Bringing New Life to the Diocese of Saint John

 

Our Diocese of Saint John has embarked on a process of revitalization, bringing new life to Catholic communities in our province.  This revitalization aims at renewing and enlivening the spiritual and community life of the communities in which we live.  In doing so, we are living up to the call that was issued by the Second Vatican Council to reform and renew constantly.  

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Decree Announcing Parish Names

Realignment to New Parishes: Now What?

(added September 7, 2018)

 

This month as we began to come together in new parishes, the Franciscan writer, Fr. Richard Rohr in his “Daily Meditations” online began a series of reflections on the early Christian Church.  As he reflected, he noted some significant aspects of the earliest Christian communities.

 

Christians were called to live always in relationship – to God and to one another.  Christian faith is essentially a community faith.  It is not focused on us as individuals.  Rather, as the Trinity expresses the loving relationship that is our God, so we as God’s People are called to live and honour our lives in loving relationship with one another.  We are a faith of communities.

 

These Christians were also marked by their inclusivity. As they shared their resources and energies with one another, they also opened themselves to welcome all others.  There are no barriers or limits to God’s love.  So there could be no exclusions from the love and compassion of these communities of Christians.

 

The revitalization that is the goal or our new parishes is really a call to reach back to our roots, to our early ancestors in the faith.  We seek to create faith communities that are open and inclusive, ready to share what we have with all of God’s People.  There is no place for self-centered protection of “what we own or have.”  There can only be a generosity of spirit in which we pour out our time, talent and resources for others.

 

Some 1800 years ago, at a time when Christians were being persecuted Tertullian, a third century Christian lawyer and writer living in a North African community, made the case for Christianity.  He commented that someone who was not a Christian would look at how they lived and could well say: “See how they love one another… and how they are ready to die for each other.”

 

Our ancestors in the faith created communities of believers who were ready to live as disciples of Jesus.  Like him, they strove to reflect the open and healing love of God.  It is a love that is life-giving to others.  It is also a love that opens the doors of the community to all, without exception.  This is truly Good News and these communities sought to share it with everyone, not just in words, but more in action.  This is what we mean by evangelization.  Our new parishes are being called to become open and inclusive communities, ready to share our lives, time, talent and resources with one another and beyond.

 

May the Spirit of God be poured into our hearts that we may grow into communities of

disciples, marked by generous, self-giving love, truly a People of God.

Celebrating New Birth – Truly God’s Work

(added August 31, 2018)

 

A number of years ago a call came from the maternity ward of the hospital.  A young dad was calling to report the birth of his first child.  “Cindy has just given birth, a little girl.  Can you come up and see us?”

A short time later I arrived at the hospital and went up to maternity.  Walking down the corridor I saw the young man standing in the doorway of his wife’s room.  In obvious excitement, he grabbed my arm and hauled me into the room, exclaiming: “Come and see what we’ve made!”

A new birth is an exciting thing.  It deserves to be proclaimed and celebrated.  That new dad was doing precisely that.  Just the look on his face expressed the excitement.  As he looked as his wife his love for her and the wonder of what had taken place was obvious.

I am sure that after the excitement, will come other sensations – anxiety and worry about how to care for this little one.  But also there would be joy and gratitude for what God had worked through his wife and him.  A new birth is a wondrous thing, truly God’s work.

This weekend our diocese gives birth to a whole series of new parishes.  From clusters of three or four communities, we see new parishes just beginning.  This is a moment marked by great faith and hope for the future.  It is a time to celebrate.

As we move into the future in our new parishes, there will be some anxiety and uncertainty.  There may even some sense of loss as we leave what we had for something new.  But this is a time for hope and promise as we see the birth of new opportunities in our new parish communities.  A new birth is a wondrous thing, truly God’s work.

Our Scriptures offer us wonderful stories that reveal God’s work in our lives.  The Old Testament story of the Exodus is presents us with a classic image of where we are now.  As Moses led the people of God out of Egypt and had them embark on the trek to the Promised Land there was surely some excitement and also relief that they were leaving the bondage in which they had been held.  This was trek to freedom filled with hope and promise.

As they left Egypt they did not know all the struggles and blessing that they would encounter as they trekked through the desert.  There would be hope, but there would also be setbacks.  There would be times when some would lament what they had left behind and they would argue that they go back.  But others recognized that God was with them and would stay with them.  And God did.  It was in the desert, in the midst of their challenges that they came to recognize they were a People of God.  Their new birth in freedom was a wondrous thing, truly God’s work.

Today our diocese and our parish are experiencing new birth.  The hope and promise of this new birth of this new birth is that we can build active, vital and life-giving communities of faith open to all.  Revitalization means the promise of full churches, with liturgies that include all generations – children, youth, adults and seniors.  Our new parishes aim to be inclusive and welcome to all, members and strangers.  We are called to offer faith formation, prayer opportunities, and outreach for all.  Are we there now?  No, but we will be working towards this goal in the years to come.  May we recognize that

Evangelization: Coming & Going

(added August 24, 2018)

 

In one of his Daily Meditations, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr tells of a meal in the monastery.  The community gathers from their own personal worlds – from work, study, traveling, household chores and all the many and various tasks of their lives.  As they first sit at table, they begin with a brief prayer.  Then in silence they listen as one of our faith stories is read, perhaps from the bible or from a work of spirituality, something of the stories that sustain their faith and spirit.

 

As the meal begins, they continue in silence focusing on what they are doing.  Eating each item of the meal aware of its origin, how it came to the table, its taste, its goodness.  They are aware of the meal and of the community that gathers with them at this table.

 

At some point the silence is broken and they enter into conversation with those around them.  They speak of many things – the meal itself, what has happened on this day, of their work, they their experiences, their own challenges and advances.  All of life is part of the conversation.  Like the meal, their lives are shared freely.

 

Finally, the meal is over and they rise from the table to return to their worlds.  But they are different from when they came.  Each of them has been fed.  Their food is more than what was on the plate.  They were fed with the stories faith with which they began, the conversations in which they engaged, perhaps most significantly by the companionship that surrounded the table.  They now leave to bring and share life with their worlds and beyond.

 

In John’s Gospel speaks of the feeding he brings to all:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  (Jn.6:51)  This chapter of John begins with the account of Jesus feeding the crowd with bread and fish.  Obviously those he fed got more than the physical food.  The shared meal brought life for the whole world.

 

Each Sunday we come together as a parish community.  We bring our worlds with us – our family, our home and work, our experiences of joy and struggle, our faith and our doubt, our hopes, disappointment and our dreams.  All of this we bring to the table where we are fed.  We share all of this with one another and with the Spirit of the Risen Jesus who is among us and feeds us.  This is the real meaning of a parish community.  It feeds and sustains us at the table and beyond.  What happens at that monastic community and what happened when Jesus fed the crowd happens in our parish at Eucharist from the table we bring life to our personal worlds and beyond.

