by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Occasionally, it helps to get a view of the big picture. A view of the even bigger picture helps, too.
Widening the vision of parish leaders and those involved in parish ministries was the purpose of the first biennial archdiocesan convocation of parish ministries, “Holy Lives, Holy Service,” on Sept. 15 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.
About 370 people attended the daylong event, which featured opening remarks by vicar general Father Gary Pennings; an address by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann; a keynote address by Mark Berchem, founder and executive director of NET Ministries; Mass; and two afternoon breakout sessions.
In his remarks, Father Pennings said the archdiocese wanted to do something more for those who minister in parishes.
“It has been our tradition every couple of years to do an orientation for those who recently [began working in ministry] in the archdiocese in parishes or institutions,” he said.
“Perhaps 25 people would come for the day, [but we asked ourselves] how much better it would be if people could experience a larger sense of the church,” he said. “We all need to remember that we are a part of this larger group of ministers — spiritual warriors, in a sense — who do the day-in, day-out work of the church, some in dramatic ways and some in behind-the-scenes ways.”
In his address, Archbishop Naumann said it was a great grace and blessing for archdiocesan workers and volunteers to gather for prayer and fellowship, just like the pilgrims did at the recently concluded World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
“I think we tend naturally — and I think rightly — to be very focused on where we are called to serve the Lord in his vineyard, and to give our energy and attention,” the archbishop said.
“But it’s important periodically to lift our gaze and realize we are part of much bigger mosaic, a much bigger plan,” he continued “And we are united in what we do with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the archdiocese and throughout the world.”
The archbishop expressed his gratitude to parish leaders and ministers for helping him fulfill his pastoral responsibilities — not only in preaching the Gospel to more than 200,000 Catholics in northeastern Kansas, but also in evangelizing more than one million non-Catholic or unchurched within the archdiocese.
There is very little he can do without the help of the pastors, said Archbishop Naumann, but there is very little the pastors can do without the assistance and collaboration of parish staff members, volunteers and parishioners.
“One of the great blessings and fruits of the Second Vatican Council was the call and raising up of legions of lay ministers — both those compensated and those who volunteer — to assist priests and now deacons in the pastoral care of God’s people,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“Our parishes could not realize their mission,” he added, “without many laymen and laywomen assisting our pastors . . . for the administration, formation and sanctification of their people.”
Every person in every responsibility — whether directly in ministry or indirectly in support or maintenance of programs and properties — are representatives of Christ and his church to people who come to us, said the archbishop.
“Every responsibility is important,” said the archbishop.
In his keynote address, “Discipleship and Evangelization in Daily Life,” Berchem noted that Jesus’ command to go forth to all the world and proclaim the good news remains the same, but Christians face serious and challenging signs of the times. These include declining church attendance, loss of moral grounding, growth of Internet porn, loss of community, and loss of respect for life.
“It’s not duty like carrying out the garbage or doing the dishes,” said Berchem. “It’s a happy duty. What could be more exciting than to be part of someone coming into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and living their life as a disciple of Christ in the Catholic Church?”
Between presentations and workshops, attendees had opportunities to network, enjoy fellowship, visit newly renovated archdiocesan offices and portions of Savior Pastoral Center. Father Pennings said the day was very successful, and attendees responded favorably to the event.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout . . . and much of the feedback has been positive,” said Father Pennings. “One priest commented that ‘we [priests] have regular opportunities to gather with the archbishop and reflect on our common mission. This day was an opportunity for the laity who are engaged in some form of pastoral ministry for the church to do the same.’”