New Parishes: Stronger Together — Update

Reflection by Patrick Salah

Weekend of January 5/6, 2019 — Epiphany of the Lord

Before I preach the homily, I am going to share an important letter from His Grace, Anthony Mancini, Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth, dated January 1, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God:

Dear friends,

The Feast of Mary the Mother of God celebrates the new divine life brought forth by Mary’s collaboration with God’s plan for humanity. Mary’s essential role, however, was not without its concerns. The gospel tells us that Mary pondered what she heard in her heard. Her thoughts, I have no doubt, were marked by numerous concrete questions; her feelings, I am sure, were mixed as she struggled to make sense of her changed life; and surely, she reflected on the future outcome of this journey she accepted to go on. We can all imagine and appreciate that Mary gave much time and attention wondering, “what happens now”?

This same question is also a significant one for our Archdiocese and it has been on the minds of many of us, for the past few years, as we pondered the future of our local Church and what new life might look like at this point in our journey of faith.

On this feast day of Mary, which celebrated the new life and hope given to us all, I chose to inaugurate the plan for the reorganization of our Archdiocese.

What happens now begins today with the first steps for transitioning our existing diocese from its 65 parishes and 25 missions to a new Archdiocese made up of 20 new parishes. This process is being initiated so that we can become more effective in proposing Jesus Christ, so that we can better face the challenge of relevancy for today’s circumstance. The conversion of our structure also calls for a conversion of mind and heart as well as a conversion of our ways of doing and being.

New Parishes: Stronger Together, therefore, is an essential part of “Equip the Saints”, the three year plan to renew our Archdiocese.

Today, we move from consultation to implementation of a vision which requires the collaboration of many in the one mission of Chris. This means bringing out people of faith together and identifying their gifts and talents so that in our new parishes we will have the people necessary to draw upon for transparent models of leadership, shared ministry, in improved structures, focused on becoming missionary disciples.

As I announce today the groupings, which will merge into the 20 new parishes, I am conscious of the work that needs to be done through 2019 so that the new parishes can all be in place by January 1, 2020. Clearly the implementation of this reorganization will take place in phases.

The first phase of implementation requires existing parishes to form transition teams within their new grouping. These teams of 6-8 people will be made up of pastors and representative parishioners from each church in the grouping. Their task will be to lay the groundwork for a merger of the separate entities that will take place throughout 2019 and be completed by December 31, 2019.

After the new parish comes into existence a moderator will be appointed to lead the new parish on the path of growth toward becoming a community of missionary disciples. The moderator will work with the clergy, leadership team, pastoral council, and finance council to realize this new vision for parish life.

In Psalm 127, we are reminded that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labour in vain.” Transition and renewal are impossible if they are not built on a foundation of prayer. Thus, on this feast day of Mary, patroness of our diocese and of the New Evangelization, I beg her intercession for our whole diocesan church as we make the necessary steps to make her Son more known in our diocese. I also call on each and every one of the faithful to turn their hearts to God in fervent prayer for our local Church, for those in the Church, and for those far from the Church. Please take the opportunity to pray, with me, in all of our personal and communal devotional times.

Sincerely in Christ,
+ Anthony Mancini

As was said in the letter, this phase of implementation comes after three years of consultation. Much work has been done by the archbishop and his team, by the priests and deacons, and by lay-people in all of our parishes. Many of our own parishioners have been involved in the process of prayer and consultations, participating in pastoral planning meetings, and the annual diocesan gathering; the Assembly of the People of God. Concretely, in our context, The Parish of St. Thomas More, the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul, and Mission La Sainte Famille (the French Mission), will become one new parish. Such a unification requires two important pieces, the canonical or legal piece, and the pastoral piece.

The canonical piece is quite simple. To become one new parish, all that is required is a single pastoral council, a single finance council, a single bank account uniting all the existing assets and liabilities, and a new parish name. Let me be clear – this building will continue to be known by the patronage of St. Thomas More, and this applies to the other buildings, but our new community, the living Church, that is the parish, will come under a new name. The process of choosing that name will be determined by the transition team. That is the canonical piece, which for the most part is mere paperwork. And, while we could do just that and satisfy the legal requirements of becoming one new parish, we would be shortchanging ourselves, and so many others.

