Some time ago, I mentioned in one of my weekly letters that I would be looking at the overall situation here at Holy Angels Parish and then get back to you with my observations. So, what has become apparent to me in the time since I have arrived here?
First, I realize that I have had to make some personal adjustments to my style of ministry. I was used to being very present at church each weekend. I would be at the back of the church after most (if not all) of the Masses in Somers Point. It was my opportunity to meet and greet the parishioners regularly. However, I only had a single church building to go to and it was adjacent to the rectory. Now I have three churches and a worship center being used regularly. Having failed in any attempts at bi-location in the past, I know I just can’t be everywhere at once. How can I possibly be at the 9 AM (National Park), 9:30 AM (Woodbury), 10 AM (Woodbury) and 10:30 AM (Westville) Masses, even if it is just to say “hello” to the people. It’s a physical impossibility.
Then came my health issue (heart attack). Perhaps, it is God’s subtle hint (or not-so-subtle hammer to the head) telling me to slow down and re-prioritize what I am here to do. You are not in Kansas anymore Toto. I can’t be present everywhere. I need to pick and choose what a priest/pastor needs to do and allow someone else to do the other things. Easier said than done at times!
Second, there is a need for a continual outreach to the children and young families within the parish. From my rather high vantage point (6’6”), the backs of too many heads are greying and it is noticeable to me that the young are not present weekly in any healthy and vibrant numbers. Minimally, the young and their families need to be evangelized or re-evangelized and helped to understand the importance of being at Mass each week.
Third, the physical plant of the parish is simply overwhelming. With about a dozen buildings and their surrounding grounds to maintain, I am proposing the creation of a Building and Grounds Committee to assist me. I had such a committee in some of my former parishes comprised of general contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. who volunteered as parishioners to evaluate and make a long-range plan of what needs to be done with the parish facilities. If you are interested or know someone who may be well-suited for such a task, please contact me at the rectory. This could conceivably remove a considerable amount of stress from my life.
Next, I propose expanding the Bereavement Committee of the parish. Three aspects of this ministry seem very important to me when someone dies: those who can comfort and help plan the funeral liturgy, ministers to be present at the funeral liturgy itself to greet, serve, read, etc. (as needed) and ongoing personal follow-up as time passes. In my past parishes, some of the most effective and helpful ministers have come from those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and want to help others with their grief and loss.
The above observations and suggestions are just the beginning. Your input, insights and suggestions are certainly welcome!
Fr. Ed Namiotka