“Through this project, we have a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the Church and create a new generation of Catholics in our community, particularly the Spanish speaking demographic. We have a Church that is ready to move to the Next Generation, and this project will help leaders be prepared for what trends are important and what competencies are needed to do that. We seek to envision what we want our Church to be and then make that vision a reality”
Fr. Tim Murphy
Imagine you had to drive several hours to work every single day…. or perhaps commute across an entire state to get to your office. Envision doing that for over 25 years. Think about those thousands of miles. Could you do that daily with a smile on your face and joy on your heart?
With few priests and many miles, the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi cover the entire state of Mississippi. Their needs are great, and priests often drive hundreds of miles to cover all of the parishes. While many of the churches have parishioners of under 100 people, these parishes are centers of devout faith.
Catholic Leadership Institute is blessed to be serving the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi thanks to the support of generous philanthropic donors. This partnership with these mission dioceses brings a new perspective to Catholic Leadership Institute’s Next Generation Parish vision. Those leading the parishes are a mix of priest pastors and lay ecclesial ministers—these are lay persons charged with the duties of oversight of a parish because there is not a priest available.
In Biloxi, Catholic Leadership Institute Leadership Consultants have recently completed site visits to each of the participating parishes. Each parish is visited for a weekend where interviews are conducted with the pastors and selected staff and parish members. Additionally, the Leadership Consultants attend Sunday Mass to experience worship from the pews. This information will be combined with a report on the geographic region about demographics that helps them think beyond their current parish population to their extended community. The Diocese of Biloxi will also begin the Disciple Maker Index which will build on this data providing insights on the parishes’ effectiveness in supporting the individual spiritual growth and discipleship of their people.
Our visits have shown God’s wisdom in the pastor assignments as well as the parish selection. So many of the parishioners have shared a renewed hope and energy as a result of their pastors. All of the pastors have expressed a true hope and goodness around the timing of Next Generation in the lives of their parishes. Jim Goodell, one of the Leadership Consultants facilitating the onsite visits, shared, “The honesty of the Pastors and interviewees has been beautiful. Not all glowing, but honest.” This honesty is critical to helping the parish grow, prepare and renew themselves in preparation for the next generation.
In Jackson, the pastors and lay ecclesial ministers have completed their orientation and are looking forward to parish site visits which will begin in 2019, along with the Disciple Maker Index.
There is a great deal of hope coming from all involved in Next Generation Parish in both dioceses. Their openness to have honest conversations, look closely at all facets of parish life and work tirelessly to prepare for the future is inspiring. There is so much anticipation for what this four-year journey will yield for the future of these parishes and their dioceses. We are so grateful for the support of our donors and look forward to sharing more stories from the Next Generation Parish journey with you in the new year.
Photo credit: James M. Missett, Tupelo, MS