At the heart of the restructuring of our archdiocese is the call to pastoral conversion and renewal. Look around. Our buildings are not full anymore. Parishes are struggling to stay afloat. Our congregations are aging, and it seems that fewer and fewer young people are keeping their faith or taking an active role in the life of the faith community. And we have to ask the question, why? Why is this the case? Because unless we get to the cause – it doesn’t matter how many canonical restructurings we do – we will continue to fade away. This restructuring is not merely our grasping at self-preservation, it is not an attempt to detain the inevitable, nor is it an elaborate display of smoke and mirrors to obscure the truth. Yes – we must become a new canonical parish, but this parish has to be a new kind of parish that effectively presents the person of Jesus Christ as intensely relevant, as God – who knows and loves each of us – and who desires to be in right-relationship with us.

While His Grace published this letter on New Years Day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, He instructed that it be read today, on the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. And, I am struck by how beautifully this letter and this Feast dovetail together.

When we think of the word, “Epiphany,” we think of an “aha” moment – Eureka! – a light bulb turning on. Indeed – the Epiphany of our Lord – is just that. It is the occasion by which the divinity of Jesus Christ is made manifest. Traditionally, three biblical stories are associated with this manifestation. The Wedding Feast at Cana, the Baptism of the Lord, and the arrival of the three magi, which we heard in today’s gospel. At Cana, the son of the carpenter performed his first miracle. When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, the heaven’s opened, and the Father’s voice was heard by all who were present, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We will hear that passage proclaimed next Sunday.

In today’s Gospel – three magi come from afar to worship Jesus. They are not Jews seeking the long-awaited Messiah, they are Gentiles, who have come to recognize in the child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the midst of barnyard animals – the Redeemer of all mankind. For God sent His Son into the world, not just for the Jewish people, for all flesh, and for all time. And though the magi were learned men, who heard that such an event would transpire – it was only by the light of the star that they were able to come to Jesus – to encounter Him in the flesh. As we heard in today’s Gospel Acclamation, “We observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay homage to the Lord.”

In Fr. Toochukwu’s Christmas homily he spoke of the action of the star; its necessary role in leading the magi to Jesus. Fr. Toochukwu then challenged each of us to consider by what means we participate in that same action of the star, leading others to Jesus. Building upon this idea I offer you three points for reflection. We cannot lead others to Jesus, unless we ourselves are in fact with Jesus. If we are with Jesus, we cannot remain in His presence without offering our own gift to Him, like the magi. Not because our Lord demands of us in anyway, but because an encounter with the generous love of God for us manifested in the person of Jesus Christ necessitates in us a means of reciprocating that love back to the Father, through His Son. And we cannot come to such a profound encounter with Jesus, unless like those wise men – we in fact get up and go to seek Him. To seek Jesus, to offer Him our gifts, and to become the star by which others may seek Him. This journey of faith is contained in our parish vision statement: Come Encounter Christ, Joyfully Share His Love, Go Make Disciples. This pastoral vision for the 3 Church is what the second piece of the restructuring is all about. Becoming parishes that serve as the star shining in the midst of our local community, drawing all to seek and find Jesus. Jesus did not come just for you and me. He came for everyone else too. For our family and friends who have yet to encounter Him. But if we are to become all the Holy Spirit is calling us to be in our world, in this place, in this time, if the Holy Spirit is truly to fulfill His mandate of renewing the entire face of the earth, you and I must open up our own hearts, to allows such a renewal to begin within us.

In less than a year we will take care of the legal work of becoming one canonical parish, but it will be in the coming years of prayer and work that we will slowly and intentionally undergo this pastoral conversion – so that as we sang in today’s psalm response, “Every nation on earth will adore You, O Lord.”

I wish to conclude by praying a prayer in unity with our Archbishop, which he included at the end of his letter:

Heavenly Father,

As our Archdiocese enters a decisive time of transition, we ask you to sustain our efforts to be faithful to what you are asking of us so that we become better equipped to meet the challenges of the New Evangelization.

Give us the courage and insight to take on the task of purification and renewal necessary to become a more credible Church.

Grant us the knowledge and understanding required to respond to the call of pastoral conversion and the demands for a more missionary and mature expression of Christian discipleship for our time.

May your Holy Spirit release in us the gift of wisdom to make the necessary choices and decisions to make of our new parishes: centres of evangelistic outreach, united communities of communities, welcoming centres of prayer, learning, ministry and worship; environments of healing, reconciliation and care of the poor.

Provide for us clergy and laity who are skilled in leadership to guide this transformative journey of faith.

