New Parishes: Stronger Together
Click the links below to jump right to the announcement:
- Summer Update (September 7 & 8, 2019)
- Important Transition Updates for Parish 6 (June 28 & 29, 2019)
- Mass Times & Parish Name Update (June 1 & 2, 2019)
- Which Path Do You Choose?
- Staff Changes Announcement (May 18 & 19, 2019)
- Town Hall Meeting (April 15, 2019)
- New Parish Groupings Announcement (January 1, 2019)
Published September 7, 2019
For many of us, summer is a time to step back from regular activities, to slow down and relax, and recharge those batteries depleted from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are hopeful that our ministry leaders and teams have enjoyed some much-deserved rest this summer. At Christ the King Parish, the priests, staff, and leadership team have continued to meet throughout the summer and work towards our goal of merging parishes and restructuring so that we can focus on our mission. Here is a short summary of updates and events that happened in July and August:
- The office at the SVDP site was closed on July 1, with office hours still available at the STM site. During the month of July, the necessary packing and moving of equipment and files from the STM site to the SVDP site took place—a major undertaking! As of August 1, the office at the STM site was permanently closed, and the office at the SVDP site was reopened as the Christ the King Parish Office. We also welcomed our new parish receptionist, Debbie Cox.
- In mid-July, receptions were held to thank and extend best wishes to staff from STM, Shereen Daniels, Diane Gibbons, and Catherine Gonsalves, as well as Joanne Wanamaker from SVDP.
- The Transition Team wrapped up its meetings, and delivered the resulting report to the Archbishop for his approval at the end of July. The new parish name, Christ the King Parish, was accepted by the Archbishop in June, and the new parish will soon be formally created under this name.
- The Leadership Team continued to meet bi-weekly, with a day-long retreat in July where we prayed together, asking the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions & next steps. We also set goals for our coming ministry year.
- At the end of July, our seminarian Patrick Salah concluded his internship year and returned to seminary in Toronto. We send him off with our prayers and profound gratitude as he enters his final years of formation.
- The kitchen renovations at St. Thomas More were completed at the end of July. Many thanks to those who contributed to the project!
- On August 1 we officially welcomed Fr. Anthony Caruana as our Associate Priest. Originally from Malta, he is excited to be working in the vineyard of the Lord here in Canada, and we are so blessed to have him. The rectory at St. Thomas More is being remodeled to accommodate an additional priest.
- A Music Ministry committee, composed of members of all of the music ministry groups from the 3 parishes, met several times and created a plan for future arrangements for music ministry at both sites. Their recommendations were accepted by Fr. Toochukwu.
- We were blessed to fill two staff positions in August. We welcome Shereen Daniels as the new Family Faith Formation Coordinator, and Darlene Bonang as the Director of Community.
- Religious Ed program, led by Shereen Daniels, has combined. We will have a monthly Family Faith event at STM, and regular weekly classes at SVDP.
- A new Leadership Team has been formed for Christ the King Parish: Fr. Toochukwu, Fr. Anthony, Becca O’Hara, Darlene Bonang, Nora Muise, and Blair Brown. We are so grateful to Jeannette Smith and Donna Webb for their generous service on the previous Leadership Team.
- On August 15, to celebrate the feast of the Assumption, over 60 people gathered in the Rosary Garden to recite the rosary together, each person leading a prayer. A beautiful witness of our faith to all those driving by on that hot summer evening! Refreshments and fellowship wrapped up the event.
- We hosted a celebration to send off Fr. Henry as he returned to Nigeria at the end of August. We continue to pray for him in his service to the Lord.
So what’s next at Christ the King Parish?
Alpha Begins: Alpha is a place to invite those outside our parish community to explore life, faith & meaning. Alpha begins Thursday, September 12, and more information can be found at www.stm-parish.com/try-alpha
Community Barbecue: The Knights of Columbus from both STM & SVDP will host a Community-Wide Barbecue for all parishioners on September 22 after the 11:15 mass at the SVdP site. Come and meet friends, old and new!
Ministries Merging: As some of the ministries from the two sites begin to merge, staff will be working with these groups one at a time to help with the process.
New Councils: Pastoral and Finance Councils are being formed this fall. More information about the formation and composition of the councils will follow in next week’s bulletin.
Parish Mission: A Parish Mission has been planned for October 23 and 24 with speaker Father Marc Montminy. Please mark the dates now on your calendar!
