Over 50 parishioners received nominations. 27 of these attended the Information Night. 19 of these returned the next week for the Night of Discernment. And by the end of that evening we had our first ever Parish Pastoral Council at Assumption.
The Evening of Discernment was led by Dr. Rita Kattner, who has worked with pastoral councils in the Archdiocese for over 30 years. All 19 participants were people of faith, brimming with ideas, enthusiasm, and a willingness to serve. Through a series of reflective questions, time-outs for prayer, and feedback from others in the group, the 19 were able to agree on and affirm the 9 who would actually form the Pastoral Council. This process took over three hours. But that amount of time was a small price to pay! Had not all the people in the room been excellent choices to serve on the Council, the process would have ended much earlier. Over the course of those three hours, 10 people were able to say that they did not feel called to the ministry of Pastoral Council at this time. Some stepped aside because of family concerns, job demands, or travel plans. Others said that they were by temperament more “doers” than “planners” and could better serve the parish by helping implement some of the programs envisioned by the Council. Still others sensed, through prayer and listening, that others in the room were more suitable than they.
In addition to the 27 who came to the first meeting, there were other nominees who were willing to serve but were unable to attend the two Wednesday evening sessions. All of this says something very positive about the people of Assumption Parish. As the Steering Committee prepared for the discernment process, we were warned by a number of people who were experienced in this field that we might have a hard time getting nine people to step forward. We are still a relatively small congregation; we have only had people living in the neighborhood for twenty years; and people are often reluctant to jump on board something that is new and untested. The fact that there are so many people with good ideas for making Assumption a more vibrant community and are willing to work to make these things happen is, I believe, the number one “take away” from this entire process. My hope and my dream is that the Council will somehow be able to harness all of this energy and creativity and commitment to the Gospel that has surfaced during this process. But we also have to be realistic. This really is something new. This first year the Council will be learning about itself and the pitfalls of working toward a consensus decision and it will have to overcome the perennial challenge of actually implementing a program or an idea. The Council will also have to be in dialogue with our Finance Committee, which has to look at the dollars and cents side of a pastoral program or a new adventure.
According to Council By-Laws, three of the nine members would complete their three year term each year and three new members would be added each year. In order to get this process started, three of the nine on this first Council will serve only one year and three will serve only two years. After completing a term, one must “come off” the Council for at least a year before standing for nomination again. This means that every year there will be opportunities for new people to nominate themselves or be nominated to serve on the Council. So, I look forward in the years ahead, to seeing many different people serving in this ministry.
Our Pastoral Council will participate in a retreat over the summer and then will begin its regular meetings in September. Before September we will have a bulletin insert with photos and a little information on each Councilor, for not all are well known and not all have been in the parish very long. In the mean time, though, here are their names: Pat Casey, Bob Cummins, Paul Go, Susan Gold, Justin Kaechele, Linda Knibbs, Victoria Lawson, Valeria Stokes, and Joel Vugteveen. They will, I am sure, find ways of making themselves available to you to listen to your ideas and concerns.