We ask all this thought our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

September 2018 Leadership Summit

Leadership Summit Talks

September 15, 2018 from 10am-5pm

 

Vision Statement for Saint Thomas More, by Fr. Toochukwu

What is Leadership? by Ron Huntley from Divine Renovation

 

Group Discussion

 

Comments about the Many Changes in Our Parish by Nora Muise

Sharing Our Story, by Becca Arend

 

 

Attachments

Alpha Testimony: Kim Ingalls

September 15th/16th

A little bit about me

My name is Kim Ingalls. I am happily married for almost 12 years.  My husband and I have 2 beautiful daughters, Sara and Emily.  I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist at the QEII, specializing in Peripheral Blood and Bone Marrow morphology.  

I grew up Catholic. Our family went to church regularly.  As I got older and left home, I drifted away from the church.  I became a holiday church goer (Christmas and Easter). When I got engaged, like many couples, we went to church more often.   Once married we again drifted away. Then we had children and we knew we wanted them to have something to believe in, so we started making church more of a priority.   Continue reading “Alpha Testimony: Kim Ingalls”

The First shall be last

We are now in week 3 of our homily series on hospitality. Last week Bill spoke about living out our vision as a parish and the need to demonstrate love, joy and excitement as we venture through the community(s) mission of making disciples. Bill also said that we must sacrifice ourselves in making this vision and hospitality a reality in our parish.

In today’s gospel Jesus presents to us a concept that is truly counter cultural. He tells us that, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” This is truly contrary to the world’s thinking these days which is a “me first culture” and selfish ambition to be greater than others. Such attitude says St. James leads to jealousy and fighting. He invites us to serve one another in love. In other words, those who are leader or aspire to be leaders in our church or society must first be servants. St. Gregory the great was the first Pope to have called himself the “Servants of the Servants of God”.

The main point stressed here is that, in the Kingdom of God, there is no room for those who seek their own fame, glory, or comfort. No wonder when the apostles were arguing who is the greatest, Jesus “Taking a child, placed it in their midst, and putting His arms around it, said to them, ‘Whoever does not receive the kingdom like a child will not enter the kingdom of God. The little ones are the children, but those that are forgotten or cast aside in our society are the little ones as well. We must welcome them into our parishes and cover them with kindness and hope. Fortunately, many pastoral ministries in our parish are serving the poor and the needy in different ways. Such groups as St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus, etc. We appreciate all the services they provide and encourage all our

parishioners to continue promoting the culture of service and hospitality to enable us build a healthy faith community devoid of jealousy and selfish ambition.

Pope Francis recently spoke about Hospitality being a Christian virtue. He warned that it runs the risk of being left aside and being lost. We often define hospitality as offering guests food, drink and caring for their needs. True hospitality, however, involves more than these actions. True hospitality is making someone feel as part of the family in your home or parish and sharing the good news of God’s love with them.

I would like to illustrate how important hospitality is with two examples. One is from my life and the other is from a good friend’s experience.

I recall visiting a church out in Saskatchewan 20 some years ago. It was the first time there and I was a bit nervous and I didn’t know a soul. I walked into the church and was immediately greeted by someone who asked me who I was, and they told me a bit about the church. From the first moment I walked in that church, I felt the warmth and the welcoming joy of community. No word of a lie, it took me 15 minutes to get from the foyer to the sanctuary, because I suddenly had a flock of new friends. It was a lovely relationship with that church, and community that lasted the whole time I was there. Truly there was an atmosphere of welcome, and service. However, it is not just about bringing people into the church for the first time, it is about nurturing and caring for each other long term, as we continue on our Christian journey. A very good friend of mine grew up in an evangelical church. About 30 years ago she married very young and by the age of 19 she had two children. Everything was fine in her church until she ended up being separated and eventually divorced from her husband. After all that happened to her, the church community turned their back on my friend and suddenly she was a single mom

with no community support. The ramifications of that have left scars that lasted to this day. After many years she has gone to church again, but there are still some weeks when she says, “I can’t do it this week.”

For me, these are two examples of just how important our mission to make disciples is, and the result of how our actions may affect people’s relationship with God. Our actions can make guests who are still searching to decide whether or not they would continue on the journey. Hence, as a community we will become hospitable if every parishioner can share the same passion for inviting and welcoming our guests as if they are family members. There is no room for being territorial when we are inviting others to sit at the table of the Lord with us.

