About a quarter of the Church of the Good Shepherd Parish’s 450 parishioners teamed up at tables inside the school gym on April 14 – even on a rare fog-free Saturday in coastal Pacifica – to score the parish’s effectiveness, identify its challenges and map out its future together
The pastoral assembly – the first in the 67-year-old parish’s history – was a spirited, interactive day that parish leaders hoped would serve a second purpose by helping form new alliances between attendees that spanned all ages of the parish community from students to parish stalwarts to relative newcomers..
“When we are in Mass there is a sense of community while we are in the physical church,” said Scott Buskey, 58. “But as soon as Mass is over everyone is off to their busy lives. That clearly is one thing most of us want to resolve.”
The assembly was the second of a three-phase “journey of renewal” that the community embarked upon two years ago not long after the assignment of pastor Father Luello Palapac in 2014, pastoral associate Suzanne Chinn said.
The faithful who serve as “pillars” of the church are growing older, Chinn said, causing great concern for the future. There are also the national phenomena of the religiously unaffiliated “nones,” declining church attendance and people leaving the church.
“We needed to do something now,” Chinn said, noting that “Father Lu,” as he is affectionately experience in renewing church communities. “He has taken this vision to heart.”The dozen or so tables of six to seven persons each were asked to evaluate the parish mission statement and give it a grade. Pastoral council leaders Peter Gresh and Kelley Chawke recorded the grades from each table on big sheets of paper.
It was visibly clear before half the tables were done that the parish mission statement – wording and execution – earned a “C” average.
The parish mission statement reads: “We are grateful disciples of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, striving to be a faith-filled community through the prayerful celebration of the liturgy and sacraments. We welcome all, embracing our diversity and seeking to grow as a loving and nurturing community serving others with our God-given talents and gifts.”
At Buskey’s table, Joanne Kendrick, a retired high school teacher, former school parent and parishioner of almost three decades, said the mission statement is written for the people who are already in the parish, not for those it might want to attract.
“It doesn’t address getting new people into the parish and it doesn’t address those that were once part of the parish that are now gone,” she said. “I think about my 26-year-old daughter who says ‘Good Shepherd doesn’t speak to me anymore.’ Kendrick said her daughter is going to a Christian church where they know her by name.
“As a community we need more warmth in this parish,” said one young man who said his table gave the statement a “B-“ grade. He also said: “Father Lu, we love you, but every time there is a change of pastor there is a lack of continuity in how we deal with each other as parishioners.”
During the second half of the pastoral assembly, the same groups worked together to narrow down the 10 objectives outlined in the Parish Vision Guide to a prioritized five. In the days and weeks following the assembly, delegates will attend follow-up meetings with a goal of narrowing those five into three solid goals with actionable plans for implementation.
Chinn said that it will take years to see a “big picture result” in the parish and that there will be many issues to take into consideration – turning the parish culture from being priest-dependent to one of empowered “true disciples” for one.
But the enlightening day has already produced “little fruits.”
“One of the greatest gifts of the day was the sense of pride and empowerment that the faithful been able to reclaim for themselves,” she said. “Being given the opportunity to vote and grade the church community in a concerted effort has now provided the impetus for an amazing growth period at Good Shepherd.”
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.