By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
Using Scripture and the words of some of the Church’s most beloved and well-respected faith leaders to show that an evolving Church is rooted in the Bible, Mark Mogilka opened his talk on inter-parish collaborations with an important theme: “What we have are opportunities for virtuous action.”
“In Cohorts, you have the opportunity to create a synergy to impact a geographical area that you didn’t have as an individual parish,” said Mogilka, director of stewardship and pastoral services for the Diocese of Green Bay.
As part of the Diocese’s Faith in our Future initiative, Mogilka was invited to address clergy, staff and parish leaders from across the four counties on best practices for building inter-parish collaboration and share his experience in communication, overcoming obstacles and promoting unity. Sponsored by the Diocese’s Department of Pastoral Planning, Mogilka gave two workshops: May 10 in the Chancery, Lawrenceville, and May 11 in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck.
Addressing Faith in Our Future, Mogilka explained that parishes across the nation are increasingly finding it necessary to work together to preserve their faith communities. For example, in the Diocese of Green Bay, 60 percent of parishes share a pastor with at least one other parish. In 1990, that diocese had 215 parishes; to date that number stands at 155.
Faith in Our Future, he said, helps parishes to better address financial stewardship, strengthens their communities and aids the spiritual and pastoral needs of its people, especially as the number of vocations decline.
“I believe that is what this process is all about,” he said.
Faith in Our Future – the eight-step pastoral planning process that began in 2015 – was created to strengthen and enliven the parishes of the Diocese as well as diocesan-sponsored organizations and ministries. After 18 months of parish self-studies, the forming of Cohorts (groups of parishes), Cohort discussion and recommendations, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., issued a decisions in January that called for parishes to collaborate, link, merge and/or become a center for ministry (specialized ministry among ethnic or language groups). Over the next three years, parish implementation teams will help ensure these goals are met.
Acknowledging that change is not always easy, Mogilka urged the Diocese’s faithful and dedicated parishioners to think of possible difficult times ahead as challenges, not problems. He paraphrased Saint Teresa of Kolkata, saying, “If other people are not loving, love anyhow.”
“That’s the challenge of a Cohort. Do not let [adversity] stand in the way of your ability to do good,” he said.
Mogilka offered many tips, suggestions and reasons why Cohorts should do their best to work as a team. For example, he said partnering can help those parishes that have plateaued, or fallen into a rut.
“Why a Cohort?” he asked. “To be better together than each parish is individually. You may be saying, ‘We’re already perfect. How can we be any better?’” he said to a room of scattered laughter. “Trust me, you can.”
“God calls us to greatness, to go beyond, to stretch,” he continued, adding that Pope Francis, himself, has stressed that when it comes to ministry, the Church must go beyond the status quo. “Being in a Cohort is a way to begin a new parish lifecycle – to reach more people, maximize the use of parish facilities, to serve and multiply community impact.”
Mogilka urged parishes to start thinking of terms of “Cohort math”: 1+1+1=10.
“When it comes to vision, ideas, leadership, resources and prayer, the possibilities are endless,” he said, holding up as an example the parish mission held May 8-11 in St. Gregory the Great Parish Church, Hamilton Square.
Organized and sponsored by Cohort 6 – St. Gregory the Great, Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony, Hamilton; St. John the Baptist, Allentown; St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton, and St. Vincent De Paul, Yardville – the four-night retreat offered talks by evangelist Father Larry Richards. More than 1,000 people attended the first night alone.
Multiple parish ministry is not an easy concept for everyone to get behind, Mogilka admitted, but it is necessary to secure the future of the Church. Citing a quote from the physicist Albert Einstein, he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking.”
He asked the crowd to abandon the complacent attitude that says, “We have always done it that way,” and urged them to follow in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who said, “God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is constantly surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”
“Try to help make God’s dream a reality in your parish, in your community,” Mogilka said. “God’s dream is always bigger than what we’re capable of.”
Check back to TrentonMonitor.com for more updates to this story.