The vision behind forming Parish Neighborhood Communities with Small Christian Communities is a call for all of us to be the church in a new way.
Our parish, St. Catherine, is one of the leading parishes in the Diocese, known for the number of active parishioners and the many wonderful programs we offer.
However, programs only serve specific needs at certain times for a few people. These programs are important to the life of the parish, but we also need to offer a more permanent and relational way of being the church. In other words, we need to move from a doing church to a being church. As a parish in a specific territory of our Diocese, we must offer a structure where everybody can be involved and everybody feels responsibility for trying to live the Gospel values and supporting others to do the same. We need to be a new kind of parish, where all parishioners don’t just go to church. Rather, we together make church happen when we connect life and faith and share it with one another to help each other live the faith. The old kind of parish is defined by programs fulfilling needs. The new kind of parish is defined by relationships. It is a more reflective and relational way of connecting with Christ and others. It is this structure that we call Parish Neighborhood Communities.
Each Parish Neighborhood Community gradually becomes church at the basic level and forms basic units of the parish, not for a few years like a program, but year round every year.
Each of the Parish Neighborhood Communities meet once a month for Scripture study and reflection. Please contact the Parish Office to learn what Parish Neighborhood Community you belong to and how to get involved. When all neighborhood communities come together once a month for fellowship and faith sharing, we also affirm each member by celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and achievements. We encourage and pray with those in need of our support and prayers. We also discuss the common needs of our parish and have these brought to the attention of the larger parish. The way in which we will be developing strong bonds within our neighborhood communities and the entire parish will truly make us a community of communities.
To find out more information, to find out which Parish Neighborhood Community you belong to or to request the facilitator of your Parish Neighborhood Community to contact you, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parish Neighborhood Community Guidelines
The structure of a Parish Neighborhood Community follows these general guidelines.
1) The leadership of the Parish Neighborhood Community will include:
- Head Facilitator: The head facilitator schedules a host and a leader for each monthly Parish Neighborhood Gathering, and reports to the Pastor and/or his delegate (Director of Faith Formation) notable achievements, attendance at gatherings, concerns, and needs of people in the Parish Neighborhood Community, collecting all information from the assistant facilitators. To read a description of the head facilitator’s responsibilities, please click here.
- Assistant Facilitators: The assistant facilitator makes regular contact (phone, e-mail, personal visits) with assigned list to communicate with members of the Parish Neighborhood Community and reports to the Head Facilitator notable achievements, attendance at gatherings, concerns, and needs of people in the Parish Neighborhood Community.
- Prayer Leader: The prayer leader facilitates the prayer and Scripture refection of the monthly Parish Neighborhood Gathering.
- Parish Pastoral Council Member: The council member reports on the large programs and events happening at the parish, as well as records concerns and suggestions that effect the larger parish from the parish neighborhood gathering to share at the Parish Pastoral Council meeting. To read a description of the Parish Pastoral Council Member’s responsibilities, please click here.
- Pastor and Parish Priests: The pastor and parish priests pray for the success of the Parish Neighborhood Communities and try to be present at the monthly meetings.
2) The Facilitator leads the meeting and reports on the events that happened in the Neighborhood Community during the previous month, such as births, weddings, sicknesses, deaths, accomplishments in school or work, as well as anything the community did together within the community or the parish. All news of the parish will be given to the Facilitator by the Assistant Facilitators and members ahead of time.
3) The will be a special gathering of the community once a year with Mass and a social on the feast day of their patron saint. We can have games, a bible quiz, and other competitions or cultural activities in which our children can participate. Efforts should be made to bring all members of the Neighborhood Community to this celebration.
4) At the death of any member in the families of the Neighbor Community, all members of the community are encouraged to visit the family to console and support them with prayers, meals, etc. As many as possible should also participate in the funeral.
5) Parish Neighborhood members in need of financial assistance should be directed towards the St. Vincent DePaul Society, who has the proper means of assisting our parishioners in need. Members who wish to help those in need in their Neighborhood Community should always do so through the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
Parish Neighborhood Meeting Agenda
This is a sample meeting of a Parish Neighborhood Community. At certain meetings, there may be a strong reason to adjust the schedule of events. The prayers can be adapted to meet the needs of the Parish Neighborhood Community and the circumstances.
1) Meet and Greet (10 minutes)
2) Call to Order & Welcome (3 minutes)
3) Opening Prayer to the Holy Spirit (2 minutes)
4) Moment of Silence (2 minutes)
5) Prayer led by Prayer Leader (2 minutes)
6) Proclamation of the Word (from Prayer Time) (7 minutes)
7) Group Sharing (20 minutes): At least two or three people should be invited to prepare an answer to one of the questions ahead of time, no more than 2-3 minutes each, followed by others based on the questions on faith sharing and action.
