Solidifying a Love in Action Leadership Team and centralized coordinating structure will be more formally pursued in Phase 2 and beyond. To get a sense of what will be involved, the following information is a sneak preview of what a fully developed Love in Action ministry might look like in a Family of Parishes.
Every Family will define for itself what is most effective in organizing its parishioners’ talents toward advancing life and human dignity. Yet, it’s also important to imagine where the Family could be in a few years, always focused on growth in its promotion of the Gospel in the world.
There are two primary documents from the U.S. Catholic bishops to draw from for building what we envision as a successful Love in Action ministry:
While parish respect life and social action teams often rely on just a few individuals to organize baby bottle collections or volunteer at a homeless shelter, both of these documents require tapping into every Catholic’s baptismal call to serve.
Three Basic Messages
Communities of Salt and Light and Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities can be summarized with three key messages to help any Family of Parishes formulate a team for this important work:
- Parish Love in Action ministry should be integrated throughout parish life. As Matthew 25:31-46 reminds us, we will all be judged by how we have cared for the least among us. This means a parish’s social mission will be woven into its education programs, reflected in its prayer and worship and include a variety of opportunities so everyone can participate.
- Love in Action leadership should organize the work, not do the work. The primary role of these leaders is to provide opportunities and invite all members of the faith community to become involved in whatever ways they can. Organizers need not be present for everything they plan, and volunteers need not plan in order to serve.
- Parish Love in Action ministry should include both efforts to provide direct service or outreach to people in need and efforts to work for justice by shaping the policies, programs and structures of society. These two dimensions of the Catholic social mission are essential and complementary.
The two aforementioned documents touch on two similar but slightly different ways to organize this ministry. The following is a synthesis of the ministry areas they propose (please refer to the documents themselves for more detail):
- Prayer and Worship
- Education and Formation
- Family, Work, and Citizenship
- Outreach, Charity, and Pastoral Care
- Legislative Advocacy and Public Policy
- Community Organizing
- Global Solidarity
Love in Action Leadership Team
Parishes that seek to realize this vision will structure their Love in Action ministry so that someone or some group is responsible for making sure each element comes to life in the Family of Parishes. For those Families who have the ability, it could be quite complex. For others, especially when starting, it could be very simple. A more complex team could have a team leader for each of the seven areas noted above, ensuring various types of outreach are being done in that area. Others might choose a simpler model, covering only a few components.
Thinking of this differently, one might organize a few issue-specific teams in ministry areas (such as leaders for pregnancy care ministry, St. Vincent de Paul and visitation ministries). Then each of those three leaders would be aware that there is a need to think of opportunities in that area for not only direct pastoral care but also parish education, public policy advocacy and prayer and worship. Families of Parishes may realize that a member parish wants to spearhead action around a particular concern (e.g. organizing respect life activities), while another parish specializes in something else (e.g. assisting refugee resettlement).
Possibilities are nearly endless for how simple or complex a team can be. The important things are to start, remain aware of the goal and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Begin to think about what this team might look like as you prepare for Phase 2.