June 19, 2022 Essay: From the Pastor’s Desk
As we enter the lazy days of summer, I want to provide an update on our parish planning process. This process began in early 2019 when I invited a group of parishioners and parish staff members to work with me to develop our parish’s statement of mission. This working group included Teresa Cariño, Holly Curp, Rose DiMartino, Natalie Fiedler, Grace Gorman, Mary Larkin, John O’Brien, Dr. Ray Pastore, Brian Pinter, Mary Rutherfurd, Fr. Vincent Sullivan, S.J., and Eric Van Nostrand. These individuals represented a wide cross-section of parishioners and parish ministries. By the end of 2019 the final version of the parish’s mission statement was published. It reads as follows:
The love of Christ impels us to welcome all,
to worship joyfully and pray fervently,
to walk together with those in need,
and to reverence God in the wonder of Creation.
Our mission statement, like all other mission statements, is a snapshot of how we perceive ourselves in the moment and who we aspire to be. It is a lens through which we look at ourselves and plan our future.
It was my hope to initiate a strategic planning process early in 2020 whose purpose would have been the development of concrete action plans that would animate in new ways our statement of mission. Then COVID 19 reared its ugly head, and everything was put on hold as the world sheltered in place. It was during this time that I recognized the need for us to re-imagine ourselves “as church” and confidently enter a post-pandemic world. We would still use our mission statement as the lens through which we would do our planning, but our context needed a wider worldview so that we could be responsive to the glaring needs that manifested themselves through the early onslaught of the pandemic. To fail to do this would, in my opinion, diminish the relevance of the Church (big “C”) in a post-pandemic world. Or, in the words of St. Paul, as referenced in our mission statement, “the love of Christ impels us” to do nothing less.
In September 2020 I wrote an essay that was published in the parish’s e-newsletter and reflected on the need for a new paradigm of Church in a post-pandemic world. I wrote about the need to bring hope and healing to the wounds inflicted through the pandemic – the wounds of indifference, intolerance, and abject injustice. I wrote, “I believe we are at a defining moment of what it means to be Church as well as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. To return to the routine of the past would mean that we failed to learn from our tortured experiences of the pandemic.” I further wrote that we should look at our mission statement as “both a mirror and a compass,” helping us to envision this new reality of church.
Early in 2021 the next phase of the parish planning process was initiated. As with the mission statement group, the planning committee represented a cross-section of parishioners and parish staff members. Those who generously accepted my invitation to this working group were Ivan Briggiler, Rosario Conde Johanek, Holly Curp, Adele Gallo, Fr. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Patti Hogan, Kathy Murnion, co-chair, Brian Pinter, Jean Santopatre, Jacques Torchon, Eric Van Nostrand, co-chair, and Scott Warren. Early in their deliberations, this working group acknowledged the need for input from parishioners. To that end, The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) designed a survey instrument that was distributed to all registered members of the parish. CARA collated, evaluated, and summarized the 790 survey forms that were submitted and delivered its report in November 2021 to the planning committee. You can review that report at ignatius.nyc/surveyresults. The CARA Report supplemented the input members of the planning committee received in the course of their conversations and interviews with parishioners. Then in December 2021, the planning committee delivered to me a Vision Statement that was distributed to parishioners in February of this year. You may view it online at ignatius.nyc/vision-statement.
In March of this year, parishioners were invited to “listening sessions” in the church on the weekend of March 19-20 and a virtual town hall meeting on the evening of March 30 to share their comments about the Vision Statement and their views on what they would like to see accomplished in the course of the parish’s planning process. 143 parishioners attended the listening sessions and 28 parishioners participated in the virtual town hall meeting.
What both the CARA Report and the remarks that were made at the listening sessions and the virtual town hall meeting corroborated was a general contentment with the parish as it now is as well as an openness to what was articulated in the Vision Statement. I am also obliged to report that there was a not unexpected sentiment expressed by several who participated in these meetings that we should not tinker with the status quo. In my opinion that approach would lead us to a path of irrelevance in a post-pandemic world that hungers for hope and healing.
Now is the time to initiate the next, and final, phase of our parish planning process. The Vision Statement provides us a blueprint for the future. What is now needed are its building blocks, or, as I will refer to them, action plans that will implement what was articulated in outline form in the Vision Statement.
In the Fall of this year I will invite you to participate in one of the implementation working groups that will be charged with the responsibility of drafting action plans for each of the four categories identified in the Vision Statement: 1. We Welcome All. 2. We Worship With Joy. 3. We Walk Together With Those In Need. 4. We Reverence God In The Wonder Of Creation. For the moment, I ask that you pray for the continued success of our parish planning process and to consider participating in one of these working groups so that your voice will be heard as we plan our shared future as disciples of Jesus Christ and parishioners of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.
May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us through this planning process so that all that we do now and in the future may redound to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Sincerely in the Lord,