SURVEY DETAILS SUBMITTED TO THE DIOCESE OF RICHMOND 2022.03.31
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Waynesboro VA
What were the general demographics of your participants? (Age, Gender, Ethnicity, etc.)
While we did not especially collect this data about each participant, most of the participants were over 50 years old and were white, with a fairly even split between males and females.
What feedback do you have to report from the conversations centered on the theme of Communion? (Synodal Themes 1,2, &4)
Most participants described our parish as caring and welcoming with a strong sense of community, and most also observed that we have fewer young parishioners and families than other churches seem to. Others felt that we could be more inclusive, diverse, approachable, and connected. Participants noted that minorities, unmarried/ divorced adults, non-English speakers, LGBTQ persons, homebound parishioners, people with disabilities, and youth are all more likely to feel marginalized. Some contributing factors include transportation barriers, scheduling, programming, and messaging. While some efforts have been made to be more welcoming and inclusive to those on the margins, many participants felt that there is room for improvement. Expanded communication, intentional outreach, and more frequent events were the most common suggestions. Some respondents felt that new ideas are readily received, while others felt that the parish is not responsive or supportive of suggestions. More deliberate efforts should be made to invite new voices and under- represented groups to participate and lead. The majority of respondents felt that our parish liturgies are inspiring, meaningful, and inclusive, although some noted that it's not easy to join liturgical ministries because the process is not transparent. A few had concerns about continuing to live-stream mass, but most acknowledged the benefits for those with medical conditions, anxiety, or other concerns about attending in-person. Many participants expressed a desire for more youth involvement and/or children's liturgy. A strong majority of responses expressed that the homilies draw upon scripture and are relatable, thought-provoking, and inspiring, and some offered appreciation that Father Rolo posts his homilies on his blog.
What feedback do you have to report from the conversations centered on the themes of Discussion and Dialogue? (Synodal Themes 3, 6, &7)
Many forms of communication were noted (print, broadcast, digital) as well as the challenges created by shifting communication trends. Pope Francis' messages (including his Tweets) are received widely and positively; the Catholic Virginian is a valued source of information; Bishop Barron's Word on Fire Institute resources are also popular. Many noted that digital and social media can aggravate pre-existing divisions, and older people are sometimes excluded from digital/ social media. It is a double-edged sword in that a tremendous amount of content is easily accessible, but there is also much room for misunderstanding. Most people felt that the Church should be doing a better job of facilitating dialogue among Church members. No one could think of good examples of this happening, and most acknowledged that the Church is increasingly polarized. There should be more opportunities for dialogue, healing, and conflict resolution. Respondents expressed strong appreciation for the local ecumenical initiatives and were pleased and proud that our parish participates. However, there was little awareness of the wider Church's attempts at external dialogue beyond Pope Francis’ public comments that seem more accepting and open. Many participants were enthusiastic especially about ecumenical service projects, and they noted that ecumenical engagement fosters understanding and appreciation of each other's faith traditions due to the focus on common values. The primary difficulties are that sustained dialogue and cooperation can be challenging because they require effort to maintain long-term. The messaging from the global Church often seems focused on Respect for Life most of all, but other issues include social justice and care of the earth. Many respondents called for more inclusivity and representation of women and minorities, and more emphasis on social teaching. Some noted that clericalism is a problem and that the Church needs to broaden its approach to decision-making and seek more frequent input from laypeople.
What feedback do you have to report from the conversations centered on the themes of Participation and Mission? (Synodal Themes 5, 8-10)
A majority of participants expressed a desire to revive our parish's Adult Faith Formation programs, but most also expressed that Youth Faith Formation is extremely important. Parish ministries provide many opportunities to live out our faith, although some found it dicult to obtain information about getting involved. The parish directory and website should be updated to ensure that those who are interested know who to contact. The obstacles most frequently mentioned in our parish were (a) lack of understanding of our faith, (b) scandals within the Church, and (c) assumptions about Catholics being rigid and judgmental. Pope Francis models openness and acceptance, which makes it easier for us to interact with people of other faiths. Many felt that some training or preparation would empower them to engage more confidently in conversations about their faith with non- Catholics. Positive feedback focused on the homilies, the liturgy, and past Adult Faith Formation programs. Several recommendations included greater outreach in the community, more diversity within our ministries, and better communication about the opportunities offered by the parish. Many participants expressed a desire for decision-making authority to be shared more with lay leaders, and there was a general impression that we as a parish could accomplish more if this were to happen. Again, it was mentioned that reactivating the Parish Council could facilitate better communication between ministries and parish staff. Our parish does have a wide variety of ministries with lay leadership, and recent efforts to improve coordination among ministries will help to identify and reduce duplication of effort. There was some interest in having more classes and training to prepare parishioners for different roles, and participants seemed keen on getting more young people involved. Most responses suggested that there is room for improvement in forming parish leaders. Some mentioned the LEMI program for staff, catechist training, and Virtus as existing programs, but generally there wasn't much awareness of anything beyond those. Participants observed that some leadership training would empower ministry leaders and those interested in becoming leaders. More clarity is needed about what leadership opportunities exist and how they are dened. Respondents expressed a desire for more opportunities to engage in dialogue and to be heard by leadership. The previous "town hall" events were given as a positive example that should perhaps be replicated more frequently. Parish Council was again mentioned as an important vehicle for parishioners to provide feedback and a way to increase communication and transparency. The consensus was that Father Rolo makes the decisions, and some suggested that certain decisions could potentially be delegated to Parish Council or ministry leaders. However, many said they appreciate that Father Rolo is such a good listener. Overall, there was a desire for more transparency about decision-making, and again, the Parish Council could help with that.
What were the central idea(s) surrounding your parish/community’s discussion of the Fundamental Question? (“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together’: How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our journeying together?”)
Participants overwhelming felt that both our liturgies and our ministries are inspired, effective, and reflective of our shared Christian mission, and that our parish community is caring and inclusive. Still, we recognize that there are steps we could take to make both our liturgies and ministries more welcoming and more diverse. We will continue to reect on how we can adapt our communication, recruitment, and formation programs in order to achieve those goals. We seek from higher levels of our Church both leadership and support in facing the challenges faced by increased polarization as well as declining interest from youth. We also appreciate that women are being given more leadership roles within the Church, and we hope to see that trend continuing. Above all, we are glad to see that the universal Church is reflecting on how we can ensure that all of God's children feel welcome, loved, and cherished.