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Collaborative efforts take form in O'Neill

By LISA SCHULTE
The Catholic Voice


Mary Eileen Andreasen informs elder ministers in the Rural Northwest Deanery of the resources available to them through the Archdiocese of Omaha. Andreasen was one of 10 staff members of archdiocesan agencies who met with parish leaders in O'Neill March 6.

For several months, agencies of the Archdiocese of Omaha have been working to discover ways to collaborate with each other to better serve the people of northeast Nebraska.

At regular ACE (Agency Collaboration Efforts) meetings, staff members have been making steps to improve their efficiency and service.

A recent gathering of archdiocesan staff and parish leaders in O'Neill was the direct result of such efforts.

Ten staff members representing five agencies "“ Lay Ministry Formation, Religious Formation, Aging and Disabilities, Formation and Education in Sexuality, and Family Life "“ met with 35 parish leaders from the Rural Northwest Deanery in hopes of increasing communication. The two-hour gathering was held at St. Mary High School in O'Neill March 6.

'It was an effort for us, as agency staff, to collaborate and find ways that we can better work with parish leaders, especially those that are at a greater geographic distance from the agency offices," said Sister Lee Agnes Hodapp, SSSF, assistant director of religious education for the rural community of the archdiocese.

The pilot event allowed agency staff to meet with people who live far from where most of the archdiocesan offices are located and to help them find out what services and resources are available, she said. It also was an opportunity for archdiocesan staff to learn what parish leaders need, want and expect from them, she said.

Father Tom Greisen and Marge Koenigsman of the Office of Lay Ministry Formation spoke to the parish council members, youth ministers, religious education directors, liturgists and elder ministers about their role as lay ministers before the groups separated to discuss their individual ministries.

'We wanted the Rural Northwest Deanery to have a sense of our commitment to them," said Mary Eileen Andreasen, coordinator of Elder and Disabled ministries for the archdiocese. 'We have a commitment to those parishes and because of the distance, it's always been difficult, but we wanted to clearly express that we want to know them, work with them and assist them in any way we can."

Susan Calvo, director of religious education at St. Patrick Parish in O'Neill and hostess of the event, said her community was grateful for the efforts the archdiocesan staff made to meet with them.

'We were happy that they came out to our area. Most of us are ranchers and farmers and to take a day here and a day there to go to Omaha is kind of hard," she said. 'It was just wonderful to meet them face to face."

Staff members now will evaluate the event and the information they received from the parish leaders, Sister Hodapp said.

'We need to take some time and look at where we are going for the future and then how will this translate to working with the people in other areas of the archdiocese, not just the rural areas," she said.

Calvo said the event was such a success that the Rural Northwest Deanery plans to host another one later in the year.

'We really look forward to building it up and bringing more people to it."

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