Cluster looks to increase participation, outreach

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Parishes in Wellman, Richmond and Riverside are empowering members to get involved in stewardship and evangelization initiatives.
Recently, parishes in the cluster began hosting stewardship fairs so parishioners can learn about different ways to get involved. “Stewardship and evangelization are a big part of the Joy of the Gospel,” said Father Bill Roush, pastor of the three parishes. “I think the biggest thing is that a lot of people don’t feel like they’re ever asked to do anything, and therefore they don’t participate. To me this is just a way to make sure that everybody gets asked.”

Contributed
Members of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman participate in a stewardship fair earlier this month.

At the stewardship fairs, parishioners are able to view displays and brochures about different committees in which they can get involved, including liturgy and worship; faith formation; church/parish life; justice, peace and social action; stewardship and evangelization; or family life and vocations. They can also enjoy a meal and fellowship.

The stewardship fairs coincide with a new parish council structure in the cluster. As the six areas of ministry are formally separated into committees, one representative from each committee at each parish — voted to the position by committee members — will begin attending cluster parish council meetings. With this structure, committees can work independently and communicate progress at the parish meetings.

Fr. Roush observed this format while serving as parochial vicar of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington/West Burlington. He also sought input from Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace parish in Clinton, which has a similar structure. “I want to empower the people to make decisions,” Fr. Roush said. “They don’t have to come through me to get everything done.”

Recent clergy day presentations have encouraged diocesan priests and deacons to utilize lay committees and leaders for a number of reasons, one of which is to delegate responsibilities as the number of active priests continues to decline. Lay leaders can help a parish reach its goals, with clergy overseeing progress.

Dan Ebener, diocesan director of parish planning, said the committee-based structure is ideal, but doesn’t work for all parishes. “Every parish has its own complexities. Every parish is unique.”

Fr. Roush said members of the cluster parishes have been receptive the new committees. About 40 people signed up for committees in Richmond, and 25 at Wellman. The stewardship fair at Riverside will occur the first week of July.

Committee displays will be available at future events, and people are welcome to join these committees at any time.“I was expecting a lot of pushback, but that wasn’t what happened. Everyone is pretty much excited about it. A couple people at St. Joe’s (Wellman) said this is an opportunity to get some new blood active in the church.”

Deacon Derick Cranston believes that Fr. Roush’s passion for evangelization and stewardship has “rubbed off” on the members of the cluster parishes. “We even came up with a new mission statement for our cluster to coincide with the stewardship kick-off: ‘To know God and make God known through Word, Worship, Service and Fellowship.’” He also believes that Dan Ebener, a parish planning and stewardship expert, helped plant the seed last year when he offered a presentation on stewardship to the parishes’ members. “I really think that helped with people buying into it and getting more information about what that is.”

Fr. Roush said, “This is all a part of the Joy of the Gospel, and it’s amazing how everything just played in together with what we needed to do here in the cluster parishes.”

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