‘Retooling’ parish ministries
As parish ministries resume after Covid-19 restrictions, they are not necessarily continuing to operate in the ways they had.
“In Jesus’ public ministry, He didn’t stay in the same place but was always moving. Similarly, in everyone He encountered, He didn’t leave them where they were but called them to something more,” said Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of pastoral ministries for the Diocese of Burlington. “We can and should do the same thing with all our parish ministries, not settling or becoming complacent but always asking what are we being called to do and how can we best live out the mission of sharing the Gospel and in service to our communities.”
And that’s just what is happening in the Essex Catholic Community.
“Coming out of the pandemic, our parishes and some ministries are challenged with rebuilding participation. Our parishioners have been working hard, and in some cases the ministries have been re-tooled or reorganized with new leadership,” explained Kevin Walker, a parishioner of St. Pius X Parish in Essex Center where he serves as coordinator of the Parish Council.
For example, the ministry that provided community meals is focusing more on welcoming parishioners to help build back church attendance; the dinners also serve as charity fundraisers. The program that provided Christmas presents and food to needy families had to pivot to using gift cards instead. “And although that lacks the personal connection that we desire, the recipients actually prefer the added flexibility,” he said.
The ministry that provides coffee and donuts after Mass had a name change and added spiritual activities for small children as a reset to generate interest.
“What these have in common is thinking about how the pandemic has changed the nature of both the community that we are trying to serve and volunteer participation and then making needed adjustments,” Walker said.
He suggested that one benefit of the pandemic was raising people’s comfort level with on-line engagement through email and online meetings.
“However, I feel that remote engagement is at the expense of camaraderie and communication,” Walker said, adding that not everyone is comfortable with the technology, so the parish is having hybrid parish council meetings — both in-person and via Zoom.
He hopes that by serving on the Parish Council, he can help establish ministries or working groups within the Essex Catholic Community that focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy and beyond. “A parish community that is united in Christ should reflect Christ’s love amongst ourselves and in our wider community. It’s a core aspect of who we are as Christians. A parish community that actively serves others is a vibrant parish, attracting the energy and passion of those who participate and evangelizing to others who observe or receive those acts of love. That’s why it is imperative that a parish offer opportunities to serve,” he said.
“Certainly as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we have the opportunity to retool, to re-examine what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Deacon Lawson said. “It is encouraging to see parishes around the state asking these questions and creatively seeking to respond to our current opportunities.”
—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.