A Roman Catholic presence in the Shenandoah Valley since 1932

synod recommendations

St. John the Evangelist - Synod Listening Sessions - Parish Strengths and Recommendations

Question Strengths Recommendations

How would you characterize your Church community-the people who are journeying together?

Our parish is friendly, welcoming, caring, with many active ministries, and we strive to be inclusive.

We should make more deliberate efforts to reach out to underrepresented groups, and we should provide more opportunities for outreach in the community.

What persons or groups are left on the margins?

We used to have a Spanish mass, and we are attentive to the homebound. Homilies and communications are sensitive and thoughtful.

We should implement strategies for engaging young people, the LGBTQ population, non-English speakers, those with disabilities, and those without transportation.

How is your parish inviting those on the margins into relationship?

Father Rolo is the epitome of a welcoming person; he models that kind of open presence. We use many formats of communication, including the bulletin, the website, Facebook, and Flocknote. Our Friends ministry, Disciples Kitchen, Haiti Ministry, and involvement with WARM are some of the best examples.

We should strive towards expanded communication about opportunities for involvement, intentional outreach to underrepresented groups, and more frequent events, now that infection rates are declining in our area. We should consider the needs of working people, parents of young children, and those without cars when scheduling meetings and activities.

Who does our Church currently listen to? Who is not being listened to? Which groups are less likely to be listened to? Who is being left out of the conversation?

Parish staff members strive to be responsive to a wide variety of needs and requests, despite limited time and resources. In the past, the Parish Council offered an easy way for parishioners to provide feedback.

Targeted outreach is needed in order to reach marginalized groups. Parish members need an easier way to have their voices heard within the parish. It would be good to have a little more diversity among parish leaders and ministry leaders.

Do our liturgies promote the active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy and encourage them to live lives of faith?

Most respondents agreed that our liturgies are inspiring and engaging. Prayer of the faithful hits on modern issues and reminds us of our mission.

We should trouble-shoot acoustical problems and involve more young people in the liturgy. There should be more frequent training opportunities.

Does the homily draw from the Word of God and inspire the faithful?

The consensus was that the homilies are scripture-based, engaging, inspiring, relatable, appropriately humorous, challenging, and relevant to our daily lives.

There were some suggestions that homilies could be less political, less abstract, more direct, and more practical. Some requested that more church doctrine be explicitly included in homilies.

Under what circumstances and in what ways are Catholics communicating in the world today?

Parish members appreciate the various forms of communication offered, as each is useful to a different segment of the parish. The bulletin, the website, Facebook, Flocknote, and the Catholic Virginian were all mentioned.

Requests were made for more dialogue and less micro-management. Many seemed to feel that they weren’t fully aware of events and activities happening at church.

How does the prevalence of digital and social media affect communication?

While there was consensus that digital and social media can be polarizing, misleading, and exclusionary to a degree, most acknowledged the tremendous amount of resources and possibilities as positive. Many appreciated that mass is live-streamed and that Father Rolo’s homilies are available online.

Parish members would appreciate more curation of digital / social media resources by parish staff. Some suggested more opportunities for in-person dialogue about issues that are divisive and/or training for Catholics about how to respond to questions and criticism.

How is the Church dialoguing, collaborating, and resolving conflicts among its own members in the Church?

Previously, the Parish Council seemed to be an effective way for concerns to be communicated and addressed.

Most expressed that we need more opportunities for dialogue and conflict resolution. We need to find common ground and listen to different perspectives rather than allowing “echo chambers” to persist.

How is the Church dialoguing, collaborating, and resolving conflicts with members of other Christian denominations, people of other non-Christian religious traditions, and people with no religious affiliation?

Parishioners are very pleased with our participation with the local LARCUM group, It is a source of pride that was mentioned very frequently. There were many who said they appreciated the Lenten Lunches in the past as well as other ecumenical services.

Many would like to hear more about opportunities to serve through LARCUM. Some felt unaware of efforts to dialogue with non-Christians and would like to see more of that happening.

What have been the fruits of doing so, and what have been the difficulties?

