Dear People of St. Mary’s, Holy Family and St. Anthony’s:
“…. but give to God what is Gods.”
This week we will choose the way our Catholic Schools will be organized next year. If we come to consensus on the recommendation of our Pastoral Councils and Finance Councils to unite our two schools into one school, we will begin a study of which location would be best to house that single school. That study will include meeting with school parents, Town Hall meetings and another vote mid December. The final decision would be made at the joint meeting of the three Parish Councils on January 15
At our meeting of the Ad Hoc Pastoral Planning Committee this past Monday, we shared the feedback we have been receiving from school parents and parish members. It is hard to summarize the many deep feelings moving through our hearts these days, but one thing we did all agree would be very helpful to address before the vote was: what will the parishes gain if we merge the schools. It would be easier to let go of what we have if we knew what we were going to get for it.
One very specific thing that comes to mind immediately is…. the possibility of a Kindergarten. As all know St. Anthony’s stopped offering a Kindergarten this year because it could not afford to continue it. By itself it is unlikely that St. Anthony’s could offer a Kindergarten again next year. But together it becomes something we would have the financial resources to do. There was also a great deal of conversation about providing after school care for the children of working parents. And there has already been a lot of effort directed toward opening a pre-school. All of this is to say with additional financial resources we will grow our Catholic School by expanding what we are able to offer families.
What new ministries would we initiate in our parishes with the savings from uniting the schools? This is something that would be decided through the goals and objectives setting process of our committees and councils. Goals like the following would be prioritized and implemented as our budget would allow.
At the first gathering of our new Sacred Worship Committees last Sunday conversation did surface about making it a goal to hire a Music Director for our three parishes. In one of the books our Ad Hoc Pastoral Planning Committee has been reading,
Tools For Rebuilding, the authors simply state: “music has a greater impact on the environment of your church… than any other single factor….. your music will largely, if not entirely, form their impressions of your church, perhaps even determining whether they’ll consider coming back.” (Chapter 25 “Invest in Music). Many people remarked how uplifting the music was at the St. Anthony Fall Festival Masses. What if it were like that every Sunday!?! We would grow our parishes and that would grow all of our ministries including our School.
The first concern for many parish families is Youth Ministry and Religious Education. “Does this parish offer anything for my kids?” is a question high on the list for most church shoppers. The new Religious Education Committees have not met yet but as they prepare for the February Convocation, developing a proposal that we hire someone to provide expertise and leadership for our Religious Education and Youth Ministry programs will certainly be on their agenda.
I am happy to share that Fr. Tom Lindner, native son of St. Anthony’s, has agreed to come and provide training for our new Social Concerns Committees. We will be gathering Thursday November 6
th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in St. Anthony’s Church hall. Fr. Tom has been pastor at the Newman Center at the University of Stevens Point for many years and is now also pastor of St. Stan’s. Although there are parishes in large urban areas that have full time staff members working in the area of Social Justice, I don’t see that being a part of our foreseeable future.
Another group I hope will be looking at bringing in new expertise to our parishes is our Family Life Committees. This ministry area encompasses everything from supporting young families, to visiting the homebound, to promoting vocations. Some have imagined a woman religious (nun) or a deacon helping with visiting the homebound and hospitalized.
Although it isn’t a concrete answer, Rural Life Day, gave me the heart answer to the question what will we become if we join hands more closely. Were we not all wonderfully surprised by how successful Rural Life Day turned out after our three parishes united in the effort to put it together? We each gave our very best and put the rest in God’s hands. I see many more “wonderful surprises” ahead if we put even our beloved schools in God’s hands.