Forming selfless, energetic leaders

Friday, January 19, 2018 - Updated: 11:18 am

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

The On Mission for The Church Alive! prayer asks God to “Raise up selfless, energetic leaders to serve the church in fidelity and with care.” Gary Fritsch has answered that call, bringing 25 years of corporate experience to full-time parish service.

The director of community outreach and evangelization at St. John Neumann Parish in Franklin Park, Fritsch also is in the Deacon Formation Program. In addition, he uses his training background in the health insurance industry to help clergy and lay leaders identify their gifts and strengths.

Fritsch had been considering full-time ministry, and when his department was eliminated he sought guidance through prayer and discerned where God was leading him.

“I am literally hooked on joy,” he said. “My mission is introducing people to the joy that God intends for their life. As Jesus said, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete’” (John 15:11).

“Gary is that selfless and energetic leader” in the prayer, said Father Michael Stumpf, pastor of St. Mary of the Mount Parish in Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood, where Fritsch coached the leadership team to learn their individual strengths. “He’s had a great impact helping us to understand one another and what each brings to the team.”

“The source of Gary’s energy is his great relationship with Christ,” said Father Joseph Mele, vicar for leadership development and evangelization. “I like his unquenchable curiosity for what makes people think.”

At St. John Neumann, Fritsch oversees outreach to local homeless shelters and food banks, an Appalachia mission and evangelization events. He has started a men’s Scripture study group and a marriage ministry called Strong Together that helps couples build a marriage centered on Christ.

Father Bob Vular, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Perrysville, said Fritsch has helped him focus on his God-given talents so he can use them to tend to his parishioners.

“I’m glad to see this type of training making its way into the priesthood,” said Father Vular, who worked in sales management before entering the seminary. “We can learn a lot from the secular world.”

“We all share a call to holiness,” said Father Samuel Esposito, episcopal vicar for the On Mission for The Church Alive! planning initiative. “Everyone has gifts to offer. For example, someone with the gift of mercy can coordinate nursing home ministry. People who are good at listening might serve in bereavement ministry.”

A leadership goal of On Mission is to inspire clergy and laity to embrace new strategies for building vibrancy in parishes and for drawing others into a deeper relationship with Jesus, said Dr. Michel Therrien, president of the diocesan Institute for Pastoral Leadership.

“Our approach is based upon St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12, where he speaks about the church being one body with many gifts, all guided by the same Spirit,” he said.

“By discovering their giftedness in a concrete way, parishioners can also find their personal calling to serve the mission of Jesus Christ,” added Sharon Hachman, director of human formation in the diocese. “Amazing things can happen through strength-based leadership.”

Fritsch has two suggestions for those seeking their place in The Church Alive!

“First, people need to discover what God made them to do, and look for the things they get energy from — joy is a signal,” Fritsch said. “Secondly, understand that other people’s views may be different. We’re 100 percent unique, and their viewpoint is just as important as mine.”

To learn more, contact the Institute for Pastoral Leadership at 412-456-3052 or e-mail leadership@diopitt.org.

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