Saturday, November 29, 2014
Cristina Cabrera Jarro
MIAMI | On Nov. 11, nine pastors from nine parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami began a 14-month journey toward transforming their parishes into places of welcome and evangelization.
Selected by Archbishop Thomas Wenski, these are the pilot parishes for the implementation of the Strategic Pastoral Plan that resulted from the Second General Archdiocesan Synod, whose theme was “Disciples in Faith, Missionaries of Hope.”
The plan calls for the formation of a parish team, comprised of a pastor and seven parishioners, who will receive training from the staff of the Catholic Leadership Institute over 12 monthly sessions, beginning in January 2015 and ending in February 2016.
The nine parishes and their pastors are:
- Blessed Trinity, Miami Springs, Father Jose Alfaro
- Immaculate Conception, Hialeah, Father Manny Alvarez
- Mary Help of Christians, Parkland, Father Thomas Wisniewski
- Our Lady of Lourdes, Miami, Msgr. Kenneth Schwanger
- St. Francis de Sales, Miami Beach, Father Gabriel Vigues
- St. Gregory, Plantation, Father Michael Hoyer
- St. Louis, Pinecrest, Father Paul Vuturo
- St. Mark, Southwest Ranches, Father Edmond Whyte
- St. Timothy, Miami, Msgr. Tomas Marin
“Our synod goals call us to provide training to parishes to help foster and sustain a more ‘welcoming environment and active discipleship’,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a letter to the selected pastors. “While the participation in the workshops will require significant commitment from you and your parish team, I believe it is a valuable investment for the future of your parish and the good of the archdiocese.”
The teams will be trained and equipped to grow, as Pope Francis described, as “missionary disciples.” Among their goals is to evangelize and inspire parishioners — especially those who may not attend Mass weekly — to become more involved with their faith and their parish.
But how will these “disciples” learn to evangelize?
“Research shows that people connect through stories, by sharing their personal witness,” said Daniel Cellucci, vice president of Episcopal and Client Services at the Catholic Leadership Institute, who led the orientation for the pastors. “Why shouldn’t we talk about scripture and Jesus Christ in the same manner that we talk about the stories of our closest friends?
Pastors have yet to select their parish team, but they have been given a list of criteria for possible candidates. Some qualities that pastors will be looking for include a good personality, energy, credibility, loyalty, and the respect of their peers.
“It’s going to be 100 percent tough to fill,” said Father Michael Hoyer of St. Gregory. “I had some individuals in mind, but I need to re-examine the criteria. I am going to search for individuals that are not afraid to witness. But I also want to find those with the ‘gift of gab’ and those that can’t hold their Jesus in.”
Surprisingly, one of the most difficult aspects of selection will be finding individuals who can commit to attending 12 sessions over 14 months, each from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at various locations throughout the diocese.
But Sister Elizabeth Worley, archdiocesan chancellor for administration, told the pastors not to worry. “Extend the invitation to collaborate,” she said. “Tell them why you’ve asked them. You’ll be surprised.”
Cellucci agreed, noting that “people who want to be a part of the team will find ways of being there.”