It is obvious that the choice of mission topics and speakers was inspired by their vision and priorities.
Alignment is an important factor in the collaborative process. A collaborative's vision should be aligned with Cardinal O'Malley's vision for the archdiocese, as articulated in his Pastoral Letter "A New Pentecost" and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, "Disciples in Mission." And his vision must align with Pope Francis' vision for the universal Church. A good example of alignment is found in the vision statement of St. Lucy and St. Monica Parishes, the Methuen Collaborative: "Renew, Rebuild, and Reach Out: Disciples in Heartfelt Communion with Jesus Christ." These 12 words embody the principles of evangelization, growth, discipleship, and outreach, rooted in Jesus Christ. Under their vision, Methuen's local pastoral plan focuses on three priorities: Creating a welcoming apostolic community; Outreach to young families; Creating a culture that recognizes vocation. In describing their vocation priority, they write about,"... the reality of vocation. God calls us into existence, and he never ceases to call us to into friendship with him. ...St. Lucy and St. Monica Parishes are committed to not only establish the conditions to make God's voice heard but to work actively among our people and in our families so that God's voice resounds and echoes in every facet of their people's lives."
This background provides a lens to look at their recent Collaborative Lenten Mission. It is obvious that the choice of mission topics and speakers was inspired by their vision and priorities. Their vocation priority speaks about God's call to each person. Hearing this call is essential for friendship with God and communion with Jesus Christ. Kathy Reda was the speaker Sunday night. She told her story about drifting away from the Church, being angry with God, and finally accepting the invitation of a friend to attend a Life Teen Mass. It was Palm Sunday. At that liturgy she was overcome by the realization of how much she is loved by God. Today, Kathy is a consecrated virgin in the archdiocese.
Monday's speaker was Dan Kennedy Sr. He is the author of "247 Days: Father Dan Kennedy, A Proud and Happy Priest," a book about his son, Father Dan Kennedy, who was called home to God in his first year of priesthood. Father Dan had just celebrated his 34th birthday when an undetected heart condition ended his life. Approximately 100 confirmation candidates from both parishes joined the congregation for this talk. The night was designed so that the teens could fully enter into the experience. The need to "establish the conditions to make God's voice heard" is real. The world is filled with noise, and for young people, noise is almost constant. The evening began with a period of quiet adoration, offering a rare respite from ear buds and video game beeps and buzzes. Quiet time led to praise and worship in song. Candidates were then ready and able to listen to the vocations talk. Father Bill Lohan, collaborative pastor, said that this was "a great talk on priestly vocations." Many people mentioned that they want to read the book and parents have commented that their teens enjoyed this talk.
Father Bob Murray, pastor of St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes in Haverhill, spoke on the final night. He used the image of a weightlifter in training, moving little by little, from light weights to heavy weights, to show that our spiritual muscles need to be built up, too. It takes work.
The mission was open to all parishioners and their re-vamped collaborative bulletin highlighted it on the front page, in the "next big thing" space. Hundreds of parishioners attended and heard three messages aligned with the vision and priorities of the Methuen Collaborative Local Pastoral Plan. Kathy Reda returned to the practice of the faith through God's grace and a persistent friend who reached out. In telling his son's story, Mr. Kennedy gave a poignant example of hearing God's voice and answering his call. Father Murray's earthy metaphor illustrated how communion with Jesus Christ has to be intentional. Father Lohan was grateful for the gifts each speaker brought to the mission and for the parishioners who came each night. He is excited about "a big push this fall to be more radical in our hospitality and our welcoming," a priority of their local pastoral plan the Methuen Catholic Collaborative is living their vision: "Renew, Rebuild, and Reach Out: Disciples in Heartfelt Communion with Jesus Christ."
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.