Fifteen parishes to be involved in survey
Members of 15 parishes will have a chance next month to reflect on their own spiritual growth and efforts by their pastor and others to promote that growth.
It will come in the form of a survey – offered through emails but also in handouts at church – that will take about 15 minutes to complete. The surveys will help form a baseline for understanding where a parish stands in a very important function: Bringing people to Christ and encouraging them to share his saving message, said Deacon Stephen Luna, the archdiocese’s director of pastoral planning.
"If we can get a handle on what is driving engagement, what’s inspiring people to live or not live in their faith, we can make some progress" in bringing people to the faith and deepening the experience of those who already are involved, he said.
Two pastors whose parishes will participate – Father Daniel Andrews of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk and Father Michael Grewe of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna – said they look forward to the process.
"We want the church to grow, so we have to know if we are doing a good job at equipping people as disciples," Father Andrews said. "It’s better to have them tell you that themselves than take a guess at it."
Father Grewe said it will help gauge the depth of spirituality experienced in his parish, and it will include comparisons with other parishes around the country.
"We want a clear plan for the future," Father Grewe said. "To do that we’ll want to know this."
The survey – called Disciple Maker Index and developed by Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) – was one of several recommendations from listening sessions and other efforts to begin coordinated planning for St. Patrick Parish and nine other growing parishes in Omaha and areas south and west of the city.
That plan’s focus, first announced last April, is forming disciples of Jesus Christ – and as need arises, creating schools, parishes and facilities to meet that goal.
As priests and other archdiocesan officials discussed the plan’s call for a survey of engagement and evangelization, several other pastors expressed interest, and Sacred Heart and four other parishes were added, Deacon Luna said.
The survey period will close March 20, results will be reviewed by CLI and discussed with parish representatives and archdiocesan officials this spring and summer, he said.
The survey also tracks well with the archdiocese’s pastoral vision and pastoral plan announced in October and summarized in the phrase: "One church, encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy," Deacon Luna said.
If the archdiocese finds the survey is helpful, it could recommend that other parishes take advantage of the tool in coming years to determine their effectiveness in bringing people to Christ and equipping them to share his message, Deacon Luna said.
And more immediately, if specific programs are found through the survey to be successful in some parishes, those results could be shared with other parishes around the archdiocese that are seeking effective ways to meet the archdiocese’s pastoral initiative, he said.
Parishes participating in this year’s survey will be surveyed again in several years, either through CLI or another instrument, to see if programs or changes they make have helped evangelization efforts, Deacon Luna said.
One pastor in Oklahoma who used the survey in 2014 and again last year said people shared feelings of incompetency about prayer, their own relationship with Christ, reading and applying Scripture. The parish responded with updated Bible studies, sessions on prayer and other offerings, and engagement by parishioners has grown.
"You can’t quantify the workings of the Holy Spirit," said Father Gary Kastl, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Broken Arrow, Okla., who also has helped CLI as a leadership consultant. "But people can say where they are, and how the pastor can help. It’s not just me trying to put a finger in the air on where the parish is, but something on which to stand."
In addition to Sacred Heart in Norfolk and St. Patrick in Gretna, these parishes will participate in the Disciple Maker Index: St. Matthew the Evangelist, Bellevue; St. Patrick, Elkhorn; St. Charles Borromeo, Gretna; St. Vincent de Paul, St. Stephen the Martyr, St. Wenceslaus, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Leo the Great, St. Pius X, all Omaha; St. Columbkille, Papillion; St. Gerald, Ralston; St. Joseph, Springfield; and St. John the Evangelist, Valley.