As part of formation for solemn vows as a Franciscan friar, you spend a whole year living outside the world of formation and studies. You live with a friar community involved in full-time ministry. I was assigned to a large parish in Raleigh, N.C. It is a large parish with almost 5,000 households and lots of ministries, meetings, activities, and all manner of things that occurred day and night.
One weekday evening after finishing a meal and cleaning up in the kitchen, I happened to look out the window into the parish parking lot. The friary was located in one corner of the 40-acre campus and afforded a view of the whole upper parking lot… (pausing here to recall being in a parish with unlimited parking…sigh!…) Anyway…the entire lot was filled, and lights were on over in the parish offices, meeting rooms, and gathering spaces. Looking over my shoulder I asked my brother friars if any of them had meetings this night. We were all there and not a one of us had a meeting to attend. While we were generally aware of what was going on in the parish, on this particular evening, we could only guess what exactly was unfolding in those gatherings.
Out there across the parking lot was a parish vibrantly in action and all the priests (and the intern) were ensconced in our house for the evening. While some folks reading this might offer that “those friars need to get up and be with the people,” that was not my take on the events of that night. My reaction was, “this is what a parish is meant to be. Lay women and men taking to heart their baptismal vows and bringing their gifts and talents to bear in ministry. They are not awaiting the priests. They know what is theirs to do.”
Of course, the friars had been involved in shepherding the start of all the ministries, but the parish was filled with talented, gifted and experienced women and men who were more than capable of starting, leading, and carrying on the work of Christ. The view from the kitchen was a window of what a parish could be – disciples in mission – everyone, be they ordained or not. All are baptized and it is in the waters of Redemption that our call to mission is rooted.
Nine years ago, when I became pastor, “the view from the kitchen window” was very different. We had a limited number of ministries and there was very much the idea that “we need one of the priests to____.” Depending on the ministry the “blank” was always something different, but there was this notion that unless the priest was present, the ministry was somehow less. That notion made it a little harder to start needed ministries or to energize existing ministries – there are only so many priests.
Even then, having already been here a few years, I knew the parish was filled with as many talented and amazing people as I came to know in Raleigh. We just needed to have the sense of what we as a community could accomplish. People needed to believe they were called to mission because of their baptism and would have the support of the community for whatever shape the mission took on.
What is the “view from the window” today? Lots of good and holy stuff going on and I am generally aware of it all, but on any given evening….I know there are lots of amazing women and men who are living out their baptismal vows ad majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God. What exactly are they doing? If you want me to recount a “project report”, thanks be to God, that is no longer possible. The breadth and depth of ministry is wonderfully growing and interconnecting. It is hard to keep up, and you know what, I don’t keep up. From time to time, I check in, but as I said, there are amazing women and men living out their faith.
Did you know we have an Outreach Committee? The role of the committee is to gather ministry leaders and people of faith to continually refine our vision of outreach to the greater Tampa community. As the parish dynamically grows and changes, the committee continues to look ahead to anticipate what might be needed and what we might be called to do.
And at the same time, there is a synergy of people who are brought together in that committee and through contact in that committee there is amazing fruit coming to harvest. I hope you had a chance to read last week’s bulletin, the article titled, “A Display of God’s Love for Our Neighbors in Need.” It is a story about a number of parish ministries coming together to help “Anna B.” and her six kids transition from homelessness and foster care to a reunited family living under one roof – a place that was in need of lots of repair and elbow grease. It is a great example of me sort’a knowing what was going on, but only in a general way. And that is not just OK, that is great! It is a parish of disciples living out their mission.
Here is just a partial list of some great outreach ministries doing what is theirs to do – and I only have a general idea of what’s next for them: Men’s Prayer Group (an amazing amount of ministries and volunteers arising from this group), Knights of Columbus (their growth over that last three years speaks volumes about mission and faith), Open Doors (so active in projects and outreach to the community), Council of Catholic Women (anchors of fellowship and charitable works), Young Professionals (they volunteer for so many events and have their own ministry in addition), Love INC (technically an independent organization, but so many of the staff and volunteers are parishioners – including the founders). And there are certainly more ministries not mentioned here. All of these arising from faith lived large.
What is the “view from the kitchen window?” A parish where people are starting to live the words of the prophet: “I, the LORD, have called you…I have grasped you by the hand…I formed you…and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6)