Currently, the pastoral council of St. Clare Parish in Buffalo is in the process of establishing parish focus statements and a mission statement to more clearly express the parish goals. Completed drafts of two of these focus statements have been placed in the back of the church to make sure people are aware of how the parish aims to serve the community.
The pastoral council, led by pastor Father Steven Pavignano, OFM, opted to focus on four key areas - prayer and worship formation, faith formation, social mission and community building - as it decided on the wording of the focus statements. The members of the council will create one focus statement for each of these, and plan to use these as a springboard for St. Clare's mission statement. Two of these focus statements have already been formalized and are now available for public viewing.
"Posters of the focus statements for both the prayer and worship formation and the Christian faith formation were created and are hanging in the back of the church, so everyone who comes to St. Clare can read what St. Clare is all about as we continue to strive to become a more vibrant and active worshipping community for all people," Dolores Gajewski, a pastoral council member, said.
The prayer and worship focus statement reads, "We strive to be inclusive of people's spiritual needs by providing uplifting, meaningful, reflective rituals and devotions. We wish to avoid any sense that our prayer and worship is 'holier than thou,' 'just a Sunday obligation,' repetitious or boring." It focuses on the Mass, the sacraments, the rosary, devotions, morning and evening prayer, liturgical ministry, hymn singing and the choir. The parish will improve positions including the congregation, ministers of Holy Communion, hospitality, ushers, lectors and ministers of the Word, presiders, servers and the music ministry. The parish will assess the congregation's needs and begin retraining for all liturgical ministers.
According to the faith formation focus statement, the parish will strengthen programs including Bible study, youth and adult religious education, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, training for catechists, preparation for receiving sacraments, prayer and meditation, and retreats. The statement says focus will be on age-appropriate programs for children and adults to "develop a growing desire for lifelong faith formation in our parish. After completing an assessment of the congregation's needs and how to solve any issues, the parish's leadership will prepare catechists for this year's religious education and do research on the "available formats, programs and events already available in the area that we can learn from."
St. Clare Parish was formed in 2007 from the consolidation of the former Precious Blood, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St. Valentine, SS. Rita and Patrick and St. Stephen parishes as part of the Journey in Faith and Grace. Father Pavignano said the parish decided to make the focus statements to unite these five separate communities and find some common ground among them.
"It's an attempt to get these five former parishes to start having a common vision for the new parish, St. Clare, because when they merged, there was no common mission or vision," Father Pavignano said. "This is an attempt to have a common view, to do some healing of hurts caused by the merger, so everyone is saying, 'This is what St. Clare is doing. It's not what we used to do at such-and-such parish.'"
The council has not yet made the other two focus statements, social mission and community building, and will do so in the fall. This involves more brainstorming and newsprint, but Gajewski said, "It is all worth the effort, as we see how the focus statements of the St. Clare Parish community will help guide our efforts to be that vibrant and active worshipping community striving to build God's kingdom."
Father Pavignano said the process involved drafting the focus statements and sending them out to the members of the parish. The parishioners were given two weeks to respond to the statements, offer their feedback and suggest recommended changes. Once this portion was complete, the council reviewed the written comments that came in and studied them carefully. They repeatedly sent out revised drafts of the statement and explained why each parishioner's considerations were or were not included.
"It wasn't like the first draft that went out, everybody said, 'Yeah, fine,'" Father Pavignano said. "After the final time it was sent out and we got no real (complaints), we did a final draft with some words missing, sent that out. Two weeks later, we asked for a consensus vote: do you support this statement, do you not support it, or do you have reservations? If you voted 'no,' you had to tell us why, because if someone had reasons to vote 'no' and had a good reason for voting 'no,' we had to reconsider it again."
Father Pavignano said both of the two final focus statement drafts had three negative comments apiece, so they were overwhelmingly accepted. However, he said the actual implementation of procedures might be problematic, since the first statement calls for the retraining of all liturgical ministers. Gajewski said this increased training for Eucharistic and other ministers would ultimately benefit parishioners and visitors if they need direction with something, or needed to know where to go. Father Pavignano said he faced some criticism when he told the community that the parish would begin doing this.
"We started doing that, and a couple of people said, 'Why are you doing this?' I looked at them, pointed to the copy of the statement and said, 'Because that's what you told me you wanted done,'" Father Pavignano said. "Part of that is now, how do we implement the Christian faith formation focus statement? So we use them, and I think people are starting to realize that I don't take these documents lightly."
Gajewski added, "There have been questions about 'What is this about?' and 'What are we doing with this?' and 'How come we're doing this now?' They're just the typical questions people would ask," Gajewski said. "Of course you're going to have a few (negative responses), but the pros outweigh the cons ... like they say, change is hard, and some people don't accept why are you changing this when we did this before, so why are you doing this now? Just that type that you get into any parish."