Church of Mercy

Imagine one parish - reading one book!

Each member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary staff is leading a discussion group of The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis. Mr. Steven Vaughan, the Director of Music Ministry, has scheduled an online "virtual discussion" group. Starting in the first week of Advent, participants in this group receive an email 
each week with questions about three short chapters of the book; designed to generate an open, respectful, and nonjudgmental conversation about our parish life. We then email back and forth, and a summary of some of our ideas is posted below! 

Every three weeks, those who want to further discuss opinions face-to-face will gather just after the 5:00 PM anticipatory Mass on Saturdays December 16; January 9 and January 30. A copy of the book is available in the rectory for a free-will donation. So come join us via email or in person anytime over the next few months, it's never too late!

Part Five: Full-Time Christians

posted Jan 30, 2016, 1:54 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 30, 2016, 1:54 PM ]

But you are a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)
Chapter 20 - Taking the Cross
How might we as a parish invite, encourage, and support people to faithfully follow their own "way of the cross"?

Chapter 19 - Walking
What programs or activities do we have in place to, in the words of Pope Francis, walk in front of the people, in the midst of the people, and behind the people, to make sure "no one lags too far behind"?
"What if our parish offered 'walking companions'"? People could volunteer to BE a walking companion in their neighborhood, so that others who might not be comfortable walking alone could contact the rectory and see if there's a walking companion in their neighborhood. I brought this up at a staff meeting, and everyone loved the idea. I hope it comes to fruition, especially in the cold and ice!"

Chapter 18 - Coming Out of Ourselves
According to pope Francis, Holy Week gives us the grace to "open the doors of our heart, of our life, of our parishes" and to reach out to others with the message of the Gospel. How outward-facing is our parish? In what ways do we open our doors to "go out"?
"I think we have to be more open with fellow parishioners before we can be open to outsiders... This means showing unconditional love, accepting differences of all kinds... Giving of ourselves to help others etc."

Part Four: Proclamation and Testimony

posted Jan 24, 2016, 10:30 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 30, 2016, 1:26 PM ]

And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15)
Chapter 17 - Giving All
What are ways that arrogance can unconsciously slip into our leadership and our relationships with those we want to serve? What impact does busyness have on our interactions? Who do we include when we speak of our parish and say, "we"?
"Service can sometimes overwhelm people legitimately, particularly those who serve faithfully. They are usually the ones that get dumped on. If one becomes so busy that it effects their interactions with those they are serving, it is time to recognize that and cut back. You cannot effectively serve if you are overwhelmed. Imagine Jesus saying to someone that he didn't have time for them or could we do this at a later time? "We" is the ultimate plural pronoun. It should include everyone. IHM is lucky to have Fr Gill and Fr Francis... Two very people oriented pastoral men!"

Chapter 16 - Conveying Hope and Joy
As a parish, do we make time to be mindful of and celebrate the ways we witness God's engagement in our lives? Are our celebrations manifestations of joy?
"Pope Francis calls us to be "lights of hope." This is a Christian who is ever mindful of God being by his side, that he/she is never abandoned. If you are ever mindful of this, you have an inextinguishable sense of hope, so strong that it illumines darkness around it. If you have that type of hope, why wouldn't you be joyful? Now everybody will experience setbacks - sadness - from time to time but the realization that God is always with you and will never abandon you is a great comfort. I think that most of the people I have encountered at IHM have a sense of joy."

Chapter 15 - Called to Proclaim the Gospel
Pope Francis urges, "Let us help the young.... Have the patience to listen!" How effectively does our parish listen and respond to young people? What mechanisms do we have for encountering, hearing, and engaging with young people?
"I think our parish is very effective in responding to the youth ... Via religious Ed program, youth group, music ministry for children, boy and Girl Scout programs, World Youth Day sponsorship etc. In helping the young and having the patience to listen to them, I was struck by Pope Francis' description of this. He said "listen to their dreams...listen to their successes..., pay attention to their difficulties. In short, do unto them as Jesus does to us. To nurture them, to guide them, to commiserate with them, to love them as Jesus has loved us. On the parish level we need to imbue all the ministries we have - not necessarily create new ones - with the spirit of the culture of encounter; not of timidity."

