Good morning everyone.
Welcome to a monthly series of letters “From the Desk of the Pastor” that we are beginning this morning for parishioners and friends of St. Andrew’s. The idea for this is that it gives us an opportunity to keep in touch as we did during the Covid experience and to use the miracle of new technology to expand on topics and ideas that our parishioners might like to know more about.
Here at the parish, as we reflect on the last few years, we have come to realize that parishioners connect with the parish differently that we did a generation or two ago. Many people, speaking about parish life, talk about the post-pandemic impact, but if we are honest, we would have to admit that this new way to be connected with the parish began long before shutdowns and limited capacity at church. We estimate that, at St. Andrew’s, we are back to somewhere between 85-90% attendance at church each weekend. This is consistent with trends across the diocese. In the Halton region, St. Andrew’s may be faring slightly better than many larger parish communities and in terms of baptism’s, we are doing very well with baptism’s scheduled every Sunday (and sometimes Saturday) afternoon. It is also important to note that at St. Andrew’s, the number of funerals that we celebrate in church, at the funeral home and at the graveside are unusually high. One feature of parish life that I hear parishioners’ (who have been here for a while) comment on frequently is the obvious shift taking place of who is sitting in the pews on Sunday. While we have lost parishioners over the last few years for a variety of reasons, we are experiencing a regular influx of new parishioners registering in the parish and adding to the cultural diversity of the community. Last weekend at the picnic after the morning Masses, we were treated to diverse languages in the midst of laughter, good humor and the enjoyment of good food and new friendships being made. Spanish, French, Arabic and of course English in a variety of accents soared above the noise. As a parish we are very lucky that each week, parishioners show up to give thanks to God and commit themselves to being good stewards of the gift of discipleship that each of us receive at baptism and confirmation. As a staff we are committed to finding creative ways to engage committed and occasional parishioners to life in the parish. For the seeker of faith and a place to worship and pray with a community, we hope that here, they will find a place of comfort and support and a welcoming and supportive community.
The gift of discipleship and the responsibility of being good disciples in the world is very relevant at the moment as the church prepares for the Synod in Rome which will happen during the month of October. For Roman Catholic’s around the world, this is an opportunity to witness history in the making and for many generations, it is an opportunity to have a glimpse into how the church gathers to pray, to listen, to have conversation and to shape its pastoral priorities and direction for the next generations. For those old enough to remember, this “synodal experience” will bring back memories of the Second Vatican Council and the work that began during it over a five-year period in the early 1960’s. The work of Vatican II never ceased and has been ongoing down to this opportunity to move its work forward with new energy, insight and enthusiasm. You can prepare to accompany the synod process by reading the following documents and reflecting especially on the questions that will be the subject of the many discussions taking place among the delegates in Rome.
The first document is the preparatory document that each bishop, priest, religious and lay delegate has received: https://www.synod.va/content/dam/synod/common/preparatory-document/pdf-21×21/en_prepa_book.pdf The second document, and the one that will give the best flavour of the worldwide consultation that took place in preparation for the synod, is the document titled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent”. This is a synthesis of the thoughts, questions, concerns and suggestions from parishioners and Catholic groups around the world. The full text is here: https://www.synod.va/content/dam/synod/common/phases/continental-stage/dcs/20221025-ENG-DTC-FINAL-OK.pdf At forty seven pages, it makes for riveting reading and reflects the diversity of the church and at the same time the strong faith and passion that binds us together to do all things well in the name of the Lord who has called each one of us by name. It will comfort those seeking reassurance that what we believe holds true to our long history of faith and tradition. It will also raise awareness (and some concern) to new questions and understanding of the human person and how each person is called to play a role in the life of the church as baptised members.
Speaking with parishioners, there is still some confusion around what exactly a “Synod” is. Early in the Summer, Fr. Jim McDermott SJ did a good job imagining how to explain the synod process to a ten-year-old. The article he wrote for America Magazine is here: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2023/05/10/synod-communications-suggestions-245261
Thursday evening as I sat down to begin this letter, I found myself travelling down several rabbit holes when I entered “Synod on Synodality” in an online search. I was astonished to find a very long list of articles that are, very good, good, ok, awful and extreme distortions. The latter two are not helpful and are already causing confusion among Roman Catholics especially when the authors and “experts” are often considered “credible” Catholic source. This article written by Christopher White (among the best religious affairs writers working today) for the National Catholic Reporter presents the difficulty when opposing views supported by those with other political and religious agendas try to discredit the Pope the work of the church since Vatican II and the synod process. https://www.ncronline.org/vatican/vatican-news/behind-synod-opposition-far-right-groups-political-activists-and-cardinal
I hope that you will find these articles helpful and look forward to keeping you up to date on the work of the synod during October and. The work of the synod will continue for another year and conclude its meeting phase in October 2024. After that, an official document or letter will be presented to the whole church by Pope Francis. Please keep Pope Francis and the synod delegates in your prayers as they begin to make their way to Rome over the next few weeks.
What else is happening at St. Andrew’s:
- Last weekend we launched ourselves into the new pastoral year with hospitality at each Mass.
Ice-cream, muffins and a delicious barbecue allowed time for conversation and time to catch up and meet new parishioners. Thank you to everyone for your hard work to pull this off. Each month we have planned one weekend when we will invite parishioners for coffee and a time to socialize.
- This coming week, access to the parking lot may be difficult on Monday and Tuesday as work on repairs, re-surfacing and re-lining the parking lot is happening. If you are attending weekday mass please be aware that if the gates are closed, the parking lot is closed and you will need to park on the street.
- Dates for the sacraments of First Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation for 2024 will be published next weekend after we have met with the school principals.
- Iah Jong (our new pastoral minister) and I will re-imagine how we do the RCIA for adults seeking baptism this year. This is consistent with the revisions that we have made to prepare children in private and public schools for the sacraments. For those adults who have been baptised in another Christian tradition, we will plan a process towards a profession of faith that addresses their needs. If you seek baptism as an adult or reception into the church, please let us know through the office.
- This weekend at Mass you can pick up the Prayer for Life Card that we encourage parishioners to pray especially on Wednesdays. It is prayed in the church at the end of the hour of prayer each Wednesday morning after the 9.00 am. Mass.
- This weekend at Mass the annual appeal for the Missions is held to support the work of missionaries and their work in Latin America. A brochure with more information on these activities will be available after each Mass and donations towards this work can be made through the parish.
Have a good week.