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Remote preparations -- What can you do?

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If your parish is moving into a collaborative in June, what will you do to encourage your parish to get ready?

Sister Pat Boyle,

On June 1 of this year, 19 new collaboratives will be formed. There will be seven in the South Region, five in the North Region, three in the Merrimack Region, three in the Central Region and one in the West Region. Before starting to work as a collaborative, pastors and staffs have begun to do some preparations with the intent of helping parishioners make a smooth transition into Disciples in Mission.

In some parishes, there is discussion about the existing Mass schedules. Everyone has a "favorite Mass" they like to attend yet with fewer priests available in each collaborative to celebrate six or eight Masses on a weekend, changes may be necessary. This is one area in which parishioners may be asked to sacrifice their preferences for the good of the collaborative. Many pastors are working with parishioners to better understand the necessity of these changes so that the new pastor will not be faced with that challenge upon arriving in the collaborative.

Many parishes have hosted open town-style meetings for parishioners. These meetings are offered by the Pastoral Planning Office and provide parishioners input as well as the opportunity to raise questions specific to Disciples in Mission. The topics covered in these meeting are: What is Disciples in Mission? What is the collaborative structure? How will the work of evangelization and the local pastoral plan impact the collaborative?

Very often, pastors, staffs and parishioners begin to talk about other steps they can take to help the parishioners accept the changes that come with being in a collaborative. Most start by having one intercessory prayer intention at each Mass for the success of the collaborative. Recently, I learned about an activity and prayer challenge that two parishes have taken on. Linda DeCristoforo, the pastoral associate of those two parishes, describes when she saw an opportunity not only to involve more parishioners in the challenge but to invite people to pray intentionally for the success of the collaborative.

Linda describes it this way:

"Two members of Our Lady of Grace Parish challenged each other during the season of Lent. They agreed to do '40/40' -- 40 push-ups for the 40 days of Lent. They did this in the spirit of prayer and sacrifice. I have now challenged them to continue after Lent for 50/50 -- 50 push-ups for 50 days from Easter until Pentecost, and they agreed. God Bless them!

"In support of them I have asked both parishes, Our Lady of Grace, Chelsea/Everett and St. Mary of the Assumption, Revere to join the challenge. Most can't do push-ups, but I asked them to say 50 Hail Mary's (one a day) or a Rosary a day for the 50 days. We will be entering a new collaborative in June and the intention for this challenge is to pray for the transition, to pray for Father James Barry as he leaves the two parishes, for Father John Sheridan, as he begins as our new pastor and for our new collaborative. The response has been overwhelming from the two parishes, many able-bodied parishioners are doing the push-ups or a combination of push-ups and Hail Mary's, we have a group meeting before Mass to recite the rosary. Parish groups have also accepted the challenge. People are excited about it. It's become the buzz around the parishes.

"We have established a foundation of prayer and sacrifice for the 50 days leading up to the new collaborative. Young and old are united in prayer as we begin a new chapter in the life of these two parishes."

Certainly not every parish will take on a "50/50" challenge. There may very well be other creative ways of engaging parishioners in the preparatory work of becoming a collaborative. If your parish is moving into a collaborative in June, what will you do to encourage your parish to get ready? Will it be through prayer, through open meetings, through reading or some other creative way? Start now because readiness is critical!

- Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Pastoral Planning.

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