 

A week from now, on 1 September, the current parishes of our diocese will be celebrating their first Eucharist as new single parishes.  Clusters of two and three and four communities will come together as one.  We will bring our many worlds together at the Eucharistic table to celebrate as one.  Let us pray that around the table we recognize we are one community called to bring life to one another and then to go forth sharing the Good News we have received with others.

 

R&R: Evangelizers Seeking Evangelization – The Presence of God

(added August 17, 2018)

 

I was born into a family of Catholics, but also blessed with connections to several other Christian denominations.  The elements of faith were handed on to me at an early age.  But this faith was not fully developed at that point, nor is it fully developed now.  In fact, I am sure it will never be fully developed.  Faith is a journey of a lifetime.  We are, all of us evangelized over and over again.

 

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to evangelize, to share the Gospel.  But while we evangelize others, we are, ourselves constantly being evangelized.  Being evangelized involves learning.  Some of this is formal.  It is what we hear in homilies, what we are given in religious formation as children and youths.  If we are fortunate our parish will offer learning opportunities to us as adults – in adult faith formation opportunities – bible study, prayer circles, reading and discussion groups and in variety of ways.

 

Perhaps even more important than formal learning is the evangelization we experience through life with others.  The people of our lives – parents, family, our parish, friends, neighbours, co-workers they evangelize us, even if they never realize it.  They and the experiences with which we are blessed (and sometimes cursed), they share the good news of God’s love and presence.

This informal evangelization is significant.  In fact it is what makes us into the persons and disciples that we are.  Being evangelized is more about being formed as disciples by the examples of the people of our lives.  And, it is this formation that we can pass on as we evangelize others. 

 

This is what we see happening in the Gospels.  Jesus taught by example.  What he said was important.  What he did and how he lived, however, was what told the real story.  Disciples are formed by what we live.  God continually reaches out and touches us in the experiences and persons of our lives.

 

The revitalized, living parish community that we long for is one that is evangelizing, sharing the Good News beyond itself.  It is also a faith community that recognizes that we are always in need of being evangelized ourselves.  Parish communities like this are open to all, caring and compassionate to all and ready to serve not just themselves but all those they encounter.

 

Pope Francis, reflecting on the role of the parish had this to say: “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.” (The Joy of the Gospel 28)

The revitalized and renewed parish community is not about maintenance, but about mission.  It is not content to protect the status quo, but seeks to reach out and take the faith and mission journey in new directions according to need.  The revitalized parish recognizes that we are always in need of renewal, adapting to new and changing realities all around us.  Then, we are true missionary disciples of Jesus.

 

                Something to think about:  As we join together in a new parish, with new members, how

open are we to learn from each other and live as missionary disciples in our own time?

 

 

Revitalized Parishes: Coming Together as One

(added August 3, 2018)

 

T’was the week before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a…  (Whoops, wrong season, wrong story).  Or perhaps it’s a story of another surprising visit.  It was, indeed the week before Christmas in our house.

 

My older brother arrived back from university, on a stormy, snowy night.  But he did not come alone.  He came with 6 other students from the US.  They were supposed to catch a bus in Saint John and head to Bangor, then to homes south of this.  Arriving in Saint John, the bus was cancelled due to the snow.

 

So they arrived at our house, where some of the Christmas cooking was eaten early and before long all were allotted a spot on a spare bed, couch or floor space somewhere.  Our family was doubled that night, from 6 to 12.  Our parents had given us an example of what we usually describe as “hospitality”.

 

A key to understanding what happens at Eucharist lies in how we live “hospitality”, both when we gather on a Sunday and after we have shared at the Table of the Lord.  Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr in an online Daily Meditation expressed this deep and fundamental truth of Catholic Faith.  He put it this way:  “Many Christians say they believe in the Presence (i.e. Jesus Real Presence) in the Eucharist, but they don’t get that it is everywhere – which is the whole point!  They don’t seem to know how to recognize the Presence of God when they leave the church, when they meet people who are a different religion or race or sexual orientation or nationality.”

 

In Eucharist, as we gather, we celebrate together the constant and continuing presence of Jesus among us, at all times.  Our diocesan church is undergoing a reform and realignment.  It is calling our current parishes to be brought together in clusters.  On September 1, these clusters of communities will become new single parishes.

 

Change is often challenging.  The challenge here is that our current parish communities are being called to recognize the presence of Jesus among us in a new parish reality.  As a single new parish, we face the challenge of merging together and seeing ourselves not as separate, but as one parish in all its aspects.  In doing so, we become a true Eucharistic community.  As such a community, we celebrate the presence of Jesus among us, and reflect this presence to our world.

 

                Something to think about – What name will we choose for our new parish community?

Revitalized Parishes: Growing & Nurturing Spirituality

(added July 26, 2018)

“I’m spiritual, just not religious.”  This is probably a comment we have heard many times before.  It can mean many things to many people, including ourselves.  Usually it comes from a view that “spiritual” and “religious” are two different, unrelated terms.  Often it means “My sense of God and spirituality is personal and I don’t relate it to church.”

 

In fact, this separation of “spiritual” and “religious” is normally not helpful.  In the case of Christian spirituality it is especially unhelpful.  For us as Christians, spirituality and religion are necessarily related.  As personal as each one may seem, both of them are also communal.  Spirituality without religion can be self-focused, and religion without spirituality can tend toward ritualism.

 

Christian spirituality has resulted from an evolution over many centuries. And it has drawn on the spiritual wisdom of many cultures and societies.  This borrowing has been an enrichment and continues to be.  Every age has found Christian spirituality affecting it.  At the same time, every age and culture which Christians have encountered has contributed to the spiritual life of our Christian faith.

 

Spirituality is not a removal from life or the world.  It is in fact, to experience the world and life as God’s gift.  Such a gift is a sacred trust and so Christian spirituality honours this trust in its care for all creation.  The center-point of this spirituality is the Spirit of the Risen Jesus among us and within us as the community of God’s People.

 

Theologian Richard McBrien emphasizes that to hold a Christian spirituality “is to live always in respectful relationship with others; with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ and in the human community at large….  [Christian spirituality] is consciously in touch with the presence of the Spirit as the power which heals, reconciles, renews, give life, bestows peace, sustains hope, brings joy, and creates unity.”  (Richard McBrien. Catholicism vol.II, (Winston Press, 1980) 1058)  Living a Christian spirituality in relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with our God.

 

A vital, alive parish community is one that plants and nurtures a lively and alive spiritual life among its members.  As evangelizers, these parishioners, share this well- grounded spiritual life beyond parish walls.  They take it to the work place, the school, the neighbourhood and to all places where they gather.  We do so, not to convert but to enrich the lives of the people we meet.  In doing so, we become the “missionary disciples” we are called to be evangelizing and sharing Good News with our lives.

 

Something to think about:  On 1 September, 2018, as we bring our two or three or more clustered parishes together we become a single new parish, sharing our talents, gifts and resources as a community of missionary disciples.

