Monday, February 04, 2019 - Updated: 4:42 pm
Three months into the implementation phase of On Mission for The Church Alive!, parishioners are acknowledging the challenges facing their faith communities. Many are responding by building relationships, learning about needs beyond their church walls and looking for new ways to serve.
Having the right attitude and approach is critical to the success of the revitalization effort, according to Father Kris Stubna. He serves as administrator of St. Paul Cathedral, St. Regis, St. Rosalia and St. Stephen parishes in Pittsburgh.
“Our neighborhoods are radically different than just 10 years ago,” he said. “South Oakland has changed from residential homes to student housing, and Greenfield and Hazelwood have serious economic challenges. If we’re going to be successful, we need to be open and see things differently.”
The reduction in the number of weekend Masses at St. Stephen has led to a more vibrant celebration, according to Father Stubna.
“Instead of three Masses, there’s now one that is much fuller,” he said. “Many parishioners who were going to different Masses didn’t know each other. Now at social time afterward, they are happy to meet their neighbors.”
On Mission calls Catholics to envision how their parishes, schools and ministries can best respond to changes that include fewer parishioners attending Mass and receiving the sacraments, and a declining number of priests serving in active ministry.
“It’s important to have an attitude of anticipation of what God can do, instead of what isn’t here anymore,” said Father Carmen D’Amico, administrator of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Meadow Lands, St. Patrick in Canonsburg and Holy Rosary in Muse.
“We need to discover or rediscover the needs that are out there, listening to people and asking how we can serve them,” he said.
Father D’Amico is forming an advisory council made up of members from different age groups, cultures and perspectives to help shape a vision that will guide their pastoral and finance councils.
“People are mostly upbeat,” he said. “Some are nervous, but they’re all interested and have positive feelings about the future.”
In Allegheny County’s eastern communities of Churchill, Turtle Creek and Wilmerding, Father Frank Almade, administrator, and Deacon Herb Riley Jr. spend a lot of time listening to parishioners, sharing facts and inviting everyone to meet one another. It’s working.
“We’re seeing people going to Mass in different churches,” Deacon Riley said. “Our ministries are coming together, with altar servers going to all three churches, and soon lectors and Eucharistic ministers will do the same.
“We’re getting to know each other better,” he said.
Imagination, openness, hope and trusting in the Holy Spirit are key to living the Gospel call to being the body of Christ, according to Deacon Riley.
“If we are true followers of Christ, then we have to believe what is happening is because of the Spirit,” he said.
At St. Paul Cathedral, hundreds of college students and young adults attend Mass and receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Their faith is very real,” Father Stubna said. “They want to be connected to God, do good things for the church and lead meaningful lives.”
While the challenges are significant, faith remains strong.
“This is God’s church,” he said. “He made the promise that nothing will prevail against it. He will never abandon us.”