Chapter 14 - Bringing the Word of God
Pope Francis says, "Faith is born from listening and is strengthened by proclamation." He adds a third consideration: we bear witness to faith through our lives. Talk about how ways our faith community can encourage faithful listening, proclaiming, and living.
"We can encourage our faith community by not just "talking the talk" but by "walking the walk"... more action oriented... Get things done.... Ministries!"

Chapter 13 - Do Not Be Afraid
What specific actions do we take to maintain a strong personal experience of the risen Christ? what positive steps do we take to overcome our fears?
"Positive steps should include: Prayer; Attending Mass- partaking in the Sacraments; Trusting in the Lord and the Holy Spirit! To be close to someone, you have to know them, talk to them, listen to them, spend time with them. We need to do those things that will keep us close to the risen Christ. We need to pray (talk to and listen to), go to mass with regularity and receive the eucharistic Lord - to receive the bread of life, read the word of God and be familiar with it."

Part Three: Listening to the Spirit

posted Jan 21, 2016, 12:31 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 21, 2016, 12:31 PM ]

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:14)
Chapter 12 - Good News, Harmony, Mission
Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him"?
"Ever since I read this chapter I have been praying to the Holy Spirit for special guidance! Doing this has given me a calmness of sorts..."

Chapter 11 - Be Guided by the Holy Spirit
Do we make time to listen deeply to the Holy Spirit prior to taking action? Like Mary, do we take time to ponder so as to make a better "yes" to God?
"We tend to forget about the Holy Spirit, praying to the Father and Jesus. But the Holy Spirit is our guide. He will lead us into all truth."

Part Two: A Church for the Poor

posted Jan 9, 2016, 1:21 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 21, 2016, 12:33 PM ]

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18)
Chapter 10 - Sent to Bring the Gospel to All the World
How healthy is the balance in our parish between tending to the spiritual needs of our current parishioners and proclaiming the Gospel to others through our words and our actions? Give concrete examples of ways that we do each of these.
"When we each participate in something that we had a great experience at (ie, the visit to the Holy Doors), we need to share that experience outward, and invite someone to join us for the next one..."

Chapter 9 - A House of Harmony
Pope Francis says, "This is the beauty of the Church" everyone brings their own gifts, which God has given, for the sake of enriching others." What steps can we as a parish take to welcome more of the gifts that parishioners have to offer?
"Pope Francis refers to the church as the "home of harmony" and uses the example of a symphony orchestra where everyone contributes to the production of the whole piece by contributing what is right and good yet each expressing their individual gifts... I just (for the first time) filled out a Parish survey to register, etc. One of the questions was a “skills survey” of what skills I’d be willing to share. I *think* I have some skills … but absolutely nothing that was listed there, which included things like bookkeeping, electrical, medical, dental, phone repair, glazier, roofer, etc. So on my survey, it sadly looks like I have absolutely nothing to offer. Maybe we need to think broader about 'gifts and talents.' The new census will help make us aware of talents and gifts. We need to start inviting new people to participate and share their talents."

Chapter 8 - A House That Welcomes All
What practical steps can we take to encourage parishioners and other to engage in the practice of letting themselves be loved by God as a way to holiness?
"Our outdoor signs/banners, and in particular the "we are all in this struggle together" campaign. When we wear our 'struggle' pins, or the 'stay awake' pins from advent, we are silently inviting people to look at their 'holiness' status, and asking them to come along and participate..."

Chapter 7 - A House of Communion
As a parish, we are meant to foster unity. Yet how might we be fostering discord in what we do or fail to do? What virtues must we adopt in order to build true unity?
"Each of us should remember to be kind in our words, not gossip. You cannot profess to love your brother and gossip against him/her. Praise each other's efforts, not speak badly when things are done differently than how we would do them... Our mantra should be 'step up and help'... We are building unity through the many pastoral/cultural groups and celebrations (Urdu Mass/Rosary, Hispanic Ministry, Rainbow Ministry, Blessing Easter baskets to name a few). We might be fostering discord by not explaining the culture/tradition to the parish in general, so that they know what to expect and can also participate. An inter-faith collaborative/committee, which would foster unity in the community."