I really relish my role as a Deacon, and having a chance to serve here at St. Thomas More Parish. In a very real sense I have one foot as a member of the clergy, and I get to experience the blessings of that, and I have the other foot in the laity, so I get to experience the blessings of that as well. And I feel I understand the nervousness and anxiety we might feel going outside our comfort zones in order to be welcoming in our parish. I studied for around 7 years to be a Deacon and I recall being so nervous the first time I went to a wake at a funeral home. I remember thinking I could use 7 more years of preparation. It’s not easy to go outside our comfort zone. If you’re like me, sometimes you are unsure of how to take the first step, and move outside your comfort zone. That for me, is the perfect time to take your hesitation and uncertainty to prayer, and ask the Lord to help guide you in how you can help the newcomer into our parish, or any of the “little ones” that walk through the door. We encourage everyone to try to meet someone new every week or whenever we have our coffee social. Commit to pray for

that person throughout the week, and say hello to them the next Sunday or give them a call to check on them if you have their number.

Let us pray today for the grace to grow in faith together and to share our joys, our sorrows, and to encounter Christ, to joyfully share his love, and to make disciples in his glory. We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN!

Who Do People Say That I Am? Mark 8.27-35 September 15th, 2018, reflection by Bill Grady

Last weekend we started a homily series on Hospitality. Fr. Toochukwu began his homily by reiterating the Saint Thomas More Vision Statement. Do we remember what the three statement components were? Well! Let’s begin with the first one: (a) Come Encounter Christ. Can anyone help me with the second one? (b) Joyfully Share His love; and the third one? (c) Go Make Disciples.

To live out this vision statement, we must demonstrate love, joy and excitement as we venture through the community(s) mission of making disciples. We must sacrifice ourselves in doing so. As Father expressed, it is us taking the initiative to make some sacrifices in order to accommodate others, welcoming people to our parish in a more hospitable manner, to enable them have a sense of belonging to the Church and the community.

In today’s Gospel from Mark 8:27-35, we heard that Jesus went on with his disciples to the village of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and to die…

The question we may ask ourselves is, “Why is it such an act of faith for Peter to proclaim Christ specifically in Caesarea Philippi?” Caesarea Philippi is an ancient Sin-City where pagan fertility gods were worshipped, and the message Christ was bringing could potentially be fatal to those who openly followed it, and yet, Peter boldly proclaims the truth that Jesus is the Messiah in this

particular place. Though Peter’s conviction wavered and he ultimately denied Christ, his proclamation meant he was willing to die for what he believed. With this Jesus wants his disciples to know that the proclamation of faith, comes with some sacrifices, and may even lead to death.

In the first reading, we equally see the prophet Isaiah who went through sufferings and pains for the sake of his faith and for those he was called to serve. He said, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

Both Peter and Isaiah were willing to step out of their comfort zone for the sake of Christ. We can as well ask ourselves, “In what ways are we willing to “die to ourselves” for the sake of Christ and for the benefit of others?” We, too, can come out of our comfort zone. But to do that, we must first encounter Christ, we must know him as the Messiah as Peter did. And, in order to serve God and our brothers and sisters, we must be rooted in our faith, otherwise our Christianity will not work.

In the second reading St. James reminds us that faith without good work is dead. In order words, our faith must be expressed in acts of hospitality – welcoming, caring for the needy and bringing hope to people’s life, following the example of the hospitable Jesus who is willing to do anything for God and for His people.

What do we want people to know?

Jesus wants us to know clearly that those who profess to love Him must stop making self the object of their existence and learn to put others first. That demonstrating hospitality towards

others is a wonderful example of elevating others above oneself. We know from Mark’s account that Jesus always helps people, especially the sick, the poor and sinners. So, how can we help people as disciples? One of the ways is to show hospitality towards others in the Church.

For instance, we can make a difference in someone’s life who maybe be troubled. It could be someone experiencing the loss of a friend or family member. And, by offering a lending ear, it could mean the world to someone. Sometimes, we encounter people who live sheltered lives – they have no friends; no close family; socially not active among other life hindrances. So, there is no one in that person’s life who s/he can talk to about his/her troubles. But, having someone who is willing to make the extra effort to listen and care can make a world of difference. And, this is what the Church can do for these people – make a difference in their lives.

In today’s society, we can expect that carrying a crucifix around our neck and reading from a Bible may cause some eyebrow raising. We may be ridiculed by non-Christians or groups of other cults or practices, but being focused on the cross – our faith in God, – it will not obstruct our missionary goal. We may be confronted by the media, for example, about a recent news report that is not pleasant to bear (like the recent sex offenses aimed at priests), but our faith rooted in God will not road block us to continue with our work. We will think and behave as God does and not as human beings. But again, the road towards successful evangelization and pouring oneself out in a hospitable manner, may be lightning struck primarily because of our worldly culture today.

