By T Waldmann-Williams
For The Catholic Messenger
How does a parish create sustainability with three changes in leaders in three years? And, how does a new parish leader come up to speed with his congregation? Parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher-Dallas believe the answers to those questions lie in the parish’s values, vision and mission.
On Nov. 26, 2013, Sacred Heart unveiled parishioners’ work of creating values, vision and mission with nearly 80 percent participation under the guidance of then-pastor Father Steve Ebel, who retired June 30, 2014. (Sacred Heart is clustered with St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville.) Father Jake Greiner became administrator and then pastor of the two parishes. He worked with the Sacred Heart Parish Council and lay leaders to create strategies using their work as the foundation. Now Fr. Greiner is pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. Father Kevin Anstey, was ordained in 2015 and served as parochial vicar at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. He now serves as administrator of Sacred Heart and St. Anthony. He will continue the journey of implementing the values, vision and mission with Sacred Heart parishioners and the Melcher-Dallas community.
With encouragement from the Sacred Heart Parish Council, Fr. Greiner asked parishioners to give insight and evaluate implementation of their 2013 values, vision and mission to help determine future goals and objectives. Fr. Anstey met with his future parishioners earlier this spring to learn more about the parish.
Jesus built the church on the potential and desire of his disciples to be engaged and to serve. The disciples were willing to work to advance Jesus’ word. Now Sacred Heart can continue Jesus’ work, building from the parish’s strengths using the areas for improvement to forward God’s work.
Sacred Heart parishioners identified these strengths: Sunday morning catechism sessions, which bring members to church; faith formation and Bible study classes, which are strong yet can be stronger; new members, who get a tremendous amount out of Mass at Sacred Heart. Areas for improvement include: community involvement and evangelization, welcoming of all ages and faith backgrounds, engagement of all members, particularly those in their 30s and 40s; building the volunteer base and communicating through use of current technology such as Facebook and other social media.
Here are some specific examples parishioners offered:
Strengths: “The Sunday morning catechism helps more families and kids get to church.” “We are relatively new to the parish and have been very happy coming here. I loved the Mass and have always gotten much out of it.”
Areas for improvement: “Need a Bible study with the priest or deacon.” “Education — explaining the Mass, value of the Mass, love for the Mass.” “Access to directory of members, with cell phones.” “Sing some songs before Mass to help us settle in to worshiping God.” “Some young families feel that some parish lay leaders disapprove of their young children being kids at church — those people limit their church attending if the kids might be ornery.”
Strength: “We are relatively new to the parish and have been very happy coming here. I love the Mass and have always gotten much out of it.”
Areas for improvement: “Create and offer more opportunities for more parishioners to be of service to others.” “People should bring bulletins back from Catholic Churches they visit to give ideas to our parish.” “Be more accepting of parishioners and not judge on appearances and family background.” “We need to invite new families in Melcher to attend our church, including Catholics and others.
Strengths: “The Sunday morning catechism helps get more families and kids to church.” “I’m happy we have the volunteers we have. Hopefully more will participate.”
Areas for improvement: “With our Facebook page, I would like to see the priest or secretary put prayers up on the website.” “More activities of just getting together socially, especially among young people.” “Better communication between committees and the parishioners and also the priest.”
The journey to God’s kingdom on earth has many paths and Sacred Heart has the opportunity to influence that creation in Melcher-Dallas and surrounding areas.