Dear brothers and sisters,
As we begin the summer months and our vacation, I would like to update you on a few goings-on at St. John’s. As you have heard me mention in my homilies, in the next several months and years we are working on a Pastoral Plan that will be aimed at evangelization and welcoming. This will involve some great challenges and changes to every ministry and effort of our parish staff and volunteers, as to how we can better focus on these goals. In the spirit of disclosure, I have begun to meet regularly with a small group of staff and parishioners which I’m calling the St. John’s Leadership Team: Analia Kolakowski, Lorraine Tacardon, and Ana Garces from the Staff; and Josephine Ferro and John Pinto who have served in the past on Pastoral and Finance Council. We are working through a workbook that’s part of “Rebuilt,” a movement centered on the practical real-life story of a parish in Timonium MD that has grown tremendously in the past 15 years, which offers a practical guide for parish revitalization, and is also a network of Catholic churches around the world. I invite all parishioners, especially ministers and volunteers, to purchase the book Rebuilt: The Story of A Parish, which is guiding us in this process. No doubt there will be some criticism and questioning of what we are going to do. Any critique I would kindly refer a person to thoroughly read this book so to understand where we’re coming from, and why changes are absolutely necessary for the future of St. John’s church, and the Catholic Church in general. I have spoken personally to Bishop Bambera about this, and he is fully supportive of our efforts.
I hope by the end of the summer to present to the parish a three-year strategic plan. In this next year, our major focus will be revitalizing our music ministry, strengthening our efforts of welcoming, and cultivating a culture of stewardship in the parish. The first step is that we are going to experiment in the summer months with songs at Mass which are from the contemporary Christian Praise and Worship genre. The reason is not because these songs are my personal preference (which they’re not), but because we feel that this style music is the first step to welcome the unchurched. Recently I have been in discussion with our parish musicians: Erik our Director of Music, and Gil and Nancy our accompanists, along with the Adult Choir and cantors. We are blessed to have several very talented folks who generously offer their gifts to our community. This change is akin to a major “software update” of our music ministry – and although this will be very challenging for our musicians to learn a new style of worship and a new repertoire of songs, I’m confident that we can do it. I also believe that our congregation is open to this change, because (1) for many of our families from Latin America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, this style of music is the norm and not the exception; (2) our modern worship space is an ideal setup for eventually installing screens placed in the corners of the sanctuary to project the words of songs; and (3) most importantly, our congregation likes to sing!
I ask that parishioners be open to this change and trusting of me. I believe that there is greater risk of doing nothing than in making a change. Let us keep our church in prayer during this process, that our local community may be revitalized with the mission of making disciples of Christ, and that we may share in the bounty of God’s harvest.