From the Pastor: Courageously Living the Gospel
Bishop Parkes has a program going on, or, maybe it’s not exactly a program but a project, or perhaps it is better described as a plan for a program for a bunch of projects meant to increase the Catholic Faith of Catholics and to evangelize non-Catholics in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. If you get any mail from the Diocese you see the name of this program/project/plan, Courageously Living the Gospel, on the envelope, on the letterhead and on any brochure tucked inside. It is on posters in the church, on calendars, and on the web. He promotes it on his podcasts and videos. It is in your face so much there is a danger that you just treat it like muzak and tune it out even when it surrounds you. Maybe you couldn’t even think of its name, let alone call to mind what it is all about as you read the above sentences. Do you remember hearing about or attending the Diocesan Family Fun Fest? That was part of it. Most of the rest is stuff we are still planning (we being mostly the priests along with parish staff and a few lucky parishioners) for our individual parish and for our local community or deanery (which is a group of somehow connected parishes, though not necessarily the closest ones). Here are three things which each parish is expected to do at the parish level as part of the plan. 1) One hundred percent of parishes will establish and/or enhance youth ministry opportunities by July 1, 2020. 2) Every parish will equip parishioners as Missionary Disciples who are inspired to invite and accompany others by Pentecost 2020. 3) All parishes will enhance or establish family ministries to respond to the diverse needs of families by Pentecost 2020. We are already well on our way to making those three things happen at Epiphany.
The priests of our deanery have been planning and debating and thinking of what we can do to fulfil one of this plan’s larger requirements, which is a deanery wide collaborative project, an interparochial activity in which parishioners of each parish in our deanery will participate. The project is supposed to address a regional community issue. It should relate to or support one or more of the three diocesan vision goals of evangelization, which are: 1) Evangelization; 2) Youth or young adult outreach; and 3) Social justice/serving those in need in one of our parishes or our area. One proposal is to have parishes take turns feeding the poor on Saturday mornings at Santa Maria Mission in the north end of Tampa. If you don’t know that there is a mission there, this is already increasing your knowledge about things happening in our neck of the diocesan woods! Another proposal is to get parishioners to commit to evangelization on the USF campus. Apologetics and a few other basic means of teaching the Faith to college kids will be taught to interested parishioners by the campus minister, Fr. Paskert, and the volunteers will share their Catholic Faith on campus, where many kids face great temptations to abandon the Faith in part or altogether, and help Catholic students look at their Faith with, perhaps for the first time, the eyes of their budding adulthood. They might also find students with no or deficient faith who are hungry for the Truth and introduce them to the One True Church. (This is my favorite of the proposals, even though very difficult to do.) Yet another project put forth for consideration is putting together an Interparochial Catholic Youth Athletic Soccer League. Regardless of which of these proposals gets chosen to be our “official” project, if one of them strikes your fancy and you want to get involved in it, let me know and I will see what can be done to make that happen.
For the sake of those who don’t know which parishes are in our North Central Deanery (and even I had to look it up to be sure I didn’t forget any parish), here is the list. Epiphany of Our Lord. (Of course we have to be in our own deanery!) St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission. Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission. Corpus Christi. Most Holy Redeemer. Our Lady of the Rosary. St. Mark the Evangelist. St. Mary. Santa Maria Mission. St. Paul. St. Timothy. USF Catholic Student Center. The current dean of our deanery is the pastor of St. Mary, Very Rev. C. Timothy Corcoran, JD, VF. Why would you want to know this information? I don’t know if you do, actually, but since we will be working with the other parishes on at least one of the above mentioned projects, it sure cannot hurt to have at least seen this list somewhere along the line.
The deanery meeting discussions about how we are to implement the Bishop’s plan have been alternating between being very fruitful, very frustrating, very humorous and very vacuous. We all think it is wonderful that the Bishop has a plan for increasing the Catholicity of the people of his diocese. We don’t all think the same way about what should be done about it or in which way to achieve even the same goal. We all (at least the pastors, if not the parochial vicars, who don’t yet have to pay the church bills) worry about whether each project is a good use of parish money and volunteer hours. Somehow, though, it will all work out. May God bless this undertaking for His glory and our salvation.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka