Thomas Cronin.
Thomas Cronin.

As parishes implement their public gathering reopening plans, we must also critically assess the vitality of our parishes and recognize new strategies as it relates to evangelization and ways to develop a more mission-oriented culture.

We need to take advantage of our time in isolation by learning from this experience and emerging as a stronger Church. Two questions I have been discussing with pastors and parish leaders recently include, “What did we learn from the time in isolation about our Church and parish specifically?”

Secondly, with many parishes seeing impressive numbers of online Mass attendees, “How do we transition online Mass attendees to in-Church Mass attendees as public gatherings commence?” I believe the parishes that are tackling these types of questions will reopen as stronger faith communities because they are challenging themselves to think differently and take action.

We are in “Ordinary Time” according to our liturgical calendar, but there is nothing “ordinary” about the times we are living. More families than ever are struggling and our parishes must be a source of healing, hope, comfort, joy and love for all. One person does not have all the answers to make that happen, but a collaborative team approach is necessary to discuss how a parish can better live the mission of our Church and meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the people, not just the registered or regular parishioners, but of all the people in the greater community.

I don’t know where this question originated, but I love it — “If your local church disappeared, would the community notice?” That is a powerful question to assess whether a parish is living its mission of Church or is it just a building — a church.  Even in these extraordinary times, many parishes across our Diocese are thriving, but for others this is our chance to go out and be more focused on missionary discipleship. How amazing our Church would be if we all recognized and utilized the power of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit within us. How amazing our Church would be if we went out into our communities and were the face of Christ to everyone we encountered.

In much the same way that Jesus asked St. Francis of Assisi to rebuild His Church more than 800 years ago, He is asking the same of us today. This rebuilding starts in the hearts of each one of us — since we are the living stones of the Church. This rebuilding requires us to grow in love and nurture our relationship with Jesus and then not be afraid to go out and share that love with others. This rebuilding project is a journey, not a destination and the way to get there is touching one living stone at a time.

Please contact me with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at Thomas.Cronin@rcda.org or by visiting https://www.rcda.
org/evangelization. And follow me on Instagram:tom_rcda