Feeling One’s Way – Pastor’s Reflection (October 4, 2015)
This week at Parish Study, Fr. Jonah made available to us, with great clarity, St. Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of truth (veritas) as a correspondence between the idea in my mind and the reality of God, and of the world as He has made it to be.
If I seek after Truth then I will make good use of “reality checks.” For all of us baptized people, such doses of reality should come to us in the form of preaching. When I commit to worshipping with a parish, I, with intention, open myself to hearing the truth in that community. The preaching, practices, and policies of the community will activate a certain fidelity as I struggle with their divergence from my opinion. Spiritual, social, and intellectual growth demands wrestling such as this. I will avoid the work and the growth if I seek a place where they tell me what I want to hear and where nothing of their life makes me uncomfortable.
Dominicans accept a further and more intimate reality check in our common life. I find that my Brothers, and my Sisters, have ways of building me up out of discouragement and of popping my balloon of pride, without even knowing that they do this. I should imagine that marriage functions in similar ways.
I find that my leadership succeeds or fails to the extent that I make it safe for people to level with me. They may find that security in the way I interact, but I hope they also find it in my respect for the structures which give them voice. It falls to the one in charge to say over and over again, “You are a parishioner,” “You are a member of the Parish Council”, “You are a member of the Finance Council,” or “You are the one volunteering your time,” and you therefore have my ear. When distraction or emotion closes my ear, then I must seek forgiveness.
The law of the Church gives Pastors wide authority, but reality surrounds them with stakeholders, and an abundance of stakeholders brings complexity and stability. Governance that takes account of stakeholders will be more slow, and perhaps more tentative. Such a polity gives less room for grand plans swept into place. Its processes will be messier but bring durable results. A variety of stakeholders makes for a sound “reality check.” By contrast, fallen autocracies make the debris of history.
At the present time we are laying the groundwork for good decision making. The Parish Inaugural celebration and the Parish Renewal we are beginning with our Tuesday night sessions. Each took shape through the diligence and insights of the Friars; Br, Ignatius, and Frs. Jonah, Innocent, John, and David. Their efforts were matched by the creativity and good sense of our Implementation Team; Tom Warga, Lauretta Bruno, Peter Marchewka, Deacon John Powers, Alessandra Cabras, Sr. Gail Morgan, Steven Picciano, and Lou Zacharilla. I can never say thank you enough for such steady support at a very challenging time.
These events would never have come off the page without generous staff and volunteers, whose energy and demeanor really make an event, and a parish. Steve and Kim Quatela partnered with Saudhi Vargas to coordinate the many generous hands that made our reception so grand. The Liturgy could never have come off without the skillful generosity of Steve Quatela, Michael Silverstein, Mark Bani, and James Wetzel.
Such beginnings can point us toward the permanent reality checks we need. At the moment we are working toward the creation of a united Parish Council, which can be eyes, ears, and sounding board for the Pastor. The Finance Councils of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena will be meeting separately for the present as they prepare reports on the fiscal year just concluded. We will then move toward united Finance and Investment Councils.
Both former parishes have undergone, or will undergo, an audit by the Archdiocese. All of the merged parishes will experience this procedure. Such scrutiny will offer us reliable financials and a path to effective and compliant administration. As you might imagine, a number of things are tabled until the auditors finish their work.
Some may have noticed that we have already united the Prayers of the Faithful used at Sunday Mass, and by extension, the lists of sick and deceased for whom we pray. The lovely custom of praying for the sick carries with it a challenge; we often do not know when people get better, or are called home. So to keep things current here, we will adopt this policy. When names are proposed for prayer, they will be read during the Prayers of the Faithful one time. From there they will pass into the bulletin, where they will remain for three weeks. Of course, the name of a sick person may be put back on the list for another cycle.
Let me conclude by thanking everyone for the patience characterized by this entire community during recent months. This attitude has made all the difference. In these pages, we will make it our responsibility to keep you posted as there are developments.