How is it possible that it’s already September? It seems to me that just a few days ago it was Easter, and Memorial Day was just around the corner. However, looking at the calendar it is indeed September. School has resumed for a new academic year and we are speeding quickly toward the lovely days of autumn.
As we make our way into September, it is likely that many of our parish communities are entering into the annual ritual of the time and talent survey. In many cases, this involves circulating a form that permits parishioners to indicate a ministry or program that they feel called to, or in which they are interested. Some may even feel called to more than one potential ministry or parish program. Hopefully, if all goes well, the time and talent survey is a means to help connect parishioners with the fabric of parish life that takes place each day of the week, helping them to become involved in their parish beyond Sunday Mass. In some parishes, this process may take a slightly different form, being called a ministry fair or a welcome weekend. Whatever the name or process, the desire is usually the same – a process by which needs and willingness to serve are connected.
Over the next few years, this process will be critically important as we reach a time of generational transition. By this I mean that the many dedicated older parishioners – who at one time were dedicated young parishioners – are reaching a point where they wish to slow down just a bit. In a sense, this is as it should be, and at the same time it poses a challenge for many of our parish communities. Who will step forward in order to assure that parish ministries and programs continue to grow and flourish?
One of the beautiful aspects of parish life that has flowed out of the vision of the Second Vatican Council is that our parish communities now offer a wide variety of opportunities for people to grow in faith, to offer service within the life of the parish, and to serve the larger community that exists beyond the boundaries of parish. Ministries that support small faith sharing groups, Scripture study, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a variety of catechetical and liturgical ministries, youth and young adult ministry, marriage preparation and enrichment programs, parish food pantries and St. Vincent de Paul chapters, and so much more depend on the active interest and involvement of many volunteers of all ages. The growing challenge that faces many parish communities is the challenge of making sure that younger people respond consistently to God’s call to serve in these ministries that enrich and enliven our parish communities on Sundays and every other day of the week.
As we enter into this time of year that sees the resumption of a host of parish programs and ministries, I encourage you to think seriously about how God may be calling you to put your gifts and skills to work to support the life of your parish community. Make sure to respond to that call. At the same time, if you think someone has the right skills and gifts to put to use in a parish ministry, invite and encourage them to do so. Often, an invitation may be all that is required. Make sure to extend that invitation and encouragement.
This process of call and response is not something to take lightly. The rich life of our parish communities is a shared responsibility. The pastor and parish staff members have roles to play, as do parish councils and commissions. The truth is that each of us has a responsibility to do what we can to share our God-given gifts in their many forms, so that our parish communities continue to grow and flourish as places of worship, growth in faith, and service. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.