8) Priest’s Sharing and Comments (5 minutes) (if applicable)
9) A Hymn of Praise and Joyful Thanksgiving (3 minutes)
10) Facilitator announces the prepared prayer intentions of those who are sick or who have died in the Parish Neighborhood Community (2 minutes)
11) Report by the Facilitator, which includes updates on those in the Parish Neighborhood Community and upcoming events in the neighborhood. (5 minutes)
12) Report by the Parish Pastoral Council Member, which includes updates on events and programs in the larger parish community. (5 minutes)
13) Discussion on matters of common interest to the parish. (10 minutes)
14) Recognition of birthdays, anniversaries, and other notable achievements. (5 minutes)
15) Common Prayer of the Community led by Prayer Leader (5 minutes)
16) Final Blessing (2 minutes) Blessing is given by the priest or deacon if available. If there is no priest, the prayer leader offers a closing prayer.
17) Closing Hymn: We Are Many Parts (2 minutes)
Evangelization in the Parish Neighborhood Communities
(based on a homily from Fr. Bob Hoffman)
We live as witnesses. We live as evangelizers. If this really, really means everything to me, how can I not tell my neighbor? How can I not tell my friend? Who can I not tell?
Yes, this is a beautiful church. It is great to come here. But, the Gospel message is too good to keep inside this building. We know that we have to go out. To others. To our neighborhoods. To everyone with whom we interact. The Church is not just here. The Church is out there. It is where you take it to others. We bring the Church out to the world. It is great if the priests and deacons evangelize. But, there are only a few of them. That is not going to change much. There are thousands of you. That will change everything. Be the Church in your neighborhood. Gather with other parishioners in your neighborhood to be an inviting outpost of this parish for others. They can come here for the communal celebration of the Eucharist. But, they can experience Church through you in your neighborhood.
The neighborhood groups that our parish started is one way, perhaps the way. When we realize our role in building up the kingdom of God, our neighborhood groups become more than just local communities of parishioners. They are not merely refuges where we can come together with like-minded neighbors. They become outposts of the Church where we live. They become active bases from which evangelization can go out to the rest of the neighborhood. They become missions for missionaries. They do not face inward. They face outward.
The priesthood is called to serve the People of God, the laity. It is the laity that are called to change the world. When the thousands of this parish are truly mobilized, this part of the world changes. The kingdom of God is more fully realized in this part of the world. And, in the peace of Christ, this part of the world will be a far better place.
The Parish Neighborhood Communities reach out on a regular basis to parishioners who are homebound and others to invite their participation in the parish in a friendly and welcoming manner. The Parish Neighborhood Communities have done this in various ways, including neighborhood walks, BBQs, participation at neighborhood events, phone calls, postcards, home visits, and personal invitations.
The Parish Neighborhood Communities are often the first place of invitation for people who have been away from the Church. Our Kerygma Evangelization Retreat is the spiritual backbone of our Parish Neighborhood Communities as it provides an opportunity for encounter with Jesus Christ and an introduction of the pillars of Christian spirituality that help in the evangelization efforts of our Parish Neighborhood Communities.
Parish Neighborhood Communities in the Life of the Parish
The Parish Neighborhood Communities also work together to sponsor events at the parish including:
- The Parish Feast Day Celebration around April 29 (the Feast of St. Catherine), in which the neighborhoods each process with their banners into the Church and host the celebration in the hall following.
- The World Mission Sunday Celebration usually the third Sunday of October, in which the neighborhoods pray for Christians throughout the world and host a celebration of the various cuisines from around the world.
- The Christmas Tree Decorating Party usually the third Sunday in December, in which each Parish Neighborhood Community decorates a Christmas tree in front of the Church to welcome visitors for Christmas. Often as part of this celebration, a gift (usually a Catholic book) is packaged and delivered to families throughout the neighborhoods.
Communities participate regularly in showing support at parish events, including the annual Parish Bazaar, Soup Suppers, sandwich making and deliveries to local soup kitchens, canned food drives, and other events.
Each Parish Neighborhood Community is represented on the Parish Council by a representative, who brings the needs of the community to the council, and brings the news and upcoming events from the larger parish back to the Parish Neighborhood Community monthly gatherings.
To find out more information, to find out which Parish Neighborhood Community you belong to, or to request the facilitator of your Parish Neighborhood Community to contact you, e-mail email@example.com.