3.1 Begin Discernment of Canonical Mergers

One of the significant goals of Beacons of Light is that Families of Parishes will be unified as one canonical parish by June 30, 2027. There are many aspects involved in coming together as a spiritual and practical community of faith pointed toward the mission of Jesus Christ and the Church.

Church Reversed

“This is the purpose of Beacons of Light, to enable the vital proclamation of the Gospel for the third century of our own archdiocese. The infrastructure and schedules that were essential to the work of the local Church in decades past may no longer best serve the mission today. Therefore, under the leadership of the pastor, each Family of Parishes will engage in intentional pastoral planning, rooted in sincere prayer and open collaboration, to discern the best configuration of its collective resources to pursue the evangelizing mission of the Church. This is not a project for the priest and parish leaders only, but for the entire parish community, and it will not come to fruition overnight. Patience and fortitude will be essential.” (Letter to the Faithful, January 2023)

As your Family leaders begin the discernment process of unifying parishes within your Family as one canonical parish, it is important that all involved understand the many factors and considerations that must be addressed.

1.3 Church – Vision Impact for Principle

A vision statement is a short aspirational statement of direction for your Family of Parishes — the where we are going, and why we do what we do to get there.   

Once a vision statement has been drafted, it is important to validate that the vision statement provides aspirational direction and inspiration to all components of a vital parish. The Beacons of Light principles and vision points concisely define parish vitality. Thus, comparing your draft vision statement with the principles provides a sounding board to confirm the appropriateness of the proposed vision statement. The Principle Vision Impact Form is used during the Family Visioning Process and allows teams of Family staff and lay leadership to confirm your draft vision statement and understand what changes will need to come about as your Family begins to live out the vision.  

You can find the Family Visioning Process and Principle Vision Impact form in the Leadership 1.2 Materials.

2.2 Create Prayer and Discernment Opportunities for Leaders and Parishioners

Discernment is unlike any decision-making process used in business or secular organizations. Discerning how you will proceed as individuals or within your faith communities is a process of prayerful listening to and trusting in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, careful study of Church documents and appreciation for the lived experience of parishioners and the history of your parishes, all while dreaming boldly and holding in front of yourselves a compelling vision for the future.

“Increase Family prayer and discernment opportunities focused on a shared future.” (Church Phase 2 milestone)

The more deeply your Family of Parishes is rooted in prayer, shares a common understanding of the vision of the Church and of your Family and has opportunities to actively contribute to bringing your vision to life, the more likely your Family will grow in communion with Christ and one another.

2.3 Celebrate Parish Patrons

Church Reversed

“Each of us is called to actively participate as a member of a parish, the Universal Church and our local Church, led by our archbishop. Parishes continually deepen the bonds of communion with other parishes.” (Church principle)

As one Church, you need to build upon the ecclesial cultural traditions of the parishes that make up your Family of Parishes and indeed the archdiocese. Given that celebrating the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Catholic life, what better way to continue to forge a common identity across your Family of Parishes than to build on the sacramental celebrations of the patrons of each parish. Celebrating each patronal feast day in each and every one of the parishes within your Family of Parishes reinforces the unity of the communion of saints, as well as the unity of your Family. 

A vision point for the Church principle is Local & Universal:

People come to understand the nature of the parish as the people within a given territory and therefore grow in understanding themselves as members of Christ’s Body, the Church.

To reinforce this, celebrate well on feast days specific to the entire archdiocese, such as the feast of St. Francis de Sales (patron of the archdiocese) or St. Robert Bellarmine (the archdiocese’s secondary patron), or to the whole church, such as the feast of the Chair of St. Peter or the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.

Of course, there are other possible activities to reinforce the common liturgical bond within your Family of Parishes:

  • Hold open house gatherings in each parish with displays that tell the story of the parish, tours of the parish campus and food (especially of the ethnic groups in the parish).
  • Include the history of each parish on your Family website (and on each parish’s website).
  • Create displays of historical artifacts from each parish.

3.2 Build Parishioner Sense of Belonging to Family

Becoming a strong community of faith does not just happen. Doing so relies on intentionality on the part of leaders who actively seek to draw people to Christ and to one another. Engaging people in your Family of Parishes is a process of deepening people’s sense of belonging within your Family as a community of faith. Such belonging builds strong bonds between people, as they pray together, interact with one another and serve together.

Church Reversed

“Parishes continually deepen the bonds of communion with other parishes.” (Church principle)

The pastoral life within your Family of Parishes offers many opportunities for people to become more deeply united in faith and create a spirit of community. 

To-do: Consider these ideas as a springboard for discussions as you seek ways to build belonging within your Family of Parishes:

  • Host common seasonal prayer experiences, such as Advent evening prayer, Lenten penance services, Holy Week liturgies and Pentecost celebrations.
  • Unify parishes’ service and outreach initiatives.
  • Combined sacramental preparation, such as the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) and Confirmation preparation.
  • Host social gatherings
  • Think about ways you might spark conversations and relationships among parishioners. Personal connections make a real difference in the way people perceive their experience in your Family!
  • Start or expand small faith groups, and encourage participation across parishes in your Family.
  • Offer seasonal study or reflection groups.
  • Ensure that members of all parishes are invited to participate when new ministries are suggested. 
  • Initiate discussions among already-involved parishioners to discern future unified ministries.
  • Host listening sessions or offer time after Mass when people may share ideas or concerns.

You can find additional ideas in Phase 1 Church 3.1: Foster Belonging.

3.3 Publish Opportunities for Liturgy and Sacraments Across the Deanery

Church Reversed

“Each of us is called to actively participate as a member of a parish, the Universal Church and our local Church, led by our archbishop. Parishes continually deepen the bonds of communion with other parishes.” (Church principle)

Part of understanding yourselves as Church is being involved with the other Families of Parishes in your area — your deanery. 

With the leadership of the dean, your pastor and parish leaders should look for opportunities to collaborate and communicate with all parishes in the deanery.

For example, you could compile and publish a full listing of all communal penance services in Advent or Lent, or even all confession times, throughout the deanery. If this information is published on the dean’s Family website (or even a new website dedicated solely to the deanery), it could then be linked on each Family’s site, social media, etc.

Even just having a collective schedule of weekday Masses, or links to all the Families within your deanery, could be valuable for those needing (or even just occasionally wanting) to worship outside your own Family of Parishes.

This also lays the groundwork for later meeting Parameter 10:

Church Reversed

Families collaborate with other Families within the deanery to provide coordinated pastoral ministry (e.g. hospitals, care facilities, young adult evangelization, high schools, jails, etc.) (Parameter 10)