Archbishop’s Dinner & Assembly of the People of God: Along with the Parish Mission in October, the annual Assembly of the People of God presented by the Archdiocese will take place on October 25 & 26, and the annual Archbishop’s Dinner will be held on October 9. All parishioners are invited to contact the parish office for more information.
African Mass: Archbishop Mancini will be celebrating Mass with the African Catholic Community to inaugurate them as a ministry of Christ the King Parish on Sunday, October 6th at 3:00 pm.
New Bulletin & Website: We’re in the process of updating our communication methods to reflect our new parish reality. Keep your eyes open for a new website and new bulletin cover, coming in the next few weeks.
Important Transition Updates for Parish 6
Published June 28, 2019
On Monday, June 24th at 7:00 pm in the St. Thomas More Hall, Fr. Toochukwu and representatives from the Transition Team hosted a Parish 6 Town Hall Meeting and shared a number of important updates with parishioners.
Review: What is the Pastoral Plan & why do we have a Transition Team?
First, we reviewed the history of the Pastoral Plan, which began in 2014 when Archbishop Mancini experienced a renewed sense of mission in his life and sensed the Lord calling our Archdiocese to focus on Mission, Community, & Formation. After years of consultation, Archbishop Mancini launched the Pastoral Plan “Equip the Saints” in order to empower the laity to engage more deeply in the mission of the Church: to bring the Gospel to the whole earth. This plan includes the parish merger initiative, “New Parishes: Stronger Together.” Transition Teams, consisting of clergy and laity, were formed in each new parish grouping in order to act as an advisory body to the Pastor during the process. Once the formal canonical parish merger has taken place, the Transition Team will dissolve and a Leadership Team, Pastoral Council, & Finance Council will be formed.
New Parish Name
One major task of the Transition Team was to help gather information, discern, and recommend a new parish name to Archbishop Mancini. After soliciting ideas from the community, a number of names were passed on by the Transition Team to the Archdiocese. Archbishop Mancini has officially accepted one of the proposed names for our new community: Christ the King Parish! We expect that he will formally create our new parish under the patronage of Christ the King within a few months. Christ the King, have mercy on us!
Current Status of La Mission la Sainte Famille
Parish merger is an exciting but complicated process, especially for one parish serving in multiple languages. Due to the limited availability of Fr. DeCoste (the only available French-speaking priest in our area), the French community will continue to celebrate Mass at 11:00 am at the Carrefour school until a more permanent solution can be found. We hope that the English & French communities of this parish will continue to dialogue and work together toward a greater unity.
New Religious Education Program
Another task of the Transition Team was to enlist a subcommittee
to plan for catechesis in the new parish. In the Religious Education
subcommittee’s proposal, there are three elements to the new children’s
1) Approximately three Religious Ed Classes per month, held from 10:00 am–11:00 am in the St. Vincent de Paul Stewardship Centre; 2) Optional Parent Formation sessions that happen during the Religious Ed Classes at SVDP; 3) One Family Mass & Community Event each month at St. Thomas More, beginning with the 8:30 am Mass and continuing from 10:00 am–11:00am with an activity for all parents, children, and community members. This plan aims to support families and to help our children to feel comfortable in both buildings. The proposal has been accepted and our new English Religious Ed program will kick-off in September 2019.
New Staff Structure & Changes
Another important element of the new parish is a staff structure that allows all ministries and parish priorities to be adequately supported. To that end, a subcommittee made up of staff and key volunteers proposed an entirely new staffing structure centered on Community, Formation, & Mission. That proposal was sent to members of the Finance Committee for assessment. After some modifications to make the staff structure more financially feasible, and in consultation with the Leadership Team and the Human Resources department of the Archdiocese, Fr. Toochukwu has begun work to put this structure in place. There will be a number of new positions in the staff structure:
1) Parish Receptionist,
a part-time position that will run the new Office from 9:00 am–1:00 pm, and
will manage reception, phones & parish records;
2) Director of Community, a full-time position that will oversee communication (including bulletin, website, social media), liturgy coordination, facilities management, and community events, taking on some duties of our former Office Administrators;
3) Director of Mission & Formation, a full-time position that will oversee family faith formation, Sacramental prep, adult discipleship formation, evangelization, and social outreach;
4) Family Faith Formation Coordinator, a part-time position that will be supported by the Director of Mission & Formation and will coordinate children’s catechesis, First Reconciliation & Communion prep, parent formation, Confirmation, and youth group.