 

Revitalizing Our Diocese: Becoming Missionary Disciples

Revitalization of our diocese has a purpose.  The aim is to create parishes full of life and active faith.  We are called to be parishes filled with missionary disciples.  As Pope Francis expressed it: “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step….  In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.”  (Pope Francis. The Joy of the Gospel, 24, 28)  The first step is being open to everyone, accepting each and every person as a wonder-filled expression of God in our midst, just as Jesus did.

 

Did you ever notice how heads turn and attention is focused on a parent who enters the room with an infant in arms?  Even our littlest ones have an impact on us.  In the Gospel read two weeks ago (Mark 6:1-6) Jesus enters his home town.  Nobody wants to pay attention to him.  He is too common.  They know him too well.  He has been among them too long.  He is too ORDINARY.

 

Yet, the infant captures our attention.  Perhaps everyone can capture our attention, if we make the effort to recognize the wonder of each person.  Evangelization begins when we pay attention to one another.

 

Jesus shared the message of Good News.  Like a prophet he spoke God’s dream for all humanity and he revealed it in what he did.  It all started with an encounter.  Jesus met people where they were – by a lake, in a village, at a well, in a sick room, at a meal.  He began with the attention he paid to those he met.

 

Too often, perhaps, we miss or ignore the opportunities all around us to share the Gospel.  Life seems too ORDINARY.  The situations of life and the persons we meet are too routine.  In a recent article Fr. Richard Rohr reflected on what it would be like if we were fully aware that each  and every person we meet is “in the image of God.”

 

Rohr challenges us: “Imagine what the world would be like if we treated others [all others] with inherent and equal dignity and respect, seeing the divine DNA in ourselves and everyone else too – regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, appearance, or social class.” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Wednesday, 4 July 2018)

 

Jesus did.  Evangelization is about sharing this Good News.

 

Evangelizing: Becoming Prophets in Our Own Home

This is a pretty scary thought.  Me, a prophet?  You, a prophet?  Too quickly, we tell ourselves and we speak of ourselves in words such as: “I’m not really that religious.  I don’t know enough, how could I be prophet?”  For some reason, being “religious”, being “holy”, even being a good Catholic Christian seems to take us into another form of life.  It does not seem to allow for being “ordinary”.

 

Jesus ran into this attitude and view of himself as he came to his own hometown.  His relatives and friends could not see him as a prophet.  He was too well-known, even too much like them.  It seems he was too “ordinary” for them.  As the Gospel writer Mark tells it people were upset that he taught among them like a prophet.  They recognized him as one of them, so how could he be a prophet: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3)

 

A Prophet is really someone who speaks God’s word, God’s plan in the time and world in which the prophet lives. That is also the role of the evangelizer – to share Gospel in the time and world in which we live.  To effectively share the Good News in the world, it is important for us to grow in our own awareness of the Christian message and how it impacts us personally.  That is, as we evangelize, we ourselves need to be constantly evangelized.

 

Faith is a maturing experience.  The faith we had has children is not what we need as adults.  Thus as missionary disciples of Jesus we have a life-long call to learn more about the message and mission of Jesus, so that we can share effectively.  In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis recognized this need we have to be formed in our faith continuously (especially as adult).  He commented: “All of us are called to mature in our work as evangelizers.  We want to have better training, a deepening of love and a clearer witness to the Gospel. In this sense, we ought to let other be constantly evangelizing us. But that does not mean that we should postpone the evangelizing mission, each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are.”  (121)

 

The aim, the hope in revitalizing our parishes is to build communities of all ages, marked by active faith that expresses God’s unconditional love and compassion for all.  Such communities will form and nurture missionary disciples ready to be the “face of Jesus” in all the ordinary experiences of life.

 

Diocese of Saint John

Notification Regional and Zone Meetings

Merging Parishes Financial Implications

(added July 4, 2018)

Please find below a letter and meeting schedule from Rev, Douglas McNeill, Episcopal Vicar for Temporal Affairs, regarding upcoming financial meetings for merging parishes.  

Letter from Rev. Douglas McNeill (pdf)

Regional Financial Meeting Schedule (pdf)

Diocese of Saint John

Letter from Bishop Harris

Guidelines for Merging of Parishes

(added July 3, 2018)

The following letter from Bishop Harris was send to parishes on June 29, 2018 with some guidelines for the merging of parishes.  To view the letter please click on the document name below. If you are looking for the list of clergy assignments please see the Diocese of Saint John's website's home page.  

Letter from Bishop Harris re: Guidelines for Merging of Parishes (pdf)

 

Diocese of Saint John

Realignment Financial Procedures

and Information for the Merging of Parishes

(added June 27, 2018)

The following documents were recently distributed by the Diocese of Saint John to all parishes concerning realignment financial procedures and information for the merging of parishes.  To view documents please click on the document name below.

 

Memorandum - Realignment Financial Procedures and Information for the Merging of Parishes (pdf)

Diocese of Saint John Realignment Financial Procedures and Information for the Merging Parishes (pdf)

Sharing Good News: Everyone’s Call

(added June 27, 2018)

Did you ever notice how hard it is to keep good news a secret?  It’s not easy to be quiet when someone is expecting a child.  It’s hard to keep a lid on the news that someone is in for a big new job.  Life is full of leaks when it comes to secret or confidential information.  The funny thing about this, is that when it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, we often seem to behave as if it were a secret reserved only for ourselves.  We seem shy to share it or we think it is a task belonging to someone else.

 

Good news travels fast and far.  Even in the Gospel we hear this weekend, we see the impact of Good News.  As we hear today, Jesus often gathers a crowd.  Obviously, it’s what he says and does that hooks them.  We need a new vision of who we are, a realization that we, all of us, are Church.  Sharing the Good News belongs to every baptized person.

 

Recently, on June 6, Pope Francis expressed this broad view of Church as he spoke to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.  In speaking about how we understand “Church”, he said: “Some think that there are only bishops, the bosses, and then there are the workers.  No, the Church is all of us, everyone, each person has their role in the Church, but we are all the Church.”  He went on to say to the thousands

who were gathered: “The Church is we who walk, we who are here in the square.  It’s everyone.”

 

In presenting Church in this way, Pope Francis was expressing the vision of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).   In the Constitution on the Church, the Council focused on capturing who we are as Church.  There we hear again and again that WE, ALL OF US ARE CHURCH.  When it comes to sharing the Good News, it is the mission of the whole Church, every baptized person has this mission.

 

Pope Francis has shared this vision repeatedly.  As he wrote, in 2013 in The Joy of the Gospel: “In virtue of their baptism, all members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.  All the bapized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization….  Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus:  we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather we are always “missionary disciples”.  (The Joy… 120)

 

The ultimate aim and purpose of restructuring our diocese is that we might be revitalized.  This will not happen overnight.  But over time it is our hope that we may grow to be the “missionary disciples” we are called to be, sharing the Good News in our lives as well as our words.

 

A Vision for a Revitalized Church

Living out our Baptismal Call

(added April 20, 2018)

This Sunday, Bishop Robert Harris announces the plan for diocesan realignment.  It will result in one of the most significant changes in the structure of our diocese, since we began more than 175 years ago.  Why are we doing this now?

