March 3, 2022 Essay: The Parish Vision Statement and Listening

Mar 3, 2022

Last weekend we found an insert to the parish bulletin, “Let your voice be heard.” It included a letter from the Pastor, the Parish Vision Statement, and a summary of the results of the parish survey conducted last Autumn. All three documents are foundational to our participation in the “Listening Sessions” that we now are called to undertake. This brief essay will introduce the process in general and our goals for the coming months. (The three documents are also available on our parish website (click here).

The parish community of St. Ignatius Loyola ― women and men, young people and the elderly ― we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who comes to guide our efforts, breathing life and vitality into the parish and leading us into deeper communion for our mission in the world. As we embark on this journey, we must strive to ground ourselves in experiences of authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the parish that God calls us to be. The fact that this process will take place in Lent is not by chance. We turn to God as we prepare to enter into the Paschal Mystery by turning to one another with open hearts, in prayer, fasting, and charity.

This common journey together is both a gift and a task. By reflecting together on the journey that has been made so far, the members of the parish will be able to learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives. United in prayer, we will be able to discern the processes to seek God’s will and pursue the pathways to which God calls us – towards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world. The Vision Statement will be our “First Principle and Foundation,” to use the expression of the Spiritual Exercises.

We learn first of all to listen to one another, and in this spirit, Father Yesalonia announced a number of “listening sessions,” to be conducted in three different moments and venues:

1. After all the Masses on the weekend of March 19-20, please remain in the church or Wallace Hall for a half-hour. A member of the planning committee will facilitate the session. This is the privileged opportunity for our worshipping community to share their insights. There is no obligation to speak, but your listening presence is greatly appreciated.

2. A “virtual town hall” will take place as a ZoomMeeting at 7 PM on March 30th. A cohort of parishioners is being trained to lead us, using the breakout rooms feature that we have become familiar with. I invite everyone to register for this central and most important meeting at the link provided here:

3. At the next Parish Ministry Council meeting, Father Yesalonia will ask the ministry leaders to organize a listening session within their respective groups. Some ministries have already gone through this process and have found it inspirational and encouraging, “consoling” in the Ignatian meaning of the term!

To all parishioners and friends, the possibility remains open to write directly to the Pastor with your comments.

Details and guidelines for these sessions are forthcoming. Let me reassure you here that a listening session is not a question-and-answer period, nor a group discussion or problem-solving assignment. There is no crosstalk and no debate. There will be a facilitator and someone to take notes.

In all of these listening sessions, we will have the time to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who guides us to share what is in our heart and who speaks to us in the words of our brothers and sisters.

– Rev. Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor