October 15, 2017

We want to make Church smaller.

No, this isn’t yet another construction projection.  We have plenty of those.  In this sense, I’m talking about making our Church (big “C”—the people) a more-connected community.

With a church (little “c”--the building) the size of ours, it’s easy for people to be disconnected. It is simply a matter of physicality.  You can easily park in the north lot, enter at the door by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, sit  in your favorite  not-the-front pew on the Mary side and never interact with anyone from the other side of the aisle.

We are also a bit of an inbred community. So many of us have been here forever, and it seems like we know    everyone—and their brother.  It’s wonderful, but to  someone new, it can be tough to break into the group.

One of the ways we are actively working to bring our Church together is through Small Christian Communities.  This is an essential element of the Be My Witness program for which we’ve been taking surveys.

Small Christian Communities certainly aren’t a novel  concept.  We started them here in the early 80s as part of the Renew program, and then Renew was renewed for another round a few decades later.   There’s no doubt Small Christian  Communities work to pull people together.  Case in point:

We have several Small Christian Communities that have been meeting since the early eighties. That’s thirty-five years! 

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining one group for their meeting, and let me say, it truly was a pleasure.

We met at Kathy Wise’s house. Jane Ainsworth facilitated the meeting and Yvonne Callans, Natalie Bayci and I rounded out the group.  We missed Carol Embling who was on her way home from vacation and Jean Konrad who was volunteering at the hospice home.

This was their first meeting of the “season” so there was some catching up to do.  As they covered health, kids, weddings, I noticed they never prefaced a name with “my son” or “my sister”.   Everyone (but me) knew who Barbara, Emily and Jill were. It was a sweet connection born out of hundreds of meetings like this.

Once we moved on to the formal part of the meeting, Jane took the lead.  Over the course of 35 years, this group has covered everything—and some subjects twice.  This season, they are working from a new book that helps guide their conversations.  Jane began by asking Yvonne to read from Corinthians.

While I was technically there to observe, my first thought was “oh no, what if they ask me to share what the reading means?”  I tried to listen intently, with the hope of having something reasonably cogent to say.  When Yvonne    finished reading, she closed the bible and said “Well, I found that a bit obtuse.”

Oh thank goodness!  I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get it, and it was OK to say so.  

We moved into a wonderful discussion that revolved around St. Teresa of Avila and her “Christ has no body on earth but yours” prayer.  Our conversation was candid,         pertinent and real.  At some point, I completely dropped my “observer” status and began sharing with the group.  These ladies were so welcoming and kind. 

Midway through I found myself thinking “this is good for me.”  Frankly, I can’t think of the last time I did something new, different and a bit out of my comfort zone.  It clearly was good for me.

And it can be good for you too. 

At this point, the Be My Witness teams that are being led by Christine Pershey and Katie Choudhary are gearing up to launch new Small Christian Communities just after the first of the year.  More than 30 people have agreed to lead a small group, and great care has been taken to find folks who mirror our community.  The hope is that you’ll find a group that fits your interests, temperament and most practically, schedule.

The first session runs during Lent 2018.  Sign up is in January.  Between now and then, I hope to share more stores of some of our stalwart groups who have met for decades.   I hope these stories inspire you to consider doing something new, and different and a bit out of your comfort zone.

All the best,
Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development and Projects Liaison
straysdevelopment@yahoo.com 815-722-6653, ext. 242

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the Parish Service Day next Sunday!


P.P.S. Don’t forget your undies!  The Undy Sunday drive for Catholic Charities goes through next Sunday, October 22.



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