 

The reason for such a change in our diocese is captured in the vision that was developed first in our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, published in 2012.  This plan presented the core of our vision for the pastoral life of our diocese.  In the last two years through survey, reflection, consultation and prayer our diocese has further refined this vision.  It now is our Vision for a Revitalized Church, Living out our Baptismal Call.

 

The changes announced this Sunday are based on becoming a Church that lives this vision.

 

  • An evangelizing community that gives Jesus Christ to the world

  • Full churches for Sunday Mass

  • Intergenerational community of children, teens, young adults, middle-age, seniors

  • The center of the community life serving those on the margin and most in need

  • A community of growing disciples who share their faith, support one another, and lead others to Jesus Christ

 

May God bless us as we seek to live as missionary disciples of Jesus, sharing the Good News in our world, locally and globally.

When will we find out what has been decided?

(added October 19, 2017)

 

As you probably know, the Bishop received draft models created by the Regional Workgroups. They were based on hours of prayer, discernment, and extensive information about each parish.

 

All the people of the Diocese were then invited to review the proposed models, pray about them, discuss them, and share their feedback. They did so and the responses were enthusiastic, constructive and plentiful. All of the feedback was organized and presented to Bishop Harris.

 

Until December 31, Bishop Harris will review all of the input and continue to consult with others to discern and develop the plan to revitalize and realign the Diocese.

 

The Bishop has told us that he will announce the plan and his decisions after January, 2018. Formation, training, and implementation of the new parish models will follow.

There is no doubt that this is a critical moment for our Diocese. Let’s pray for everyone involved in the decision making process and our Bishop in particular: may the Holy Spirit guide them and help them to discern the best possible solutions.

 

How can we get young people back to church?

(added October 12, 2017)

 

“It’s boring. There’s no one my age there. I don’t understand what they’re saying. It’s for old people.”

The feedback from the Disciple Maker Index, the Priests Survey, and the Regional Consultations all confirms that the youth are a top priority for virtually every parish in our diocese. The Regional Workgroups recommended that two full-time youth ministers be hired for each region. These would be professionally trained people who can connect with young people, show them how to get to know Jesus, and help integrate them into the life of our parish communities. The Workgroups recommended that some of the resources currently used to maintain and sustain buildings could be re-allocated to invest in professional youth ministers and liturgy and music. It’s only a recommendation at this point, but this is just one example of a strategy that could capture the imaginations of our young people and make them feel welcome and happy to be involved in our parish communities.

 

What happens to the various programs, activities

and committees of newly merged communities?

(added October 6, 2017)

When parishes merge, each of them brings its resources to the new merged community.  That is all its people resources, physical resources and its financial resources (and its debts) now belong to the new parish community.  The former parishes’ Pastoral Councils, Finance Councils and committees will be dissolved.  There will be a need to create new councils and committees with members drawn from all the communities that were merged to create the new parish.

 

The many people who had served in ministries in the former parishes now will be called to collaborate in the new merged one.  For example, there will be a new music ministry (choirs, instrumentalists, cantors etc.) drawn from the whole merged community.  The religious formation programs (children, youth and adult) will be built upon the many talents and energies of the people from the whole new parish community.  Other programs will also benefit from the increase in the number of gifts and talents that can be available in the new merged parish.

 

In short, where there are more gifts and resources it is possible to provide fuller, more extensive pastoral service.  The priests and people who are in these new merged communities will be called upon to assess the needs of the parish as they do now.  With this, they will determine where best to allocate the resources available in this new community.  They will work to use all the people and other resources available in the new parish.  What gift of time and talent will you bring to your new community?

If We Merge Several Communities, Which “Church Sites” Will We Use?

(added October 6, 2017)

Our revitalization & realignment process has an important aim.  Its aim is to better use our limited resources, financial, physical and especially our human resources (lay & clergy).  In doing so, our goal is to help grow as disciples of Jesus ready to share the good news to others (evangelize).  One aspect of the process is to merge communities in a way that they can better use the resources for this goal.

 

Keeping in mind that “church” refers to the building in which the “parish” community gathers, these new “parish” community will not need all the buildings currently held by the communities that come together.  The question is, how do we decide what church buildings to use, and what builds not to use?  This of course generates much pain and questioning – “Why is our Church building not needed?” or “Why do we need to keep another building?”

 

Many factors were and will continue to be considered in determining which church and other buildings will be used and which will not.  Among the factors are: the seating capacity and condition of the building, the location of the building, the potential patterns of population growth in the area, general travel patterns in the area, proximity to other parish communities, historical significance and many others.  Obviously in making such decisions more than one factor plays a determining role.

 

During the workgroup discussions last winter and during the last few months of listening to feedback from the regional consultations, much information has been considered.  Painful as it is, however, not all buildings can be retained and it is certainly not easy to make such a decision. 

Revitalization & Realignment: Priests of the Diocese Meet

(added August 25, 2017)

 

                More than 40 priests of the Saint John Diocese gathered in Fredericton at Holy Family Parish in late July.  Their focus was the Revitalization & Realignment project on which the diocese is currently working.  Over the course of the day, the priests were presented with an update of where the diocese stands in the process at this time.  As well, they talked about how best to help their communities as they grow into disciples ready and able to evangelize, sharing the Gospels with those they encounter.

 

The meeting began by recalling the goal of the Revitalization & Realignment project.  Rather than closing some parishes and leaving others open, this project is aimed at merging the communities of our diocese in way that will create strong, vibrant faith communities with enough energy to nurture and share their faith with others.  Such communities were seen to have full churches on Sundays.  As well, the intent is to create communities capable of drawing together people of all ages – children, teens, young adults, middle age and seniors.  These merged communities will direct their resources to serve the varied needs of all ages.  Together we are stronger and more able to do so.

 

The priests were asked to recall what has been done to date.  The initiative began with the Disciple Maker Index Survey in January 2016.  The survey reached out to the people of all 59 parishes in the diocese.  It was followed by a second survey of all the priests of the diocese.  Once the survey results were compiled and organized, they were sent back to each parish so people could see how their own parish responded.

 

At the same time, three workgroups of laity clergy were formed: one for each of the three regions, Miramichi, Fredericton and Saint John.  These groups considered the survey results as well as other information including level of activity, condition and size of buildings, financial condition and location of current site.  Through a 4 to 5 month period of prayer, study and reflection, each workgroup developed two to four models of how the communities of their region might be merged into strong and vibrant communities of disciples sharing the Good News.

 

Then the models were shared with the people of the regions through 10 regional consultations which 3,200 people attended.  The whole diocese was invited to share their feedback and recommendations for their region.  In addition to the conversation at the meetings and on the diocesan website, more than 1,600 feedback forms were submitted.

 

Our diocese is now moving through a period of discernment.  Using the feedback offered over the past year and a half, the bishop will continue to consult with various regional and diocesan bodies of laity and clergy until the end of this year.  In addition, some initial revitalization efforts are beginning in our current parishes.  In January 2018, the plan for realignment will be shared.  From February to September 2018, training, formation and implementation of the new merged communities will take place.