We hope to have job postings for all positions open in the near future.
In order to prepare for these new positions, a number of changes have been made to our current staff. As you may know, our current Office Administrators at St. Thomas More & St. Vincent de Paul were given notice in May that their positions will end on July 31st. Joanne Wannamaker of St. Vincent de Paul has taken a new position as the Receptionist for the Diocesan Offices and Administrative Assistant to the Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, so her position at St. Vincent de Paul ended early on June 28th. We wish her the best in her new endeavour!
In addition, two members of our Religious Education staff team, Diane Gibbons and Shereen Daniels, have received notice that their positions are ending on July 12 & 31, respectively. At this time, Pastoral Associate Becca (Arend) O’Hara will remain in her current position in order to assist with the transition process. We express our heartfelt gratitude to these staff members for their devoted and generous service to this community, and invite you to join the STM Family in thanking Catherine, Shereen and Diane on Sunday, July 14th at STM after the 8:30 am Mass. A celebration will also be held for Joanne on Sunday, July 14th at SVDP after the 11:15 am Mass.
July SVDP Office Closure & New Offices
Starting August 1, the new parish office for Christ the King Parish will be located at the St. Vincent de Paul site. Since Joanne finished her position on June 28th, the SVDP Offices will close temporarily for the month of July. All parish office requests can be directed to the St. Thomas More Office during that time.
STM Office Hours in July are:
- Mon. Wed. & Thurs. from 9:00 am–5:00 pm
- Tues. & Fri. from 9:00 am–2:30pm
- The office is closed daily for lunch from 12:00 pm–1:00pm
The St. Thomas More Office will close at the end of July, and the new Christ the King Parish Office will open at the SVDP site on Thursday, August 1st. Starting August 1, the new Office hours will be Monday–Friday from 9:00 am–1:00 pm.
Change is difficult for everyone, leaders and parishioners alike. We ask once again for your patience, support, and prayers in this time of transition. We pray that the Lord would sustain our efforts to help Christ the King Parish become better equipped for the new evangelization.
Mass Times & Parish Name Update
Published June 1 & 2, 2019
On behalf of the Transition Team for St. Vincent de Paul, la Sainte Famille, and St. Thomas More parishes, we have two important announcements to share with you today.
As you probably know, one major decision facing our New Parish is creating a new schedule of Mass times. We are so grateful for the creative ideas, thoughtful concern, and prayers that have aided in the decision-making process. As you are probably aware, dozens of important factors were weighed, and a wide variety of possibilities were seriously considered. After countless hours of consultation, discussion, thought, prayer, a final decision has been made by the Transition Team. Beginning on Monday, July 1, the following Mass schedule will go into effect:
Weekend Masses (beginning Monday, July 1)
Saturday at 4:00 pm in English at the St. Thomas More site
Sunday at 8:30 am in English at the St. Thomas More site
Religious Education in English will take place at St. Vincent de Paul from 10am-11am
Sunday at 11:15 am in English at the St. Vincent de Paul site
A French Mass time is still being discussed and will be announced at a later date.
Weekday Masses (All English)
Tuesday at 6:30 pm at the St. Thomas More site
Wednesday at 12:00 pm at the St. Vincent de Paul site
Thursday at 9:00 am at the St. Thomas More site
Friday at 6:30 pm at the St. Vincent de Paul site
Saturday at 9:00 am at the St. Vincent de Paul site
We know these new Mass times cannot possibly fit the preferences of all our community members, and we especially acknowledge the potential difficulties that come with this change that are posed to certain groups, such as those who currently attend the 4pm and 9am Masses at St. Vincent de Paul and Religious Education families. We know that many will be upset by these changes. The leadership of St. Thomas More, St. Vincent de Paul, and la Sainte Famille sincerely apologize for any mistakes we have made in this process or relationships that have been wounded.
We firmly believe that, while difficult at first, this new Mass schedule is an opportunity for our new parish family to experience full and vibrant Churches once again, where we can encounter the love of Jesus each week in the midst of a loving and generous community. We are committed to building a new parish where community, formation, and mission are the key focus of all we do. While we don’t know exactly where the future will take us, we place the future of our parish, with great hope and trust, into the hands of Jesus.
