Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Anne DiBernardo - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | Of the 16 Parish Excellence Awards given to parishes throughout the country for their intense dedication during the pandemic, two of them just happened to be in the Archdiocese of Miami. Blessed Trinity in Miami Springs won the New Service Ministry Award, and St. James in North Miami won the Community Prayer Via Technology Award.
The five-day, virtual Parish Excellence Summit, held Nov. 9-13, 2020, featured 40 speakers who shared strong practices in all aspects of parish ministries and life while recognizing parishes that excelled during COVID-19. The summit was an opportunity to share those strong practices and inspire other parishes and leaders to imitate what is working.
Scot Landry, a Catholic executive who has led numerous organizations including Catholic Voices USA, iCatholic Media, and The Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Boston, teamed up with the Parish Excellence Summit and Good Catholic Leadership Group to create the awards.
Blessed Trinity pastor Father Jose Alfaro had no clue his parish was nominated for the New Service Ministry Award.
“I was blown away,” he said, emphasizing that it was a blessing just to be nominated. “The day the parish won the award they tagged the Facebook page, and I could see the congratulations to these parishes, but I didn’t know if we were mentioned honorably or if we won the award."
To be considered for the New Service Ministry Award, the parish had to demonstrate that it had launched substantially new ministries to address the needs and challenges of the pandemic. The ministries could be either corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Blessed Trinity developed three new ministries to serve those significantly impacted by the epidemic: Side by Side, Caravanning for Christ and Biking for Joy.
Landry cited Blessed Trinity’s Side by Side ministry, "which partners individuals who will benefit from generosity with those who are willing to be generous."
The Knights of Columbus gave their support by preparing meals and delivering them to people in need. The school provided meals for school families, and some of the parishioners honed their culinary talents during the pandemic. The parish received many donations of milk and food items. Even the expired milk was used to make homemade cheese to share with others. Another parishioner used a special family recipe to make and sell arroz con leche and donated the income from the sale to the parish.
"Overall, they served over 100 families with food,” Landry said.
Caravanning for Christ involved a group of parishioners making weekly visits to those who were not able to leave their home. In response to its success, the priests created Biking for Joy, a similar outreach aimed at having young adults join the priests in bike rides to the homes of parishioners who were separated from others. They brought them Communion and prayed for their special intentions.
“You never do anything to be recognized on earth. It is humbling. It is nice to be recognized. This is for my people and my staff, who work so hard to make Christ present,” Father Alfaro said.
According to Marmara Cadet, parish business manager, the staff at St. James in North Miami, were equally surprised and honored to win the Prayer Via Technology Award. Their pastor is Msgr. Chanel Jeanty, who is also the archdiocese's chancellor for administration. Considerations for this award included a parish's ability to pivot during COVID-19 to provide opportunities for continued prayer and other devotions, the use of innovative approaches to engage more people in prayer that could be shared with other parishes, and making sure the technology did not impede the ability to pray reverently.
Although the trilingual parish is not affluent, St. James invested in technology to bring people together for prayer. Sunday and daily Masses were livestreamed in Haitian Creole, Spanish, and English via the parish website and Facebook page. The parish launched the campaign Doers of the Word, Living for the Lord to read the word of God, pray the rosary, and do one good work daily through Facebook page challenges and text messages.
In addition, the parish launched a “stay with me” campaign to motivate parishioners to download its new mobile app in order to stay connected and to improve online giving. Parish staff encouraged use of the app through personal phone calls to all parishioners.
They continued their religious education classes online and their prayer ministry sessions continue via Zoom and Microsoft Team, connecting catechists with parents, youth, and children in the faith formation program.
The Legion of Mary and the Madres y Padres Orantes were both particularly active using technology to pray for the parish’s intentions and for those affected by COVID-19. They livestreamed holy hour every Saturday morning after Mass, with worship and praise music in all three languages.