 

Revitalization & Realignment

(added August 21, 2017)

 

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, is one of today’s most respected spiritual writers. Reflecting on the significance of community for our spiritual health and growth, he said:

 

“So many people enter groups in order to develop a certain form of spirituality or to acquire knowledge about the things of God and of humanity. But that is not community; it is a school. It becomes community only when people start caring for each other and for each other’s growth.”  Jean Vanier. Community and Growth

 

The reason our diocese has embarked on a project of revitalization & realignment is to strengthen our many small communities by merging them with one another. With stronger, more vibrant communities of faith, we’ll be better able to nurture our caring, prayer and spiritual health.

 

Photo: Jean Vanier, shaking hands with l'Arche member John Smeltzer. By Warren Pot, taken at L'Arche Daybreak, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

 

Evangelizing Disciples - Hope for Humanity
(added August 15, 2017)

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun, spiritual writer and author. For more than 40 years she has been an advocate for peace, social justice, women’s equality, and church renewal. Sr. Joan has spoken around the world and in settings ranging from living rooms to churches, from the religious to the secular press. Always, Joan Chittister speaks from deep human experience of the spiritual elements of our lives.


In this short video clip, Joan shares her faith as it is expressed in our Feast of the Assumption of Mary, reflecting how Mary touches the moments of our lives. Our diocese seeks to grow and be revitalized as a community of disciples. Joan Chittister helps us to recognize the hope that we all long for in the midst of the dark that is sometimes part of our lives. Mary serves as our example of evangelizing faith.

                                                                    

                                                                                              Click here to watch video clip

Christmas Message from Bishop Harris

(added December 19, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life in Our Diocese: How Do We Get There?

(added December 8, 2016)

 

The Disciple Maker Index Survey that we filled out in late January and early February is just the beginning of our process of revitalization for our diocese.  

 

Over the coming months, we’ll all get the chance to hear and reflect on the survey results.  More importantly, we’ll be asked to share our own thoughts on how to develop parishes which are active communities of disciples.  That means communities marked by lively and growing faith, as well as a commitment to share the Good News with others. 

 

This column is just one of the ways the survey results will be shared with parishioners in every community.  We want everybody to think about and discuss the results, including individuals, pastoral councils, finance and administration councils, religious formation and other services or ministry groups.

 

The results show the strengths and needs of each community.  Putting this in the context of the whole diocese, we can see where we fit in the bigger picture and how we’re called to develop as better disciples, growing in faith and sharing the Gospel with others.

 

Over the next 7 to 8 months, we’ll follow the process that began with the Disciple Maker Index Survey.  It helps to know what that process is and to know that every single person in the diocese can be involved.  We all, laity and clergy, have a part to play in this process of revitalization.

 

The Process

 

The first stage began with the setting up of three workgroups, one for each region of our diocese: Miramichi, Fredericton and Saint John.  Each workgroup included about 8 people, both laity and clergy.  They met monthly for the past four months.

 

Each of the regional workgroups was asked to develop 2 to 4 models of parish life for their region.   To do this, they used the results of the Disciple Maker Survey as well as a survey taken by the priests of our diocese.  They also considered other data such as demographic and financial information, the activity levels and needs of parishes and the spiritual and faith vibrancy of their regions.

 

The process of revitalization will continue into the new year with a number of efforts to engage people and get their feedback.  In February, 2017, the priests of the diocese will meet to study and reflect on the models that have been offered for each of the regions and to offer their input.

 

In April, 2017, a series of consultations (two in each region) will take place, inviting the people of our parish communities to give their input and suggestions on the models of parish life that have been proposed.

 

 

Through May and June, the feedback will be considered as the final suggested models are prepared for presentation to the Bishop.  By the end of June, the recommended plan for revitalization and realignment of our diocese should be in the hands of the Bishop and ready to put into action.

 

This process is based on the Diocesan Pastoral Plan that was published in 2012, after more than four years of work.  The Plan called for a revitalization that would enliven the whole church in our area and enable us to leave a legacy of faith for future generations. May God’s loving Spirit guide us and direct us on our way.

 

Breathing New Life into the Diocese of Saint John

(added December 1, 2016)

 

Pope Francis wants each of us to renew our role as a disciple of Jesus.  That means making Jesus our model.  But besides each of us renewing ourselves, Pope Francis wants us to enter into renewal as a community.  He has told us that in doing so, we are living up to the Second Vatican Council’s call to reform and renew constantly.   

 

Our local diocese of Saint John has heard this call loud and clear.  In 2017, we will be celebrating our 175th anniversary.  We need to remember that nearly 200 years ago, we began as a missionary church full of joy, energy and vitality.  Pope Francis knows that we can draw on that same energy, as we face this new step.

 

This is what he says about the whole Church, including our diocese: “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things,…can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (The Joy of the Gospel 27)

 

So Pope Francis is calling for a church that focuses on mission, not maintenance.  This is the aim of our diocese right now.  Every generation is called to reform and revitalize. We know that we must face the reality of change in our lives and in our church.  Maintaining things the way they have been is not always appropriate for a new era. Renewal might require some significant realignment of structures and ways of doing things.  We may be called to do some things quite differently, while others may not change much. 

 

The Disciple Maker Index Survey results for each parish and mission have been passed on to each community and they are a good indicator of the strengths and the needs of each community. Over the next few months we as a diocese, laity and clergy, will be reflecting and talking about what the survey results mean for the whole diocese.   We invite you to think about the survey results.  How can we change and realign things to bring new life to our Diocese of Saint John?

 

Let’s all pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit as we move forward.  Let’s all reflect and talk with others in our parish about the survey results.  How can this lead us into new and lively ways of living our faith and sharing the Good News?  What are our hopes for a future church which lives discipleship to the fullest?

 

Revitalizing our Diocese

(added November 26, 2016)

 

In late January and early February this year, every member of our community, in every parish and mission, from Miramichi to Fredericton to Saint John, was asked to participate in a survey called the Disciple Maker Index Survey.  It asked us to think about how we see ourselves as disciples of Jesus.  It asked us to think about the best way to renew our diocesan church, so that we can carry out the mission we were given at our bapism: to share the Good News with all the people of the earth.

 

Every Catholic in our diocese was invited to respond to the Disciple Maker Survey.  It was emailed, available online, and published in the New Freeman.

 

The response was truly gratifiying, as 6,135 people responded.  This means that a third of the people who go to Mass in our diocese responded!  That is a phenomenal response and a testament to the commitment our people have to the Lord and to the Church.

 

The survey was administered in February and the overall results were shared with the Bishop and the Priests Council at the end of June.  The results were then sent to the individual parishes and a series of Webinars were held in late July and early Agust to help parishes interpret their results.  Many parishes and pastoral councils have discussed the results and incorporated the information into their pastoral palnning.

 

The cost of the survey was funded in part by a grant from an international Catholic foundation that prefers anonymity, but wanted to support the efforts of Bishop Harris and the people of this diocese to revitalize our local Church.