Moving forward, we will take the month of June to plan the logistics of this Mass time change. If you are involved in a liturgical ministry that will be directly impacted by the Mass Time changes, please expect to hear from your ministry leader in the near future and respond as quickly as possible.
Our second announcement is regarding our new Parish Name.
After taking submissions from the community until April 30th, the Transition Team compiled and discussed a list of potential names. From that list, Fr. Toochukwu has presented our top three choices to the Archbishop, in this order: (1) Holy Family Parish, (2) St. Andre Bessette Parish, and (3) Christ the King Parish. At this point, we await the response of Archbishop Mancini to let us know which name he will accept.
Please see the insert in this week’s bulletin outlining how this Transition is just the first step in helping our parish grow in community, formation, and mission. We encourage you to come to our next Town Hall Meeting on June 17th, 2019 at 7:00pm in the St. Thomas More Hall to hear more Transition Team proposals and share your ideas, concerns, and questions.
To read all announcements related to the Transition Process, you can visit our website: http://stm-parish.com/new-parish/
Thank you for your prayerful support! God bless you!
Which Path Do You Choose?
Staff Changes Announcement
The following announcement was read at all Masses at St. Thomas More and St. Vincent de Paul and published in both bulletins on the weekend of May 18th & 19th, 2019
One of many steps on our journey to truly becoming a new parish that is stronger together is the consolidation of our resources. So beginning August 1, 2019 we will combine our administrative offices into one new office located at the St. Vincent de Paul site. This site was chosen for the offices because the church is on one level and is open and accessible.
This change requires us to also look at our human resources. The archdiocesan plan to renew and restructure our whole diocese for mission requires us to make choices to ensure we are equipped to meet the challenges ahead. As a result, a new staffing structure has been proposed by a Transition Team subcommittee and is being evaluated by leadership and finance teams now. A key position of this new staffing structure is a bilingual parish secretary for the new office. In the new staffing proposal, many of the responsibilities of our current parish administrators have been divided up into other volunteer and staff positions in order to create a manageable workload for all employees and to provide adequate support to the French community.
This new bilingual secretary position will be created and advertised in the coming weeks, and other new or updated staff positions will be created after review from the finance council. Our current administrators at St. Thomas More and St. Vincent de Paul have been notified that their positions will end as of July 31, 2019. We are so grateful to Catherine and Joanne for their years of service in these parishes, and will have an occasion this summer to gather as a community and thank them for their time with us. The Archdiocese is committed to working with them to assist in every way possible to ensure a smooth transition and career assistance.
Please keep all involved in your prayers. As other changes take place every effort will be made to keep parishioners informed. If you have any questions, please contact Jeannette Smith, Human Resources Manager for the Archdiocese: [email protected]
Transition Team Town Hall Meeting
April 15, 2019 at St. Thomas More
Transition Team Introduction
The mandate of the Transition Team is to begin the process of merging our three parish communities. This Team has been tasked with gathering information about the current communities, making assessments, and recommending actions to the Pastor. Once the parishes are canonically (“legally”) merged, the Transition Team will cease and many more assessments and recommendations will be made by other leadership teams in the parish. The Transition Team is made up of two parishioners from each of the current communities, plus clergy, for a total of 8 members.
Where We Are Now
The Transition Team has been asked to approach the new parish as a “blank page.” As much as possible, they have addressed every issue from this perspective, rather than building upon the status quo.
|St. Vincent DePaul |
320 Flying Cloud Dr.
624 Families Registered
Church Capacity: 430
4 PM Saturday has 110–120 Attendees
9 AM Sunday has 110–120 Attendees
11:15 Sunday has 120 Attendees
Administrator: Fr. Toochukwu
|St. Thomas More |
15 Caledonia Rd.
500+ Families Registered
Church Capacity: 450
4 PM Saturday has 175–200 Attendees
9 AM Sunday has 200–250 Attendees
Pastor: Fr. Toochukwu
|La Mission la Sainte Famille|
201C Avenue du Portage (Carrefour School)
~40 Families Involved
11 AM Sunday has 77 Attendees
Administrator: Deacon Gerald
Masses said by Fr. Decoste (retired)
The Centrality of Prayer & Community
In response to Archbishop Mancini’s call to pray for our new parishes, a Prayer Committee has been established. Its role is to plan for and facilitate times of prayer, both in our individual parishes and together as one larger new parish group, to surround our efforts at parish renewal in prayer. Similarly, a key tenet of the Archbishop’s vision for new parishes is a strong community life. For this reason, a Community-building Committee will facilitate events where the three groups can meet each other and build friendships.
