Diocesan Pastoral Council meets and discusses ministries
By Connie Cissell
EAST SYRACUSE — The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met March 29 at Bishop Grimes Senior/Junior High School and the agenda included everything from the sandwich program at Assumption Church to the diocesan building commission’s policies on the sale of real estate.
For the past several months the DPC has instituted a “best practices” segment that highlights parishes from every region of the diocese. It gives parish representatives the opportunity to showcase some of the programs they have to offer and explains those programs in enough detail so that anyone listening may tap into ways to grow their own parish life.
At the most recent meeting, interim diocesan director of Catholic Charities, Cindy Falise, explained the “Water for Africa” program she advocates in conjunction with the diocesan affiliation with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Founded in 1943, CRS is a Catholic humanitarian aid agency, Falise explained. “Based in Baltimore,” Falise said, “they have 5,000 employees out in the field. They respond to natural disasters such as the tsunami or Katrina. They have an ongoing mission to educate about AIDS awareness, peace building and stabilizing communities.”
Falise spoke of the wonderful relationship the diocese has built with Africa through the Lost Boys of the Sudan who have resettled here, the priests from Africa who serve the diocese and the matching funds grants that have helped those in Kenya and Nigeria. The water project, Falise said, is designed to encourage people in parishes to sell the bottled water with almost half of the cost of each bottle going to support water projects in Africa. St. Augustine’s in Baldwinsville, Holy Cross in DeWitt, Christian Brothers Academy and Immaculate Heart of Mary are some of the current supporters of the program.
Bill Flynn, a longtime member of the DPC, gave a best practices presentation on the adult seminars that his parish, Christ Our Light in Pulaski, began several months ago. Father Fred Daley served at the Northern Oswego County parish for several months while the church’s pastor, Father Sean O’Brien, served in Afghanistan last year. While there, Father Daley moderated the discussion group which took place in six week intervals with meetings lasting one and a half hours. Flynn’s advice was to pick a topic that has a selected text to go with it and to “keep it simple.” The text should concern spirituality, religion or social justice, Flynn noted. “Something short, maybe 120 pages, that could be divided up easily into six portions,” Flynn recommended. “This is a spiritual endeavor, not a college course.”
The benefits, Flynn explained, were numerous. Because his church has an L-shaped configuration, Flynn said there are people who are not even aware of who might be sitting on the other side of the church. The adult seminars brought people together. They included special speakers who were invited to the church, the seminars which allowed people of similar spirituality to get together and a program which was a natural fit for parishes who might be merging or linking. High-school-aged parishioners and young adults might also enjoy the discussion groups, Flynn said.
Father Clifford Auth, chancellor, and Ed King, facilities and construction manager, gave a brief introduction to the diocesan building commission’s brochure, “Summary of Policies & Procedures.” Father Jim Lang, vicar for parishes, also spoke to the topic. He said that the people of the diocese are responsible to one another for the use of resources and good stewardship. They explained that when a sacred object leaves a church it must be used with a sacred purpose — sent to another church, chapel or place of worship. The brochure contains specific information regarding feasibility studies, capital campaigns, parish building and renovation guidelines, purchasing or donations, property transactions and other pertinent information. The brochures should be passed along to parish administrators so that they have the information as well, Father Auth said.
Brother Joe Freitag from the Franciscan Church of the Assumption described the sandwich program his parish employs to feed the hungry in his neighborhood on Syracuse’s north side. Brother Joe was set to speak before the meeting’s lunch break so he opened by saying, “I’m half Italian so I like to eat and I’m half German so I like to eat on time.”
Since the 1870’s the Franciscans at Assumption have been making sandwiches and feeding the poor out of the backdoor of the rectory. The sandwich are available seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Over the years various other parishes and church groups have contributed to the program. Every bag lunch includes two sandwiches, fruit or vegetable and a sweet treat.
“Many of our people don’t have the wherewithall to put together meal ingredients from a food pantry. They may not have a stove or a refrigerator. They may not be able to read or speak English. They may not have a pan to cook something in,” Brother Joe said. “The sandwich program is a different way of feeding people. They don’t need special equipment and they know they have food for that day.”
There are volunteers who help each day making sandwiches and passing them through the door. They serve from 175 to 300 sandwiches a day. Many of the ingredients come from local grocery stores’ donations. Youth groups and other parish outreach programs assist Assumption in its endeavor. For instance, Brother Joe said, St. Agnes in Brewerton provides tuna sandwiches every second Friday of the month. And, Brother Joe said, “We do accept homemade cookies.” Anyone willing to donate food, sandwich bags, paper lunch bags or anything else needed for the program, may contact Brother Joe at (315) 473-9101.
Father Joseph Scardella, diocesan director of Liturgy and Ministerial Formation, gave a presentation on the Formation for Ministry program. He explained the course requirements — seven courses over a two-year period — and the different areas that must be completed before commissioning takes place. Once commissioned, participants give a minimum of three years’ volunteer service to their parish. Tuition, $450, is typically provided by the parish, Father Scardella explained, and the participant usually pays for the required retreats and workshops. Each person in the program must have a sponsor, usually their pastor, who checks in with them during the process. The program begins in the fall and since the first class in 1982, there have been over 1,500 people commissioned to serve in pastoral ministry in the diocese. Areas of ministry include family life, parish business administration, respect life, social justice, liturgy and RCIA, pastoral care and youth ministry. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Formation for Ministry Program can contact Father Scardella at (315) 470-1420.
Julie Smith, a parishioner of St. Peter’s Church in Oswego, reported on the Eucharistic adoration program at her parish. Although her parish doesn’t offer perpetual adoration yet, Smith said they do hope to expand to a 24/7 program someday. Smith’s advice was to “pick a day and start after morning Mass and continue to the next morning.” Smith was able to visit other Oswego churches to explain how adoration works and to sign up adorers. “The first man who came to sign up said, ‘I’ll take midnight.’ That man has taken midnight for the past five years,” she said.
Smith told the DPC how much Eucharistic adoration has added to her life. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to worship the Lord outside of Mass,” she said.
The next DPC gathering is May 10 and will feature a special presenter from Louisville, Ky. who will speak on research surrounding lay ministry.