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Giving Thanks for Parish Leadership

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By Mary Quilici Aumack, CEO, The Catholic Community Foundation

For most of my life, my parish has been an important hub for me. Of course, it is the center of my sacramental life.  And it is much more.

At St. Justin I first understood the power of a community of faith. The story of my confirmation is the perfect example. I thought it was stupid (my exact word) that we were to wear red robes and process in front of a full church simply to profess a very personal commitment to faith. My mother (who I’m sure verified sources in advance) said I had a good point and should talk to Fr. Merv Sullivan about it. What he said sticks with me to this day: The reason we choose to experience the sacraments in community is that the ceremony is of course about your personal choices and commitments. But it is also an opportunity for the rest of the parish to pledge support of you in your faith journey.

At St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, my faith journey has continued and been strengthened. This has been the faith center for me for 30 years. It is here that:

  • Our daughter Kacey received an excellent education, rooted in Gospel values
  • My husband Doug was baptized
  • We worked the sausage sandwich booth at the Country Fair for a million years in a row

It is here that we see friends at Mass, inquire when someone is there without a spouse, hug each other in shared joy, supported hope, and deep pain.

You see, we are meant to be in communion. While sacraments are core to our Catholic presence, ritual and community sustain us.

THIS is why we are longing for “business as usual” – meeting at Mass, going to coffee after, attending meetings (even if it is to complain about something).

As we all wish for a resumption of our normal parish life, no one is working harder or hurting more than our parish staff and pastors.

We have had an extraordinary Spring Grant application process at the Foundation this year. Because of a $500,000 match and broad generosity, we will be distributing roughly 3X the normal amount in grants to local programs. This is extremely important because at a time when parish revenue has decreased across the board, parish teams have had to pivot and invest in areas that were not considered in previous years.

Our Parish Stewardship grants typically fund things like worship aids, welcome programs and ministry fairs. This year the grants are for things like:

  • Clorox 360! This is a special broad sanitizer to prepare the church between Masses and to be used to reduce chance of infection in the schools
  • Technology, technology, technology. Most of us have appreciated livestream Mass. Did you know that many pastors were using their personal iPhones propped up against a candle to make it work?

The pandemic has exposed great need across many areas, and pastors have responded. Some parishes are offering up to four Masses every HOUR on Sunday – 20+ Masses each weekend – so that more of us can experience the Eucharist. AND, in addition to all that, it is confirmation and first Eucharist season. Many pastors are welcoming young people to the table and witnessing confirmations two at a time, adding 40-60 additional Masses.

In addition to tending to our spiritual needs, ALL parishes are reaching out to our neighbors in need. We have received many grant applications for increased support of St. Vincent DePaul, food distribution, and job support programs.

Our pastors didn’t sign up for this! They pursued the vocation with a strong desire and call to be in communion, in community with us. And yet, they move forward with gratitude and vigor. Imagine.

In my work I speak with many pastors. We meet regularly with a group of pastors who we call our Parish Leader Advisors. Last time we met, we asked how we can help all pastors and parish priests.  Here’s what they said:

  • Call or send a note to your pastor expressing support for their work and their staff
  • If you can, send a gift card to your parish for a delivered staff lunch
  • Offer to volunteer in support of parish grounds. Nick on our staff lives with four other young men. They are in the neighborhood of Queen of Apostles and have offered a day of labor, perhaps landscaping, cleaning, or anything else Fr. Jeff and his team need.
  • Perhaps you have technical skills that could be of value as designs are made for continued virtual Masses, faith formation and instruction. 
  • When you celebrate a milestone such as a birthday or anniversary, send a note of thanks to a priest, religious or lay person who has walked with you on your faith journey.

Above all, they ask for our prayers. No matter how you pray, add a few extra prayers as often as you can in thanksgiving for the teams at our parishes and Catholic schools, who did not sign up for this and are responding with grace and efficacy.

I am grateful.

Learn more about the Catholic Community Foundation at cfoscc.org.