By Barb Arland-Fye
Apprehension is being converted to anticipation for some Local Area Planning Committee members helping their parishes plan for a vibrant future despite fewer priests in the Davenport Diocese.
“Our parish has already been through this process,” said Steve Berry, a member of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and president of the Des Moines County Catholic parishes’ regional council. “We’ve had to deal with some of these tough issues. I see a lot of fear in people’s eyes. It’s fear of the unknown.”
But once parishes go through the process, “you’re going to see it’s a wonderful, wonderful process. You’ll be stronger in your faith and your parish life will be stronger and your churches will be stronger,” he said.
There’s still more to do in terms of collaboration among the Des Moines County parishes of Ss. John & Paul, Ss. Mary & Patrick in West Burlington and St. Mary in Dodgeville, Berry said. But he feels positive about what lies ahead based on a Local Area Planning Committee meeting he attended with other parishes of the Keokuk Deanery at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant last week.
He was particularly encouraged to hear Bishop Martin Amos use the word “vibrant” in reference to parishes. “The reason we’re doing this is to be vibrant parishes,” Berry said. “We have a great faith. We need to revitalize it. The bishop is doing the right thing. He’s looking to revitalize the Catholic parishes in this diocese.”
In the Des Moines County Catholic parishes, “there are a lot of things we do share and there are things we do separately and we need to look at that in a new light,” Berry said. “We can’t look back; we have to look forward. We have to plan for the future. Let the Holy Spirit guide us.”
Helen and Robert Bolton, members of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, also express optimism about the planning process. “We should gather together to share our faith,” said Helen Bolton, a parish trustee. And while times have changed, “we don’t have to change our faith,” she said. “This is an opportunity to grow together.”
Robert, a member of the Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School Board and a representative of his parish for the Local Area Planning Committee, said he was apprehensive going into last week’s meeting in Mount Pleasant. But he left the meeting with a better understanding of what needs to be done and felt more comfortable about sharing.
The planning process is causing parishioners to “step outside our comfort zone to take the Church to the next level,” he said. Catholics were more involved in their parishes 50 to 100 years ago, and parishes thrived. The planning process is going to force us to get more involved in the Church,” he said. “We rely way too much on our priests to do things.”
He and his wife attended a March 7 Local Area Planning Committee meeting with representatives from their parish, St. Mary in Wilton and St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty. The Boltons described the meeting as very positive. “We got acquainted; we gave each other homework assignments for our next meeting in April,” Robert Bolton said.
They had good discussion about topics such as sharing youth ministry, a business office, and other activities that don’t necessarily require a priest. “We started talking about what the three groups could share resources on,” he added. The group also talked about deacons and the important role they serve in helping to maintain vibrant parishes.
Committee meeting dates
Here’s a list of dates that other Local Area Planning Committees have met or are meeting: March 6 — Davenport south; March 6 — Davenport north; March 7 — Muscatine group; March 10 — Grinnell, Brooklyn; March 10 — St. Patrick; Tipton group; March 13 — Keota, Sigourney; March 17 — Keokuk Deanery south; March 20 — Clinton Deanery; March 20 — St. Mary, St. Wenceslaus, Newman Center; March 20 — Riverside/Hills group; March 21 — Victor, Williamsburg, Marengo, North English; March 22 — Albia group; March 26 — Des Moines County group; March 27 — St. Thomas More, Solon, Cosgrove, Oxford; Week of March 27 — Colfax, Newton; March 28 — Ottumwa, Bloomfield; March 28 — Fairfield, Richland; March 29 — Knoxville, Melcher, Pella, Oskaloosa; March 31 — Washington, Columbus Junction; April 13 — Bettendorf group.