We are reminded to keep our eyes focused on Jesus in all our ministries including hospitality. Our purpose of being hospitable in the Saint Thomas More Church is to create a space of

welcome, to accommodate and to help people know that Jesus is “The Christ” just as Peter did. And having encountered Christ, be willing to give their lives in serving God and others in this faith community.

Why does it matter to us?

Excellent question! This matter because our culture; our human mentality; our upbringing among many other factors overrule our Christ-like manner of going out of our way to accommodate others. It’s a pattern; a way of life in society that many times trickles in to the Church environment. But, we need to bring down the wall that blankets and supports us to behave in this manner. If we are always self-centered and focused on us, then reaching out to help others will never happen. So how do we change that? What must we do to make a difference? Well, we could begin by asking ourselves a few simple questions: (a) Let’s say someone new comes to Church during Christmas, Easter, among other Church gatherings and all the pews are filled. Would you be willing to give up your seat? Let’s face it! Many of us have assigned seating in the Church; I’m guilty of it too. We come to mass every week and go to the same area of the Church; sit in the same pew (or chair for me), and essentially that is my place!! It’s not for anyone else. It’s mine!! True…

Or better still, you come to mass at Christmas or Easter (just a couple examples) and, the parking lot is full. I mean full – it is bursting at the seam with fullness. Would you give up your parking lot for someone else? Would you? On a meeker and milder note; if a new person comes to Church, would you go out of your way to invite that person for a tea, coffee, etc. after mass? (I.e., Star Bucks, Tim Hortons’s McDonald’s…)

My point, again, is that our goal at Saint Thomas More is aimed at being active missionary disciples where we focus on inviting people in to our Church and not send mixed messages that discourages people from coming or leaving. This may be difficult for some of us, but we will need to develop a good Faith-based vision that helps us to see Christ clearly in others to help us with our hospitality and welcoming behavior as we would welcome Jesus.

To be hospitable, we need to be cautious and sensitive towards others we invite and welcome in to our Church. We need to be less judgmental and critical toward others because we don’t know people’s background and their troubles; the disappointments they may have encountered, general abuse experienced among all the other ungodly things that are horrific towards one’s life. Some of the people we see in our church might be coming back to their faith, and are asking for God’s help. We must provide them with our Christian love and support.

This is very important to note as we invite people to ALPHA. Some of our guests may be coming back to their faith or may not even have any faith. We should lovingly and joyfully welcome them and meet them where they are, so that they can experience the love of God among us.

What we want people (parishioners) to do then.

Last week people were requested to invite someone to ALPHA. I guess it was probably difficult or uncomfortable for some people, but it was worth it. We thank those who responded, as more people registered after the weekend Masses. If you did not invite anyone, or have not registered, please do so now, as we begin this Friday.

I pray that God may bless you and your families and help us to remain faithful to him in the midst of the challenges we face every day in our spiritual journey. May he help us to care for those around us, may our good works be rooted in faith as we serve God and our brothers and sisters in this faith community. And, this is our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen!!

The Art of Hospitality: Week Two Homily

Who Do People Say That I Am?

Reflection by Bill Grady, an Aspirant to the Permanent Diaconate

Mark 8.27-35

September 15th, 2018

Last weekend we started a homily series on Hospitality. Fr. Toochukwu began his homily by reiterating the Saint Thomas More Vision Statement.  Do we remember what the three statement components were? (a) Come Encounter Christ. (b) Joyfully Share His love; and (c) Go Make Disciples.  

To live out this vision statement, we must demonstrate love, joy and excitement as we venture through the community(s) mission of making disciples. We must sacrifice ourselves in doing so. As Father expressed, it is us taking the initiative to make some sacrifices in order to accommodate others, welcoming people to our parish in a more hospitable manner, to enable them have a sense of belonging to the Church and the community.   Continue reading “The Art of Hospitality: Week Two Homily”

The Art of Hospitality: Week One

God Shows no Partiality, He Heals all, He wants a Church Full with People.

Week One: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

Last week we talked about the vision for St. Thomas More parish – “Come encounter Christ! Joyfully share his love! Go make Disciples!” This week we begin another homily series on “The Art of Hospitality.”  Why hospitality? Because we want those we invite to our weekend Masses and other celebrations, to truly encounter Christ, and experience his love through each one of our parishioners.

What is hospitality?

What is hospitality? It is from the Greek word “philoxenia” which means “to love strangers”. Continue reading “The Art of Hospitality: Week One”