How the Lay Faithful Can Support Priests During the Transition to Families of Parishes
In the beginning of September 2020, Archbishop Vigneron and the leaders of each of the three teams planning for the transition to Families of Parishes (Governance, Mission Direct, Mission Support) gathered, along with a few other key leaders in the archdiocese, to discuss the progress that has been this summer.
One topic of discussion at the meeting was how the lay faithful can support clergy during this transition that will take place over the next two years. Supporting our parishes through our priests is something that all disciples are called to do.
Here are some of the ways Archbishop Vigneron and others suggested we can do that.
The number one thing that any person can do is to pray for all priests in our archdiocese, especially your parish priest.
Pray that God will send the Holy Spirit to guide our priests and foster in them the habits of a joyful missionary disciple.
Archbishop shared that often for parish priests, a cranky comment from a disgruntled parishioner can linger on your mind and heart longer than positive feedback. But he invites the lay faithful to give advice and support to your pastor. And he emphasized the importance of encouragement when you can offer it to your parish priests.
Fr. Birney, who is leading the Governance Team, shared, “I was 18 years old when I entered the seminary and my idea was to help people and to serve people. I never anticipated that I would anger people just because a decision was made that didn’t go the way they wanted, even though it was done with a lot of prayer, discernement, and consultation. And that does wear on priests.”
What are some words of encouragement that you can offer the priests who serve your parish?
Check in with your priests.
Sometimes, Fr. Birney shared, the best thing you can do is to say, “‘Hey Father, what is your biggest struggle right now and how can I help you with it?’ Hearing that from a parishioner is worth a million bucks. We don’t get that a lot.”
Consider asking this question of your parish priest next time you speak with him.
Be engaged at your parish.
“One of the reasons we are able to do [Families of Parishes], I think,” Archbishop Vigneron shared, is that the Second Vatican Council has born some tremendously good fruit in our archdiocese with highly motivated lay people who are very engaged and understand that they have an essential role to play.”
Are you involved at your parish? What’s one way to engage your unique gifts as a member of your parish community?
Use both the natural and supernatural means at our disposal.
Our natural means involved pastor leadership and lay leadership, even from the bottom up. The lay faithful can encourage their pastors and parish staff to be engaged with the mission.
But, really, we need supernatural means: the power of the Holy Spirit. We can help him by being instruments for missionary conversion and mission in our communities.
We have to do our very best to move people to a missionary conversion. All of us have to be engaged in seeking to facilitate that. And not just other people — we have to be converted to a missionary boldness ourselves!
Archbishop Vigneron made a point to say that even he has to prioritize this in his own life. He also shared that we don’t need to be naive about the obstacles that will come with a transition to the Families of Parishes model — but we can overcome them by the same way the Gospel has always worked: by witness, call for conversion, mutual support, and to see that we will be better by being engaged in the mission.
Ask God to open your heart to missionary conversion.