One major benefit has been mutual appreciation of each other’s respective faiths. Another has been greater involvement in the community. It is inspiring to work alongside other Christians.

Obviously, the pandemic has made all of these activities more difficult. Communication (both within the parish and between churches) is challenging to maintain, as well as sustained effort and involvement. Several noted that LARCUM needs more structure.

What areas and issues in the wider society is the Church focused on? Are there areas or issues we need to pay more attention to?

Respondents perceived that the Church seems to be focused on preventing abortion above all else, but they noted that the Pope has also communicated about social justice and care for the earth.

Parish members called for more time, energy, and resources to be dedicated to: Respect Life, feeding and housing the poor, injustice, environment/ climate change, racism, women’s issues, welcoming immigrants and LGBTQ persons. Some were concerned about clericalism.

How is the parish equipping and empowering people to go out and be on mission for Jesus Christ in their regular lives?

Our parish has a wide variety of ministries that facilitate putting our faith into action. In the past, our adult faith formation programs also supported our Christian mission. Many appreciated the Be My Witness program. The new Social Outreach Ministry will help to empower parishioners.

There were multiple requests for a parish-level stewardship coordinator to oversee and integrate parishioners in the mission of the parish and ensure that they have the resources to succeed. We need more ministry formation programs to help identify callings and develop gifts. We also need to continually update ministry information and make it accessible.

What obstacles do the faithful face in living and professing their faith publicly?

Our adult faith formation was very strong before the pandemic. Be My Witness was very helpful in preparing parish members for living and professing their faith.

Some Catholics lack understanding of their faith and need help responding to questions and criticism. Other participants mentioned the scandals within the global Church and how that can make it difficult to be Catholic. Others mentioned various misconceptions about Catholicism.

What opportunities is the parish providing to help the faithful face those obstacles? What is still needed?

Current programs include Breaking Open the Word, small group meetings, and Cursillo meetings. Homilies provide confidence and courage to address obstacles.

There is a need for more adult faith formation. Educational programs based on scripture and doctrine will help ensure that Catholics are better prepared to dialogue with people of different faiths.

How are lay leaders given responsibility and to what extent do they have the authority to make decisions?

Within our own ministries, we're given opportunities to follow our own instincts, and we can ask for advice when needed. Father Rolo is probably more apt to seek input than other pastors. When Parish Council was active, it was the most prominent leadership opportunity.

Some ministry leaders reported feeling frustrated by their lack of authority. There were multiple pleas for authority to be delegated to some lay leaders. Some suggested there should be fewer barriers to ministry activities (i.e., “red tape and resistance”.) The majority of respondents want to reinstate Parish Council.

What opportunities does your parish or community offer to raise people up into leadership positions?

Those who come forward with ideas are encouraged to pursue them. Periodically, there are calls for help with particular ministries, especially liturgical ministries. Often, people volunteer to lead rather than being selected to lead.

Many felt that the path to leadership should be more transparent and deliberate, and that information should be more accessible about leadership opportunities. The scheduling of training opportunities can be a barrier for those who work or have young children.

How are those in leadership roles formed to make them more capable of journeying together?

Some ministries do mini-retreats/training sessions where they take time to refocus their members on their mission, purpose and objectives. It is an opportunity to listen and engage with the others in the ministry.

Parishioners need guidance and support to serve in leadership roles. Leadership training and workshops about collaboration and teamwork would help. Many felt that we should offer more training opportunities.

How does your parish offer opportunities for those in leadership to listen and engage in dialogue with those they are journeying with?

The town hall was a great opportunity for parishioners to give input. The Synod listening sessions have been very helpful.

Communication could be more consistent and clear between ministry leaders and parish staff. Many mentioned frustration with a lack of responsiveness and felt that Parish Council would improve communications.

How are decisions made for the parish or community?

Father Rolo makes all of the decisions; he does listen, but no one else is involved in making decisions.

There were many requests to involve more parish members in decision-making. Many participants felt that some authority could be delegated. The process should also be more transparent.