What the New Parish Will Look Like
In the Transition Team’s proposal, the new parish of three current communities would have two Church buildings for all to use: St. Thomas More & St. Vincent de Paul. The parish’s Administration Offices would all be located at St. Vincent de Paul, and the rectory would be located at St. Thomas More. If this proposal is accepted, the Office move may take place in July.
The Transition Team has asked various committees begin gathering information about some areas of transition and bring forth some recommendations:
1. Religious Education: A team of catechists is meeting to discuss the ways that we can bring all our religious education efforts together in the near future. Religious Education will continue to be available in English and French, and they hope to have one program that works for all children in the new parish.
2. Staffing: A team of current staff and highly dedicated volunteers have come together to make recommendations about a new staff structure within the new parish that includes both paid staff and unpaid volunteers.
3. Finances: The finance councils of the parishes have met and are beginning to gather information about the finances of the three communities.
Mass Times Proposal
Many hours of thought, prayer, consultation, and dialogue went into preparing this proposal. Support for the French culture, Mass attendance numbers, Religious Ed needs, and the priest’s schedule and workload were all considered.
reasons for this Mass Times proposal:
– We no longer have enough priests to maintain our current Church and Mass structure.
– The current attendance of our Masses requires one English Saturday Mass and two English Sunday Masses.
– The two English Sunday Masses allow sufficient time for English Religious Ed classes to happen in-between.
– The Pastor needs time to celebrate, pray with, and care for all parishioners, which can’t happen if Mass times overlap. The 4:00 pm French Mass provides that opportunity and would be the only French Mass in the HRM.
– We need to care for our caregivers (Pastors). Priests need our support, prayers, and a reasonable Mass schedule. Many priests, even young priests in this Archdiocese, are struggling with serious health and stress issues.
– If accepted, these new Mass times could take effect in either July or September of this year.
STM – 4:00 pm (English)
STM – 8:30 am (English)
SVDP – 11:15 am (English)
SVDP – 4:00 pm (French)
Tuesday: STM – 6:30 pm (For those who work)
Wednesday: SVDP – 9:00 am (followed by Adoration)
Thursday: STM – 9:00 am (followed by Adoration)
Friday: SVDP – 6:30 pm (For those who work & for Lenten Stations)
Saturday: SVDP – 9:00 am (To honour the Blessed Virgin)
An alternate proposal would have the 8:30 am Mass at SVDP and the 11:15 am Mass at STM in order to make it easier for families (who historically attend the earlier Mass) to bring their children to 10:00 am Religious Ed classes at SVDP.
Naming of New Parish & Timelines
We need your ideas as we choose a name for our new parish! While we’re not naming a Church building (our buildings have been religiously consecrated as “St. Thomas More” and “St. Vincent de Paul” and that won’t change), we are choosing a name for our new parish community. According to canonical norms, a parish can be named after:
– The Blessed Trinity; the Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit (invoked by a title used in the liturgy or a mystery of Jesus’ life)
– The Blessed Virgin Mary (likewise, invoked according to a title already used in the liturgy)
– One of the Angels or a Saint (an “official” Catholic saint, as recorded in the Roman Martyrology or its Appendix)
Please note: No “blesseds”—they must be canonized saints. A parish can have only one namesake unless the saints are paired together in the liturgy.
Please submit your name suggestion and the reason you believe this saint, devotion, or title is the best patron for our new parish community by April 30th to your Pastoral Council. After receiving input from all, the Transition Team will evaluate, discern and submit a final selection to Archbishop Mancini by the end of May. If he approves, the Archbishop will issue a Canonical Decree establishing the new Parish with that name. On that date, Fr Toochukwu may, at the Archbishop’s direction, begin as the Pastor/Moderator of the New Parish.
Please submit your parish name idea & rationale to your Pastoral Council by April 30th. We will have another Town Hall Meeting in June to provide additional updates and request more feedback. In the meantime, the Transition Team will continue to meet with various committees and prepare proposals based on their recommendations. Final decisions will be made after receiving feedback from parishioners and in consultation with leaders in the three communities.