 

The overall diocesan results and the individual parish results are now being considered as part of the plan to revitalize the Diocese for Evangelization and Discipleship.  It's imporatant that everyone be aware of the results and able to give their feedback, and there will be serval opportunities for this in the coming months.

Diocesan Revitalization & Realignment

 Just a minute… What makes our parishes work?

(added April 19,2017)

 

Let’s think about this. Why do we need to revitalize and realign? Active, living parishes are very busy. They need many lay persons that are both involved and engaged. They also need priests who are ready to collaborate with lay people and other clergy.

 

The Diocese of Saint John, like many others, has a critical shortage of priests. We have 58 parishes and 24 missions. We have 38 active, full-time priests. We figure there are more than 115,000 Catholics in the Diocese. That’s about 1 priest for every 3,000 Catholics.

 

The average age of these 38 priests is 59 years old. Fifteen of them are 65 years of age or over. Only 7 of our priests are under the age of 40. If these priests are going to provide the best service available to people, we have to somehow rationalize our 58 parishes and 24 missions.

 

In January of this year, we did a count of Mass attendance in our Diocese. Over two weekends, the average attendance on Saturday and Sunday was about 91 persons at each Mass.

 

So we have 38 priests trying to serve 82 communities. It’s almost impossible to provide the many services that a parish should have in all these small communities. Revitalization and realignment will give us fewer and larger parishes, where the priests and people will have more resources to collaborate in providing fuller service.

 

Diocesan Revitalization & Realignment

Just a Minute – What is a disciple?

 

Did You Know… Our revitalization & realignment process was launched with a survey called the Disciple Maker Index Survey in January 2016.  Why does the survey have that name?  Because we’re disciples. A disciple is someone who is learning from another, like an apprentice.  The master or teacher teaches by word and example.  The disciple follows the master, hears what he says and sees what he does.  Then the disciple tries to become like the master.  Our revitalization & realignment project is aimed at strengthening our parishes as communities of disciples of Jesus, ready to learn how to be like Jesus in our world.

 

How can our parishes help us to be like Jesus in our world?

 

 

Diocesan Revitalization & Realignment

Just a Minute – What is Evangelization?

 

Did You Know… We are called to share the Gospel, the Good News.  This is what Jesus did in word and action.  It was his mission and we share it.  The Greek word for “good news” or “good tidings” is evangelion.  This is the root of our word “evangelize”.  It means to share the “good news” or “good tidings”.  Evangelization is sharing the Gospel, like Jesus did and in the Spirit of Jesus.

 

How can our parishes help us be disciples who evangelize?

 

Revitalization & REALIGNMENT

What is this?  What does it mean for us?

By Fr. John Jennings

(added March 17, 2017)

 

We’ve been talking a lot about Revitalization & Realignment.  What’s the connection between the two?  What does Realignment mean for us in the Diocese of Saint John?  Let’s begin by noting that Revitalization is intended to help us grow as disciples of Jesus.  In fact, it’s aimed at becoming what Pope Francis calls for in The Joy of the Gospel (27)  “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary  impulse capable of transforming everything…”  This is a vision of church as a community of disciples, working to share the message and carry out the mission of Jesus Christ in our world.  This vision is what Revitalization is all about.

 

But what is Realignment about?  What does it mean for us?  The short answer to these questions is that to realign is to become a church capable of carrying out this vision.  For our diocese in 2017, it means we must examine how we are structured and how we are able to grow.  Realignment will allow our local church, our diocese, to be a community of disciples on mission.

 

Both Revitalization and Realignment are directed to the whole Diocese of Saint John.  They are not projects of individual parishes, nor of only part of the diocese.  This is a project of the whole diocese.  Every parish will be impacted.  Not a single parish will be unaffected.  Put in another way, the status quo is not an option.  The structure of the whole diocese will change with Realignment.

 

For 175 years, our ancestors - the Catholics of this area - have held the vision of living their faith and passing this faith along to the next generations.  They planned and worked to make this dream a reality for their children and their children’s children.  They gave of themselves to build communities of disciples who shared their faith with others.  In doing so, they responded to the settings and the times in which they lived.  As times changed, so did their way of being communities of disciples.  Sometimes this meant adding new communities. Sometimes it meant that communities merged with others or even ceased to exist.  Change is a reality of life and growth.

 

Realignment of our diocese is the examination and response to the changes of our own time.  It means we’re responding as our ancestors responded, addressing the need for change and looking to the future with hope.  The population of our province is shrinking and at the same time, it’s aging.  Like the general population, our parish communities find fewer persons who are active.  At the same time, we have fewer priests in our diocese.  They too are aging and many of them are nearing retirement.  More than this, the parish of the 21st century exists in a new reality.  We need to work much harder at evangelization, to put more energy into sharing the Good News, both within and beyond our walls.

 

 

As Pope Francis has said, we are called to be a missionary church.  He sees the church as an “evangelizing community”.  That means a community that shares the Good News and calls and forms every single member to be a missionary.  To this end, Pope Francis calls for a reform of our structures “to make them more mission-oriented.” (See: The Joy of the Gospel 25-28)

 

Realignment in the Saint John Diocese requires us to look at our current parish structures and ask ourselves: how can we realign our parishes in a way that strengthens us as evangelizing disciples?  What must we do to have full churches, celebrating vibrant liturgies?  How can our parishes offer a broad range of opportunities for faith formation to children, youth and adults?  How can we develop communities with an outreach that touches our world, sharing the Gospel in both word and action?

 

What does all this promise for our future?  It means our whole diocese will be different.  It will have fewer parishes and missions.  Parishes will be larger and will be served by a number of priests.  As well, these parishes will have a support staff of lay persons.  All of this is intended to provide more services, assisting the formation and growth of communities of disciples, reaching out to all ages.

 

A revitalized church in the Saint John Diocese will have parishes with sufficient people, material and financial resources to be missionary evangelizing communities.  To turn again to Pope Francis, he has called upon us to make our parishes “environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.”  (The Joy of the Gospel 28) 

 

We should be very grateful to our ancestors for responding to the needs of the church in their time. If we don’t look to the future with hope we will be letting them and ourselves down.

 

 

Revitalization & Realignment:  The Priests of the Diocese Gather

By Fr. John Jennings

(added March 3, 2017)

 

It was with a sense of solidarity that the priests of the Saint John Diocese gathered with some lay people to look at and discuss the models to revitalize the diocese.The meeting, which took place at Villa Madonna Retreat House on February 20th and 21st, is part of the process of revitalization & realignment of the diocese that began in January 2016.

 

The meeting, facilitated by Matt Manion of the Catholic Leadership Institute, was attended by 40 priests of the diocese and 11 lay persons who had served as members of the work groups for the process.Eighteen lay people and nine priests were chosen from the three regions of the diocese: Miramichi, Fredericton and Saint John, to sit on the regional work groups.

