St Christopher's Parish


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Looking to the Future - A Reflection

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,

We 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. 

We 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 looking!

We 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.

As 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 discipleship.

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 parking.

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.

God Bless!

Fr Ralph