To share feedback, ideas, concerns, or questions with the Transition Team, please speak to one of your parish’s representatives:
Announcement of New Parishes & Reflection by seminarian Patrick Salah
Weekend of January 5/6, 2019 — Epiphany of the Lord
Before I preach the homily, I am going to share an important letter from His Grace, Anthony Mancini, Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth, dated January 1, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God:
The Feast of Mary the Mother of God celebrates the new divine life brought forth by Mary’s collaboration with God’s plan for humanity. Mary’s essential role, however, was not without its concerns. The gospel tells us that Mary pondered what she heard in her heard. Her thoughts, I have no doubt, were marked by numerous concrete questions; her feelings, I am sure, were mixed as she struggled to make sense of her changed life; and surely, she reflected on the future outcome of this journey she accepted to go on. We can all imagine and appreciate that Mary gave much time and attention wondering, “what happens now”?
This same question is also a significant one for our Archdiocese and it has been on the minds of many of us, for the past few years, as we pondered the future of our local Church and what new life might look like at this point in our journey of faith.
On this feast day of Mary, which celebrated the new life and hope given to us all, I chose to inaugurate the plan for the reorganization of our Archdiocese.
What happens now begins today with the first steps for transitioning our existing diocese from its 65 parishes and 25 missions to a new Archdiocese made up of 20 new parishes. This process is being initiated so that we can become more effective in proposing Jesus Christ, so that we can better face the challenge of relevancy for today’s circumstance. The conversion of our structure also calls for a conversion of mind and heart as well as a conversion of our ways of doing and being.
New Parishes: Stronger Together, therefore, is an essential part of “Equip the Saints”, the three year plan to renew our Archdiocese.
Today, we move from consultation to implementation of a vision which requires the collaboration of many in the one mission of Chris. This means bringing out people of faith together and identifying their gifts and talents so that in our new parishes we will have the people necessary to draw upon for transparent models of leadership, shared ministry, in improved structures, focused on becoming missionary disciples.
As I announce today the groupings, which will merge into the 20 new parishes, I am conscious of the work that needs to be done through 2019 so that the new parishes can all be in place by January 1, 2020. Clearly the implementation of this reorganization will take place in phases.
The first phase of implementation requires existing parishes to form transition teams within their new grouping. These teams of 6-8 people will be made up of pastors and representative parishioners from each church in the grouping. Their task will be to lay the groundwork for a merger of the separate entities that will take place throughout 2019 and be completed by December 31, 2019.
After the new parish comes into existence a moderator will be appointed to lead the new parish on the path of growth toward becoming a community of missionary disciples. The moderator will work with the clergy, leadership team, pastoral council, and finance council to realize this new vision for parish life.
In Psalm 127, we are reminded that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labour in vain.” Transition and renewal are impossible if they are not built on a foundation of prayer. Thus, on this feast day of Mary, patroness of our diocese and of the New Evangelization, I beg her intercession for our whole diocesan church as we make the necessary steps to make her Son more known in our diocese. I also call on each and every one of the faithful to turn their hearts to God in fervent prayer for our local Church, for those in the Church, and for those far from the Church. Please take the opportunity to pray, with me, in all of our personal and communal devotional times.Sincerely in Christ,
+ Anthony Mancini
As was said in the letter, this phase of implementation comes after three years of consultation. Much work has been done by the archbishop and his team, by the priests and deacons, and by lay-people in all of our parishes. Many of our own parishioners have been involved in the process of prayer and consultations, participating in pastoral planning meetings, and the annual diocesan gathering; the Assembly of the People of God. Concretely, in our context, The Parish of St. Thomas More, the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul, and Mission La Sainte Famille (the French Mission), will become one new parish. Such a unification requires two important pieces, the canonical or legal piece, and the pastoral piece.
The canonical piece is quite simple. To become one new parish, all that is required is a single pastoral council, a single finance council, a single bank account uniting all the existing assets and liabilities, and a new parish name. Let me be clear – this building will continue to be known by the patronage of St. Thomas More, and this applies to the other buildings, but our new community, the living Church, that is the parish, will come under a new name. The process of choosing that name will be determined by the transition team. That is the canonical piece, which for the most part is mere paperwork. And, while we could do just that and satisfy the legal requirements of becoming one new parish, we would be shortchanging ourselves, and so many others.
