A parish is never an island unto itself. It is part of a diocese with its mission guided by the priorities set forth by the bishop. When I became pastor of Holy Cross Parish, I asked for a meeting with Bishop George Coleman, Ordinary of the Diocese of Fall River, at which I asked what he saw as the pastoral priorities for the parishes in his diocese. Much of his vision and priorities can be found in the three-year pastoral plan that we developed last year for our parish.
A parish is also part of the deanery or vicariate in which it is located. We have a monthly meeting of all the priests in our deanery at which we plan deanery level programs, discuss diocesan initiatives, and share experiences and suggestions for more effective ministry within our parishes. We end with an extended lunch, an important opportunity for fellowship and socialization, especially for the diocesan priests who do have the support of community life in their rectories.
Here in Easton, Mass., Holy Cross Parish is actively pursuing avenues of shared ministry and programs with our sister parish, Immaculate Conception. Our parishes already benefit from one Easton Knights of Columbus with members from both parishes. Our St. Vincent de Paul societies work together in offering financial assistance for people in the town. Last year I suggested that our parishes form a joint R.C.I.A. program to take place at Immaculate Conception, even though the majority of team members, catechumens, and candidates come from Holy Cross. We hope to sponsor a joint men’s conference with the Knights of Columbus next year. We continue to discuss other ways in which our two parishes can sponsor more joint programs and implement more shared ministries.
We have a fairly active Easton Clergy Association through which several of the priests, ministers, and the town rabbi meet for lunch each month, mostly for fellowship as well as to discuss shared pastoral concerns. Each year we sponsor an ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service at which I coordinate the music. This past year we sponsored an afternoon of remembrance on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 at which I gave the pastoral reflection and Father Larry, our associate pastor, led the Litany of Remembrance.
As a Holy Cross religious, I also benefit from the annual meeting of Holy Cross pastors held each spring at our province camp in LaPorte, Indiana. Along with the many opportunities we have to discuss parish ministry over meals and throughout the days together, we also benefit from the input of a resource person brought in to present to the group. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to simply spend time together and support one another in our parochial ministry.
Two words you may have noticed repeated throughout this blog are “fellowship” and “meal.” It’s not surprising that the two are paired together so often. In a sense, isn’t that what the Eucharist is all about? As parish priests, we strive to strengthen the sense of fellowship at our Sunday Eucharist so that our parishioners then go forth to spread that fellowship, that communion, with all they meet.
Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C., is Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, Mass. He is a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica Blog, reflecting on the work of Holy Cross in parish ministry. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross priests and brothers in parochial ministry as we seek to bring hope to the Church and world.