Each week they meet in the homes of members of their group to share Scriptural readings and discuss how they relate to their everyday lives. Each group becomes a faith filled sharing and support network for each member. Many long lasting friendships result from participation in Small Christian Communities.
Like Small Christian Communities, Renew 2000 offers parishioners the opportunity to share their faith as they discuss the Sunday readings. Some groups meet in homes, while others come to the Parish for their meetings. Renew sessions take place for 6 weeks in the Fall and again in the Spring. Some who have participated in this ministry enjoyed it so much that they go on to a further commitment in Small Christian Communities.
Our Lady of Grace is very proud of our Sunday 10am Liturgy. At this Mass, children in grades K-8 leave the main church and go to Room 110-112 in the parish center to receive the Word of God in language they can understand. Readings are taken from the Children’s Lectionary and homilies are geared for our young people. Many Stewards work together to pull off this wonderful experience for our children. There are greeters, shepherds, readers/lectors, and leaders of song. Children also take an active role as Cross bearers, Book bearers and Prayer Readers.
The Youth Group provides a safe, accepting and non-judgmental atmosphere where the young people of our parish meet to discuss and learn about their faith. Students in grades 9-12 come together on Sunday at the 5:30 PM mass to worship together. Many act as greeters, lectors, ushers, instrumentalists, and singers. After Mass they share a meal, prepared by a parish family, and then they meet in the Youth Ministry Room for discussions on various topics affecting young people. On Wednesday evenings the Youth Group meets to prepare for the coming Sunday’s Liturgy. Throughout the year many additional activities are scheduled such as, special Masses, movie nights, prayer and reconciliation services, trips, retreats and much more. If you haven’t been at the Youth Mass you are really missing a wonderful Liturgical experience.
Children who are in 4th grade or older can participate in Mass as Altar Servers. This ministry allows young people to be actively involved at Liturgies. They are responsible for placing items used at Mass in their proper place, lighting candles, carrying the cross and assisting the Priest and Deacon at the Altar.
Because we are such a large community, we have a need for many Eucharistic Ministers, (EM’s.) As you’ve read previously, EM’s bring the Body of Christ to those who are homebound and residents at the East Neck Nursing Center. However, the majority of our Eucharistic Ministers serve the parish at Sunday and Holyday Masses. They assist the priest distribute Communion to the gathered congregation. EM’s have a strong faith life and a deep desire to literally bring the Body of Christ to others.
Members of the parish work as teams to help families who come to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism here. These Stewards welcome families and do all they can to make them comfortable. They answer questions, give instructions, read the prayer of the faithful and the litany of the Saints and assist the Priest or Deacon as needed throughout the ceremony.
Working in teams, married couples come together to help prepare engaged couples for the Sacrament of Marriage. They share their faith as well as their own experience of Marriage as it relates to topics such as Communication and the Family of Origin, Decision Making and Values, Sexuality and Children, and Sexuality in Marriage. Presenting couples facilitate discussions and lead prayer as they bring the engaged to a better understanding of the commitment they are about to make.
Rainbows for All God’s Children
The Rainbows program offers children, who have experienced a loss in their family, methods to cope. They discuss dealing with their grief and ways to build up their self-esteem. Facilitators lead age appropriate groups of 5 to 6 children in discussions, projects and other activities in order to help them through their grieving process. Ministers in Rainbows strive to assure children who have experienced loss through death, separation, or divorce that they are not responsible for what has happened and that they are not alone.
The Holy Face of Jesus Prayer Group
Members of this prayer group meet on the 1st Friday of each month for a Holy hour and whenever possible Mass and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. They are committed to offering prayers of reparation, conversion and for vocations. The focus of this group is on the Passion and Resurrection and God’s infinite love as shown through Jesus.
C.Y.O. is comprised of 6 traveling teams for boys and 6 for girls in grades 5 through 8. Approximately 150 children play competitive basketball for Our Lady of Grace and they compete throughout the Diocese. Our Intramural Program consists of an additional 150 children in grades 4 through 6 who want to learn the game. Coaches with basketball knowledge are always welcome as well as adults who are trained as timekeepers and scorekeepers. C.Y.O. together with the Our Lady of Grace Knights of Columbus sponsor an annual free-throw contest which is open to all children ages 10 through 14. Practice and home games take place in the West Babylon Schools.