 

The work groups met monthly from August to November in their respective regions, for a full day’s work.They looked at the trends identified in the Disciple Maker Index Survey.They also examined factors affecting the life of our parishes, including: demographics; pastoral life and activity; people resources (priests and laity); finances and the physical condition of properties.Their aim was to come up with 2 to 4 possible models for realignment of parishes in their region.The models were then assessed by accountants for their financial viability and any positive outcomes.

 

The priests were presented with the proposed models for realignment. There was a great deal of information to absorb. The discussion of the proposed models recognized that realignment will mean fewer parishes.But the main goal of realignment is to bring new life to our churches. It would also mean that there would be more people at Mass together, and more human and financial resources to build communities that are renewed, with more life and parish activity.

 

The vision of a revitalized parish is one of full churches on Sundays, faith development for people of all ages – children, youth, young adults, middle-aged and seniors.But we’re aiming for more than Mass on Sunday.Realignment gives us a great opportunity to realize that we are disciples of Jesus, and to act like it, by sharing the Good News.With more people and financial resources, these more active parishes could provide much better support for faith development and sharing, outreach, and pastoral care.

 

The process of revitalization is ongoing.In April and early May, there will be a series of regional gatherings, open to the laity, to get their feedback on how best to revitalize and realign our parishes and our diocese.We’re looking for a renewed church for the Diocese of Saint John, one that is filled with hope for present and future generations.

 

Pope Francis has told us that the vision of the Second Vatican Council was one of constant renewal and that local churches, dioceses, and parishes are ever called to live as communities of missionary disciples of Jesus.In The Joy of the Gospel in 2013, he said: The parish is the presence of Church in a given place, a setting for hearing God’s word, for growth in Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.  In all its activities the parish encourages and forms its members to be evangelizers, sharers of the Gospel.(Evangelii Gaudium 28)

 

Revitalization: What’s that?

By Fr. John Jennings

(added February 24, 2017)

 

Over the past few months we’ve spoken a lot about the revitalization of our church in the Diocese of Saint John.  What exactly do we mean by that?  What would a revitalized church look like?

 

Revitalizing means bringing new life.  In the case of our diocese, it means building communities that are filled with life.  It means parishes that are more than service stations with a Mass on Sunday and little else.  It means parishes where we welcome our senior and mature members. But it also means communities filled with active younger members, children, and young adults, all contributing their energy, time and talents.

 

The Disciple Maker Survey included a number of questions that asked us to think beyond our present reality.  Several of those questions gave us a pretty clear idea of what revitalized communities might look like.  For instance, we were asked how effectively our parish assisted us in our spiritual growth.  As well, we were asked about how ready we are to share our faith with others.  Both of these questions indicate what we’re hoping for: parishes and communities that are full of life and ready to share this new life in the broader community.

 

If you completed the survey, you might recall that you were asked to respond with a number, indicating how much you agreed or disagreed with several statements:  “My parish helps me to grow spiritually as a Catholic.”  “My parish helps me to grow spiritually…Forming me as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

 

These questions reveal that a revitalized parish and diocesan church would be able to nurture the broad spiritual needs of the community.  They would be constantly growing in their spiritual life and promoting the growth of spirituality in each one of the members. A parish that is a community of disciples of Jesus.

 

It’s one thing to see our Catholic faith as simply going to Mass on Sunday. It’s something else again to see our Catholic faith as living and learning and working together as disciples of Jesus Christ. Sharing the Good News.  Being witnesses of the Gospel to others.

 

A revitalized parish and diocese will be willing and able to offer liturgies where we share the gifts and energies of the whole community.  It will provide opportunities for growing the faith of adults, young people and children.  A revitalized parish will reach beyond the walls of the church and share its energies and resources in outreach.  A revitalized church is the face of Jesus in our world.

 

Revitalizing our Church:  What Are Our Strengths?

By Fr. John Jennings

(added February 11, 2017)

 

The Disciple Maker Survey as well as our own experience indicates that there are challenges to our parishes and our diocese.  But the survey also indicates some strengths on which we can build.  First of all, our diocese has a solid core of dedicated Catholics.  When the survey went out early this year it was completed by 6,135 people.  That is more than 35% of the average number who attend Mass on any weekend.  Normally a 10-15% response to such surveys is considered good.  This response rate indicates that a significant number of Catholics in our diocese care and want to be heard.  They want to contribute to our church’s response to challenges we face.

 

Among the other strengths that the survey surfaced across the parishes of the diocese was the range of how we want to define ourselves a Catholics.  For example, when parishioners were asked how they viewed themselves and their faith only 10% said “I consider myself Catholic, though faith is not a significant part of my life.”  On the other hand, more than 55% indicated that they were growing as a disciple of Jesus the Christ.  Most of these saw their relationship with Jesus Christ as the most important relationship in their life.  This is a strong base on which to build a revitalized diocesan church.

 

This strong base shows again in the parishes of the diocese when the survey results indicated that more than 70% of the respondents agreed that their parishes helped them to grow spiritually as Catholics.  The response was somewhat weaker when asked about their parish helping to form them as disciples of Jesus Christ.  It was even weaker when we were asked about our role as disciples who have a call to be witnesses and sharers of our faith, as low as 20% in some categories.

 

The fundamental call that comes from our baptism is to a discipleship to Jesus Christ.  In this role we are to follow the model offered by Jesus and also to accept the mission of Jesus Christ.  This means that through the witness of our faith we share the Good News with others.  The survey indications are that we are not as aware of this as we might be and our parishes may be able to do more in forming us for discipleship that witnesses to the Good News in word and action.  Currently, the challenges our parishes face in structure and resources may contribute to an inability to do more.

 

This baptismal call that is given to each of is the call that Jesus issued to every disciple, to be his witnesses. (Luke 24:48)  The Gospel writer Mark is even more explicit when he tells of the Risen Jesus appearing to his disciples as they sat at table.  “Go,” he says “into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) 

 

The revitalization and realignment project in which we are involved is intended to build parishes and a diocese that can nurture the strengths of the faith we share.  It is a project filled with hope and directed at building a church, a community of disciples who witness for the faith, for the present world and for future generations.

 

Revitalizing Our Diocesan Church:

Identifying the challenges

(added January 27, 2017)

 

Our Diocese of Saint John faces many challenges.  This is not the first time we have done so.  Since its beginning 175 years ago, we have lived through many eras of change, responding to the needs of the time.  These periods, though challenging, proved to be opportunities, inspiring new ways of doing things - chances for growth and new life.  As new peoples arrived on our shores and the population of our province grew there were new communities, new parishes and new chances to live and share our faith.

 

We in our diocese are now in a world that has changed significantly, even in the last 10 to 20 years.  We notice our changing picture as we look around and see that our parishes are graying, with many older persons and fewer young people.  Parents lament that their children no longer seem to practice our faith.  In addition, we are seeing fewer youth in churches, as well as a declining number of children and youth in our religious formation programs.