At the heart of the restructuring of our archdiocese is the call to pastoral conversion and renewal. Look around. Our buildings are not full anymore. Parishes are struggling to stay afloat. Our congregations are aging, and it seems that fewer and fewer young people are keeping their faith or taking an active role in the life of the faith community. And we have to ask the question, why? Why is this the case? Because unless we get to the cause – it doesn’t matter how many canonical restructurings we do – we will continue to fade away. This restructuring is not merely our grasping at self-preservation, it is not an attempt to detain the inevitable, nor is it an elaborate display of smoke and mirrors to obscure the truth. Yes – we must become a new canonical parish, but this parish has to be a new kind of parish that effectively presents the person of Jesus Christ as intensely relevant, as God – who knows and loves each of us – and who desires to be in right-relationship with us.
While His Grace published this letter on New Years Day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, He instructed that it be read today, on the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. And, I am struck by how beautifully this letter and this Feast dovetail together.
When we think of the word, “Epiphany,” we think of an “aha” moment – Eureka! – a light bulb turning on. Indeed – the Epiphany of our Lord – is just that. It is the occasion by which the divinity of Jesus Christ is made manifest. Traditionally, three biblical stories are associated with this manifestation. The Wedding Feast at Cana, the Baptism of the Lord, and the arrival of the three magi, which we heard in today’s gospel. At Cana, the son of the carpenter performed his first miracle. When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, the heaven’s opened, and the Father’s voice was heard by all who were present, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We will hear that passage proclaimed next Sunday.
In today’s Gospel – three magi come from afar to worship Jesus. They are not Jews seeking the long-awaited Messiah, they are Gentiles, who have come to recognize in the child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the midst of barnyard animals – the Redeemer of all mankind. For God sent His Son into the world, not just for the Jewish people, for all flesh, and for all time. And though the magi were learned men, who heard that such an event would transpire – it was only by the light of the star that they were able to come to Jesus – to encounter Him in the flesh. As we heard in today’s Gospel Acclamation, “We observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay homage to the Lord.”
In Fr. Toochukwu’s Christmas homily he spoke of the action of the star; its necessary role in leading the magi to Jesus. Fr. Toochukwu then challenged each of us to consider by what means we participate in that same action of the star, leading others to Jesus. Building upon this idea I offer you three points for reflection. We cannot lead others to Jesus, unless we ourselves are in fact with Jesus. If we are with Jesus, we cannot remain in His presence without offering our own gift to Him, like the magi. Not because our Lord demands of us in anyway, but because an encounter with the generous love of God for us manifested in the person of Jesus Christ necessitates in us a means of reciprocating that love back to the Father, through His Son. And we cannot come to such a profound encounter with Jesus, unless like those wise men – we in fact get up and go to seek Him. To seek Jesus, to offer Him our gifts, and to become the star by which others may seek Him. This journey of faith is contained in our parish vision statement: Come Encounter Christ, Joyfully Share His Love, Go Make Disciples. This pastoral vision for the 3 Church is what the second piece of the restructuring is all about. Becoming parishes that serve as the star shining in the midst of our local community, drawing all to seek and find Jesus. Jesus did not come just for you and me. He came for everyone else too. For our family and friends who have yet to encounter Him. But if we are to become all the Holy Spirit is calling us to be in our world, in this place, in this time, if the Holy Spirit is truly to fulfill His mandate of renewing the entire face of the earth, you and I must open up our own hearts, to allows such a renewal to begin within us.
In less than a year we will take care of the legal work of becoming one canonical parish, but it will be in the coming years of prayer and work that we will slowly and intentionally undergo this pastoral conversion – so that as we sang in today’s psalm response, “Every nation on earth will adore You, O Lord.”
I wish to conclude by praying a prayer in unity with our Archbishop, which he included at the end of his letter:
As our Archdiocese enters a decisive time of transition, we ask you to sustain our efforts to be faithful to what you are asking of us so that we become better equipped to meet the challenges of the New Evangelization.
Give us the courage and insight to take on the task of purification and renewal necessary to become a more credible Church.
Grant us the knowledge and understanding required to respond to the call of pastoral conversion and the demands for a more missionary and mature expression of Christian discipleship for our time.
May your Holy Spirit release in us the gift of wisdom to make the necessary choices and decisions to make of our new parishes: centres of evangelistic outreach, united communities of communities, welcoming centres of prayer, learning, ministry and worship; environments of healing, reconciliation and care of the poor.
Provide for us clergy and laity who are skilled in leadership to guide this transformative journey of faith.
We ask all this thought our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.