Last weekend, at all Masses on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time, Fr. Ralph Besterwitch presented his reflection on the future of St. Christopher's parish. As it was an important homily and lays out ideas and plans for St. Christopher's Parish going forward, his reflection is reproduced here for all parishioners to have a chance to read it, in case you were not present on the weekend...
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – VISION 2018
My dear Friends,
are into the New Year and I want to use this occasion to let you know that we
are looking forward with hope to what lies ahead in the months to come. St
Christopher’s Parish can be described as a small to medium size parish, but a
busy one. According to our statistics we have about 300+ families who regularly
attend weekend services here and contribute financially and otherwise; but we
also have some who come here occasionally.
have 150+ parishioners involved in the 30+ministry groups of the parish. That
is terrific! As I said this is a busy parish with a lot of good-willed people.
Today we are doing the FETE flyer distribution and Mary Tan tells me we have 85
people who have signed up to help with this. These are all good things and our
parish is doing relatively well compared to some other parishes. We can be
happy and satisfied with how we are or we could strive to be/do even better.
In the last several
months the PPC as well as a few more in leadership roles, have been doing some
serious thinking as to where, we as a parish, want to go; i.e. what more must
we do, to grow St Christopher’s Parish. Having a VISION helps to have a focus, so
that’s what we did; over 3 sessions on 3 different nights we drafted a
beautiful but challenging VISION document.
Now you may ask: why do
we need a Vision document. Are we not already doing a decent-enough job at St.
Christopher’s? And I would say YES! But my next question would then be: Are we
satisfied with that or do we want to go one step further? Do we want to
continually improve and move towards the kind of church Christ had in mind when
he gave the keys to St Peter?
Today’s Gospel tells us
what Jesus was all about. He was truly compassionate and a man for OTHERS. His
ministry – be it teaching, preaching, curing the sick, driving out demons
concern for the poor, the marginalized, the so-called public sinners – always
revealed the love God has for His people; and often through His compassionate
stance, He helped people find their way back to God. May be that’s part of our calling too!
When I reflect on my life
as a priest, I feel happy that I am a reasonably good priest. But when I remember
that I am also a Parish Priest, I realize so much more is expected of me as a
leader. A question that has sometimes crossed my mind is: have I consciously
tried to draw more people to Christ by what I say and do, and by how I live? And
you too might sometimes ask yourselves that question, whether you are a good
witness and an effective instrument in God’s hands to draw people to Him? Sometimes
we are so caught up with our own concerns, needs and what we want, that we
forget what we are called to be. Or sometimes we get so turned in on ourselves
or the community we are part of, that we forget there’s so much more we should
be doing. Pope Francis in his exhortation Evangelii
Gaudium reminds us about the dangers of being a self-referential church…inward
need to remember that we, as a faith community, do not exist for ourselves
only. We encounter Jesus Christ in this faith community and are energized to
take him to others…others who may be in greater need of experiencing His love. And
this is where Pope Francis’ invitation to become missionary disciples becomes
relevant. As a missionary disciple we become more aware of the role we can play
in connecting people to God.
That is the direction we want to go in.
And as we move in that direction we will discover what that missionary attitude entails and how it will
touch upon all we do in the parish. It will make us want to evaluate what we
do; to see if the various ministries, programs and our witness of life succeed in
drawing more people to Jesus Christ.
we try to make changes things could get a bit messy or difficult; some may be wonderful;
for sure many of them will be transformational. But this endeavour will not be
just mine or Fr Pat’s decision or responsibility; the whole parish must be
co-responsible for this missionary effort of our parish. We plan to walk this
journey together as a parish, with PPC and parishioners co-sharing ideas, plans
and responsibility with the priests.
We have a good leadership
team and we are hopeful that we’ll come up with a real plan for the parish –
not just an ethereal, lofty-sounding Vision statement, but a compelling and
actionable plan to make St Christopher’s an outpost for evangelization and
For a start I believe it
is very important to make our liturgies and the weekend experience more
life-giving. So in that connection we will start working on:
- making our homilies
more actionable, consistent and crisp.
- improving the music so
that it is more participative, worshipful and prayerful.
- moving up a notch: from
being a welcoming parish to becoming an inviting parish.
We are also looking at
improving our facilities as you very well know – we want to beautify the inside
of the Church, increase the gathering area, construct a modular kitchen, build some
meeting rooms that can double up as Sunday school classrooms, and have additional
The Master Plan that we
have come up with will have to be tweaked so as to suit the budget we can
afford. We have a preferred developer for the childcare centre (which will be
developed at no cost to the parish) and we are in the process of finalizing the
terms of the lease. The annual rental from the lease will help pay back a large
part the money we will borrow for the upgrade. Through fundraising (which we
have already begun) we hope to pay off the rest of the loan.
So friends, as we go
forward, we will come up with a good enough plan and invite your feedback on
the same. We will do our part and pray that God will assist us on the journey.
Our Gospel today reminds us of the importance of prayer in Jesus’
daily life. We believe that through prayer Jesus found guidance and direction
from God. We will also increase our opportunities for prayer, and continue to
seek God’s guidance and direction in all our endeavours.