Since we are a large parish, there are many occasions when we offer hospitality to different groups. Members of this ministry, purchase food and supplies, at parish expense, so that we are well stocked to serve anything from a simple cup of coffee to a catered meal. Hospitality Stewards are the people whom you may have seen offering refreshments to one and all after liturgies, meetings and other parish gatherings. They set-up, cook, decorate, and clean-up.
Bingo is the largest fund-raiser in the parish. Games are played on Tuesday and Saturday evenings and the members of our Bingo teams do everything from selling lines, sheets and tear-offs to calling numbers, working the floor and taking care of the money room. Workers are scheduled to work in teams and most enjoy the camaraderie that develops with the members of their crew.
The Bingo kitchen serves burgers, franks, knishes and other wonderful treats while Bingo is being played. The kitchen is run by the Knights of Columbus and they are always ready to welcome people interested in helping out by serving and preparing the refreshments.
If you have driven around the back of the parish buildings, you may have noticed an area in the back field surrounded by a white picket fence. This is the Our Lady of Grace Community Garden. Each Spring members of the parish come together to plant various vegetables. Throughout the growing season gardeners tend to their plots and contribute their crops to Parish Social Ministry. The PSM office then distributes fresh vegetables to those in our community who may not be able to otherwise afford them. Any vegetables that are not distributed are sold after the Sunday Masses with the profits going to benefit the works of Parish Outreach.
Workers at our religious article counter supply parishioners with affordable religious items for their homes. They sell items prior to and after Sunday morning Masses, take orders, and keep inventory.
Each year on Fat Tuesday, (the day before Ash Wednesday,) the parish celebrates Mardi Gras. Team members work to provide a festive atmosphere as we prepare for the Lenten Season. Workers shop for supplies, decorate Fr. Shanahan Hall, coordinate food service areas, welcome and provide hospitality to those attending Mardi Gras, serve food and clean-up after the event.
Several times a year the missalettes used for Liturgies need to be updated. A group of people come together on Saturday morning and remove the old missalettes from their holders and replace them with updated ones. They then package the old missalettes for recycling.
The parish offers two scrip programs in order to raise money. Scrip is simply gift certificates to local Supermarkets , Department Stores, Restaurants and other retailers. Members of the Scrip programs order the certificates and sell them after each weekend Mass. The parish realizes anywhere from 3-14% on each sale. Even if you don’t share your time working in the Scrip programs, you might consider purchasing gift certificates as a Stewardship activity.
Baby Gown Sewers
People who enjoy sewing use their skill to make kimonos for babies who are stillborn or die shortly after birth. The outfits are given to Good Samaritan Hospital and are used to present the child to the parents in a dignified manner. Hospital employees tell us that having the baby dressed rather than wrapped in a blanket provides some psychological comfort to the parents. This ministry also provides an important link between Our Lady of Grace and the larger community.
Bishop’s Annual Appeal
Each year the Bishop asks members of Catholic parishes to donate funds so that he can continue the charitable works of the Diocese. BAA workers place materials in the pews, are available in the lobby to assist those wishing to make a pledge, make follow-up phone calls and assist in preparing materials for the parish mailing.
People who enjoy making crafts create appropriate seasonal items for distribution to the parish community. They also sew for miscellaneous parish needs, make craft items to be sold at the annual Craft Fair and knit or crochet hats, scarves, mittens and blankets for distribution to the poor.
Our Lady of Grace owns a large party tent that is used for parish functions throughout the warm months. Working as a group, members of Omar’s Army put up and take down a 30′ X 100′ canopy usually in the back field. The tent then provides a shaded and protected area for food distribution or seating for large parish social events.
Wedding rehearsal facilitators work in teams of two to assist couples preparing for their ceremony. They instruct the wedding party as to the procedures here at the parish. They explain why these procedures are used and what the significance of them are pertaining to the Rite of Marriage, The facilitators literally “walk” the wedding party through the ceremony so that all are comfortable.
The former ministry of ushers has been renamed and expanded. Ministers of Liturgical Hospitality greet friends and strangers as they come to worship at the church. These ministers do all that they can to make those in the congregation as comfortable as possible. They are also responsible for maintaining order in the church, taking up the collection, assisting at Communion, distributing bulletins, and bidding a warm farewell to all who join us at Liturgy.
This ministry is open to families, youth, seniors, actually anyone who feels called to making those who visit our church feel welcomed and comfortable.
The Our Lady of Grace Parish Library is located in Room 113 in the Parish Center. Here one can find many books and resources of a religious or spiritual nature. Parish librarians assist patrons in locating materials, obtaining library cards, and checking books and other media in and out of the library. They also maintain the shelves and the condition of the various lending materials. If you enjoy reading, this is the ideal ministry to look into.
Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts
The parish proudly sponsors both a Boy Scout Troop and a Cub Scout Pack. High priority in both groups is community service and having fun as the boys grow to become Christian adults. All boys are welcome to join. Adult leaders are always welcome to become part of the Scouting tradition.
Through God’s goodness our parish is growing everyday. Recently we have been welcoming many families with young children. To help them attend Religious Educational parent meetings and to worship at the Family Liturgy at 10:30, we offer babysitting services. Religious Ed babysitting takes place during the day when school is in session. All children are watched in room 117 which is equipped with age appropriate toys and games.
The parish web site can be found at Ourladyofgrace.net. Creative stewards who are knowledgeable in HTML and web developing produce a wonderful site. This is another avenue the parish uses to spread the “Good News” to the wider community.
Knights of Columbus
We are proud to have the Our Lady of Grace Knights of Columbus Council 11968 here at the parish. The K of C is composed of Catholic men who come together to give service to the community. The Knights sponsor many annual events as well as monthly parish breakfasts. If you are thinking about joining a group that has fun while doing service, then the Knights of Columbus may be ideal for you.
Office Help and Data Entry
As you know, no job is done until the paperwork is finished. With so many ministries at the parish, you can rest assured that the paperwork is never done! Many people who have data entry skills assist in maintaining parish sacramental records and other parish data. Individuals with computer skills work with different ministries in creating presentation materials, data-basing and record keeping. On occasion, the pastor or a member of the pastoral team sends mailings to all registered parishioners. As you can imagine, preparing over 5000 pieces of mail is a monumental task. Our office helpers come together to assist in this work as well as other projects that come up throughout the year.
Other Happenings at Our Lady of Grace
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.)
Adults who are interested in converting to Catholicism or Baptized Catholic adults who have not received all of their sacraments are invited to join our RCIA program. Groups meet each week to discuss scripture, learn about the Catholic faith and meet members of the parish staff on the journey to becoming full members of our parish community.
R.C.I.A. Adapted for Teens
This program follows the same format as RCIA but is geared to teens who wish to convert or who have not received all of their Sacraments of Initiation. Scripture is presented and discussed at the level the teenagers are at.
R.C.I.A. Adapted for Children
Often children are registered in our Religious Education program after their peers have completed studies for First Holy Communion, Reconciliation or Confirmation, or they may have never been Baptized. These children are put in age appropriate Religious Education classes as well as RCIA adapted for children. In this program the children learn about the Sacraments they have missed, while studying for upcoming Sacraments with their peers.
Widows & Widowers
The third Friday of each month our Widow & Widowers group meets in the Parish Center. Meetings consist of discussions, planning events and trips, socialization, etc. This group offers companionship and a safe forum for those who have lost a spouse to share one’s feelings and faith.
Twice per year the parish hosts a blood drive for the local blood bank. What better way to practice stewardship than to literally give the gift of life to those who need it? If you would like to give blood, call the Parish Office and leave your name.
Summer Fun Program
The Parish offers a summer program for children of working parents. Operating throughout the summer from 8:30 AM—4:30 PM children enjoy a diversified curriculum including prayer, daily trips, crafts and sports.
Our senior citizens meet once a month on the third Thursday. They meet over lunch to socialize, play Bingo, dance and share their experiences with each other. For further information please contact the Parish Social Ministry Office.
Each week people interested in learning to sew meet in the Parish Center for classes. Sewing machines are available for use in the classroom. This is a fun way to learn a new skill and make new friendships.
The Catholic Counseling Center is an independent program which places licensed psychologists in parishes throughout the Diocese for counseling on a range of issues. For further confidential information contact Dr. George Giuliani at (516)-243-2503.
Italian Language Classes
For those wishing to learn Italian, classes meet each Saturday in Rooms 202, 206 and 207 at 10 AM.
Alcoholics Anonymous: Meets Wednesday in Room 115 at 8PM, and Friday in Rooms 115 & 116 at 7PM
Naron: For families of drug abusers, meets Thursday in Room 116 at 8PM.
Emotions Anonymous: Meets Tuesday in Room 115 at 7PM.
Families Anonymous: Meets Wednesday in Room 116 at 8PM.
Narcotics Anonymous: Meets Thursday in Room 115 at 8PM.
T.O.P.S. – Take Off Pounds Sensibly: Meets Tuesday in Room 116 at 7PM.