3.3 Welcome, Invite, Encourage Participation

Throughout the public comment period of Beacons of Light and in the recent Synod proceedings, people shared their hopes for their Family of Parishes, particularly that their Families will be communities that warmly welcome people (especially teens and young adults), invite people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and encourage people to actively participate in the parish, putting love in action.

There is a saying that “many hands make light work.” This is true in any group — the family at home, in the workplace and certainly in your Family of Parishes. As you begin to seek ways to bring people together and create a vital, mission-driven faith community, take time to focus on welcoming, inviting, and encouraging participation. Devoting time and attention to these areas will have a lasting impact on your people and your Family of Parishes.

3.2 Build Common Expectations

While Phase 3 will focus on shaping the culture of your Family of Parishes, building a culture in which people feel they belong can and should begin now. Especially in this time of change, it will be important to establish clear expectations that compel people to embrace the life of missionary discipleship. Since many people may have been in a routine of coming to Sunday Mass but not being engaged in the life of the parish, this is a good opportunity to draw them more deeply into the faith community and, through the community, to Jesus. Likewise, those who have previously been engaged in their parish may need encouragement to broaden their affiliation to your Family of Parishes, which will benefit them and your Family through their active participation.

3.1 Foster Belonging

Studies of parishes and other organizations reveal that belonging matters. The more deeply people feel that they belong within their Family of Parishes, the more likely they will be to grow spiritually, share their faith with others and give their time, resources, talents and skills in ministry. According to a Gallup Organization study, “belonging leads to believing.”

There are simple steps that your Family of Parishes can take to foster belonging in the implementation of your Family. By building a sense that all members are valued and that your Family is a community of people growing as disciples and living as good stewards of time, talent, faith and resources, you will establish a foundation upon which belonging to a family of faith may deepen over time — not only in one’s parish, but in your Family of Parishes. All of this will lead toward the parish life Pope Francis envisioned, which is articulated in the Vatican Instruction: “The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church” (2020). (See Parameter 9.)

2.2 Discern a Name for Your Family

Each Family of Parishes will give itself a name, which can be a unifying activity. As early as Phase 1, but perhaps further along in the planning process, leaders of your Family of Parishes can engage parishioners in a creative process of developing a name for your Family.

The name your Family takes doesn’t have to be the eventual name of your canonical parish, but it could be the name. You could try an interim name now and, in a few years, change the name when you come together as a new canonical parish.

2.1 Bring People Together

Coming together as a faith community will not happen overnight. The process of unifying your Family of Parishes will take time and will rely on the leadership of many people in each of the parishes that make up your Family. Your Pathway Team will be attentive to opportunities to bring people together for prayer and social time, as well as more formal initiatives such as discerning the name of your Family and taking stock of the present life within the parishes.

While it may feel that these sorts of activities will naturally develop, intentionally engaging people in the early stages of Beacons of Light will result in more vital parish life over time. The Church principle states:

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.”

1.2 Meet as a Pathway Team

Your Pathway Team should be grounded in both prayer and a spirit of discernment. From the very beginning, the team will take time for prayer, find ways to listen to people within the Family and discern steps that may be taken to build community within the Family.

Church Reversed

“By September 1, 2022, every Family of Parishes must form a Planning Team, led by the pastor, to coordinate pastoral planning geared toward the unification of the Family by June 30, 2027.”

Your Pathway Team will ensure that the work of the Church principle will be accomplished for the Phase 1 milestone:

“Begin building a faith community through common prayer, social time among parishioners and gatherings of leaders.”

Your Pathway Team will establish a regular rhythm of meetings. Members will take responsibility for engaging others in prayer, activities, gatherings and initiatives to unify the Family over time.

To-do: Schedule and hold meetings regularly.