 

It’s evident that we cannot continue in the way in which we have been accustomed.  Living faith is more than just attending Mass on Sundays.  To live as a disciple of Jesus requires that we learn continually and that we enter into mission, sharing the Good News with others.  Change is needed if we are to have thriving and active faith and life in our parishes and in the diocese as a whole.  A revitalization of parish life and our own Christian life is essential.  Our communities deserve more than a simple one hour on Sunday morning.

 

In each parish, the results of the Disciple Maker Survey taken in that community in early 2016 are being shared with the parishioners.  This is intended to lead to reflection and discussion by the community at large, as well as in various groups in the parish, including pastoral councils, finance and administration councils, religious formation and other services and ministry groups in the parish.

 

Looking at the results of the Disciple Maker Index Survey and other diocesan resources, the challenges are obvious.  The picture for each parish is reflected in the whole diocesan picture.  Over the last five years, Mass attendance in the diocese has dropped by about 24%.  The diocese of Saint John serves 84 churches (parishes & missions).  Across the diocese the average Sunday Mass attendance at each site is 127 people. 

 

We know that our province also has a declining demographic and an aging population.  The result is that we now bury more people than we baptize.  In some of our parishes this is more pronounced than in others, but the reality affects the whole diocese.

 

The process of revitalization and realignment on which we have embarked is aimed at bringing new life to our local Church.  We will be called upon to see things differently and to respond in new ways, taking up the mission that Jesus gave to all of his disciples: share the Good News.  We are challenged to become a local Church of mission, not maintenance.

 

Over the next months we will be given many opportunities to learn more about our mission and to become aware and involved in revitalizing our diocese.  Please watch your parish bulletin, website and Facebook page for ways to be part of this journey.  In addition, be sure to watch the website and Facebook page of the Diocese of Saint John for more information and opportunities for involvement.

 

Where am I in my own faith journey as a disciple?

(added January 10, 2017)

 

The Disciple Maker Index Survey asked us to name where we are personally in our Catholic faith journey.   The results for our diocese show that people are at various stages, ranging from simply naming themselves as Catholic, all the way to living their faith in a personal relationship with Jesus.

 

At our baptism all of us were given a call to become disciples of Jesus.  The aim of our whole life is to grow closer to Jesus, to see him as our model and mentor.  Like the disciples in the Gospels, we’re invited into a friendship that over the years will grow stronger and deeper.  It’s a very personal relationship, but also one that we Catholics are called to share with others.  We are a community of disciples, bringing the Good News in word and action to all peoples.

 

 

Revitalization & Realignment - Continuing the Conversation
Fr. John Jennings

(added August 3, 2017)

 

Our diocese is about to undergo significant change. The parish communities we know now will be merged to become new communities.

How do we respond to such transformation? The spiritual writer, Joan Chittister reflected on how we encounter and respond to change:

 

“Life changes. It is of the essence of life to change. It is of the spiritual character of life to make demands, to bring new

challenges, to goad us into living it. But that life changes is not the issue…. It is not change that will destroy us. It is the

attitude we take to it that will make all the difference.”  Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years

 

Chittister is particularly focusing on the change that comes as we age. But what she says applies to all changes in life. Our diocese will undergo tremendous change as our communities merge to form new and larger communities of faith. Do we greet this change with fear

and resistance or with excitement as we venture into new possibilities? By sharing our many gifts and resources we can live as

missionary disciples of Jesus more fully.

 

Revitalization & Realignment - Continuing the Conversation
Fr. John Jennings

(added July 31, 2017)

In 2013, Pope Francis in “The Joy of the Gospel 3” issued this invitation: 

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her.”

Through revitalization and realignment, our diocese is trying to renew our communities of faith so that they can become places where

all of us can accept this invitation. Then we can grow in our relationships with Jesus Christ and our fellow disciples

Revitalization & Realignment - Continuing the Conversation
Fr. John Jennings

(added July 25, 2017)

 

This project involves every parish and mission. We will all be affected as our present community is merged with others to become more effective communities of disciples. You could say that our current community is all about the relationships we have built over the years.

As we merge with other communities, our circle of friendships will grow. This has been God`s dream from the beginning. It is Jesus` call

to all disciples. Merging communities may be difficult, but its aim is that our communities be life-giving both for now and for future

generations. Dorothy Day, the American Catholic social activist and journalist captured this way of seeing things:

 

"We are communities in time and in a place, I know, but we are communities in faith as well… Our lives are touched

by those who lived centuries ago, and we hope that our lives will mean something to people who

won`t be alive until centuries from now."
Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus

 

Revitalization and Realignment

Continuing the Conversation

(added July 24, 2017)

Revitalization & Realignment: This is a call to renew and live our discipleship. It is an effort to merge our inward-directed worlds into communities full of life and capable of sharing it. Discipleship is about becoming communities able to take the Good News beyond

ourselves. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche speaks of the challenge:

It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support

others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of community.

Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Revitalization and Realignment Update

(added June 22, 2017)

 

Close to 1,000 feedback forms and letters were submitted in response to the draft parish models that were shared at the Regional Consultations last month!

 

Parishioners were asked to provide feedback on the models that were proposed and to offer any alternative models they thought would

help Revitalize and Realign the Diocese for Discipleship and Evangelization. 

 

Every feedback form and letter will be given to Bishop Harris for his discernment and final decisions.  Our partners at Catholic Leadership Institute have been hard at work sorting and processing it all as part of the report that will be sent to Bishop Harris on June 30, so he can continue his discernment.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call for Feedback - Closed

We began this process of revitalization with a survey of all our parishes in January, 2016.  The process is not yet over, no

decisions have been made, but some possibilities have been developed.  We are still looking for feedback and for suggestions.

Shortly after the survey, three working groups of laity and clergy were formed, one in each of the three regions – Miramichi, Fredericton

and Saint John.  These working groups were tasked with drafting 2-4 models of parish life for their region.

The groups met in four day-long sessions from August to November 2016.  In general they were asked to consider best pastoral practices, grounded in the needs, opportunities, demands and resources present in the Saint John Diocese.  More specifically, they looked at the

results of the survey taken in the diocese for their region.  In addition they considered, data on population, sacramental practice,

availability of clergy, finances, and property suitability.

At the same time, in August 2016, the results of the survey for their region were sent to each of the parishes in the diocese to be shared

with their members.  In addition, a series of weekly articles appeared in the New Freeman, on the diocesan website and in many parish bulletins and websites.  These weekly articles were intended to inform and provide context for the whole diocese.  

In February 2017, the models for each region were presented to the diocesan clergy.  Over the two weeks from April 24 to May 4 the

same models were presented to the laity of the diocese through 10 consultation meetings across the diocese.  These meetings were

held to inform the laity of our diocese on the models proposed for their region and on the aims, criteria and data used for these draft

models.

No decision on the final revitalization and realignment for our diocese has yet been made.  We seek your input and suggestions. 

As a help in this regard, this diocesan website is making available a number of pdf files that we encourage everyone to access.  They

include the words of our Bishop Robert Harris, the presentations that were made at the consultation meetings, as well as the data and

other information that were considered in the working groups as they sought to develop models for their regions.

We look forward to hearing from you.  Please join this conversation!