"... Our relationship with Christ is nourished in a community of disciples through the Sacraments, prayer, and study. This relationship inspires us to serve others and draw them to Christ and His Church."
''The first three years of the Lynn Collaborative have been a wonderful time of growth, challenge, and joy." So begins Father Brian Flynn's letter to Cardinal O'Malley, updating him on the progress of this collaborative one year into the implementation of their three-year Local Pastoral Plan.
Father Flynn describes their trajectory: year one, "... was spent trying to understand what a collaborative was and what it meant specifically for our two parishes." In the second year they brought together the staff and, "with the help of some very dedicated parishioners" wrote their Local Pastoral Plan (LPP). This third year has been one of implementation and they feel justifiable pride in the progress they have made.
Lynn's LPP has three priorities: Forming Intentional Disciples; Becoming a More Welcoming Community; and Strengthening Our Liturgical Celebration.
For the first priority, they began by creating a working definition for discipleship: "A response to God's call to maintain a relationship with Jesus, which shapes all of our decisions and behaviors. Our relationship with Christ is nourished in a community of disciples through the Sacraments, prayer, and study. This relationship inspires us to serve others and draw them to Christ and His Church."
The definition is communicated in their bulletin, website, and in discussions within parish groups. With this as their foundation, they have formed a Vocations Team which meets monthly. In February they hosted a dinner for married couples. Their work fostering vocations to the diocesan priesthood is rooted in prayer. The evening Mass on the first Wednesday of the month is dedicated to praying for vocations to the priesthood and is preceded by an hour of Adoration. On Good Shepherd Sunday seminarians spoke at all of the Masses; refreshments and time for socializing followed each Mass. They're planning to work with parishioners who are single, and continue working with the Archdiocesan Family Life Office on their Marriage Preparation program. They also hope to arrange a visit to St. John Seminary for students.
Father Flynn writes, "The priests and staff, in solidarity with parishioners and not wanting to ask more of them than we expect of ourselves, have been engaged in staff formation on one Sunday afternoon each month."
Becoming a More Welcoming Community, led them to simplify the parish registration forms and have seen an increase in registrations. Cause and effect? Who knows, but they are pleased with the increase. Refreshments are offered after some weekend Masses "to provide an opportunity for parishioners to socialize and build community." Welcoming and Hospitality is their theme for 2016-2017. A Welcome Packet is in the works that will have information about faith formation opportunities and collaborative ministries as well as schedules and basic information. This collaborative is community minded and forward thinking, "The City of Lynn plans to grow the city in the near future, and we need to be ready to welcome the new residents when they arrive."
Their third priority, Strengthening Our Liturgical Celebration, acknowledges that "Sacraments are our most important connection with God." Clergy and some of the pastoral staff come together regularly for Bible Study and discussion of Sunday Mass readings. They decide on a theme for each week and provide a theme/scripture related question for parishioners to consider during the week. Beginning in October they plan to speak about a different part of the Mass before Mass begins, to help people "enter more deeply into prayer and worship." They are grateful for their new music ministry team. From parishioner feedback, they realize that a good music program can be an effective evangelization tool.
They readily acknowledge, though, that there is still much work to do. There is a need for more Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but they "...have resisted simply filling the holes in the schedule". Instead, they continue to form new disciples who can serve this ministry. They want to continue building their music program and hope to recruit new choir members. The Discipleship definition needs even more exposure so that all parishioners can better understand and live it out. And, as is often the case with collaboratives -- and many parishes -- finances are a challenge, "...We fear ..... [finances] is the biggest challenge in becoming the faith community that we envision." This concern won't prevent them from moving forward, flexibly, and in faith.
In closing, Father Flynn and Director of Ministries Mr. Christopher Carmody, write, "Being a Phase I collaborative came with a unique set of challenges and we hope that future collaboratives can learn from the work that we have done and are continuing to do with and for Christ."
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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