Chapter 6 - Listen to the Cry of the Poor
How does our parish rate in the following areas?
1) eliminating the structural causes of poverty
2) promoting the integral development of the poor
3) performing daily acts of solidarity in meeting real needs
"We can assist parishioners in job search activities... We can use our talents to teach interviewing skills, resume writing, donate clothing appropriate for interviews, teach English language skills... Teens can offer some babysitting service at low no cost so parents can go on interviews. Perhaps a survey (anonymous ) would assist in identifying specific needs among the various groups?.. The word solidarity implies that you are one with those that are poor, that you feel their pain and make it your own and, from that vantage point, meet real needs. How does our parish rate in all this? I expect no worse than most, better than some but I think Pope Francis is really talking about more."

Part One: The Good News of Christ

posted Nov 28, 2015, 5:28 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 2, 2016, 1:47 PM ]

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Chapter 5 - Being with Christ
How well does our parish reach out to those on the outskirts? Who else needs to be reached and how might we go about that in an inviting way? How do we strengthen ourselves for this mission?
"I am quite proud of how we have handled the situation with the 2-3 homeless people who regularly wander into our church doors.  Most parishioners have come to accept them and are not afraid... The We are in the struggle together campaign last year was an example of how we reach out to the community. We need to put our heads together and hold an event/s which involve more than just our parish... To be a presence in the neighborhood ... To 'get a reputation' for good works outside the walls of the church. Maybe we can put a few bulletins, or flyers advertising our mass schedule, events, committees, etc in Foodtown or the Library or Post Office, Bank, etc. We need to aim for the people we don't normally reach - the people who are NOT all ready in our pews."

Chapter 4 - The Revolution of Freedom
How might we as a parish do more to help people experience the revolution through grace that changes the human heart? How might we foster more closeness with God?
"The first step in helping others to "experience the revolution through grace that changes the human heart" is to first accept it ourselves. We as individuals can start in small ways- a smile, a welcome, a kind work, an invitation. Carry out works of mercy... Sit with the ill, comfort bereaved families, become a Eucharistic minister, become a catechist, volunteer at the food bank. We can be welcoming of strangers or new people to our services. Meet and greet those who are coming for the sacraments of initiation, and invite them to attend mass with us next week, or to come to a parish social event, or join a group or committee. In this way we can become the revolutionaries that the Pope is speaking about... Get the idea out of our heads that someone else in the parish is going to do these things."

Chapter 3 - The Christian Message

"Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive!" What importance might that message have for those people we are called to serve? How often and in what ways do we as a parish communicate this core Christian message?
"We need to take active rolls to show Gods love to our brothers and sisters here in our parish... Help each other even if it is only to smile and greet each other at Mass...inquire when you have not seen a neighbor in a while... See if a fellow parishioner needs something from the store... Little things can mean a lot in showing that the true Christian spirit is alive."

Chapter 2 - The Light of Faith
Pope Francis says that faith is a light coming from the past and also a light coming from the future. List ways that faith is a light coming from our parish's past. Then list possible ways that faith might serve as a light coming from our parish's future, calling us forward.
"The newly revived Youth Group is a beacon of light - their commitment to service and to welcoming new teens among them is a shining example to all of us, and a promise for a strong future. But any group that is welcoming and encourages participation or draws more people to Church moves us forward. As to the light from the past lighting up our future, I couldn't help but think of the memorial trees and angels!"

Chapter 1 - The Embrace of God's Mercy
In what ways are people likely to experience the mercy of God when they come to our parish? What more could we do to be bearers of God's mercy to all we come in contact with at the parish?
"We can be bearers of God's mercy by inviting people who struggle with faith to Mass with us, welcoming someone alone to sit with us... We could all do better. I know people by face, seeing them week after week, but have I really introduced myself? Have I asked them their names, or anything about their background? (even something as simple as, “How long have you lived in the neighborhood?” tells a story.)"

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