Happy New Year, and happy feast day, as the Church honors Mary, the Mother of God! As we begin this New Year, there is much for which to be thankful. How about a little year-in-review for our three parishes?
Throughout much of this past year, we as members of the Church have been observing the Year of Mercy, announced by Pope Francis in late 2015. I hope you took advantage of the graces and indulgences offered throughout this Holy Year. As a local Catholic community, we observed the year through three key events: Last Spring, a reflection on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy was offered to all parishioners. Then, several parishioners took part in a Work of Mercy Service Day at the new Destiny Point location in Blenker, a home for women in troubled situations. Finally, many took part in the pilgrimage to La Crosse in which we had the opportunity to walk through the Holy Doors and tour the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman and the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I, as your pastor, sought to give special attention to offering opportunities for the adults of our parishes to continue to grow in faith and devotional life. During Lent, I offered an all-parish study entitled “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Bible,” in which we sought to get the “big picture” of the Bible as the story of God revealing himself to us and saving us, and to get a better grasp of how we as Catholics read and interpret the Bible. Later in the Spring, I offered a Short Course on Prayer, in which we talked about how we can develop a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the Scriptures and in the Church. Finally, in the Fall, I offered a program from the Symbolon Series entitled “Knowing the Faith,” in which we took a fresh look at the core teachings of our Catholic faith and talked about how they affect our everyday life. Each of these adult faith formation opportunities were well-attended and seemed to bear fruit in the lives of those who took part.
Also throughout the year, we have begun some discussion on the possibility of merging our three parishes into one. Fr. Bill Felix, pastor of All Saints Parish, a merger of the Boyd, Cadott, and Stanley churches, came to speak after Easter on the successful process of merging that his churches went through to become one parish. Since then, we have formed an Exploratory Committee that met over the course of four months to determine whether a merger would be a good and feasible thing for our parishes. This year, a Pastoral Leadership Committee and Finance and Administration Committee will be formed to develop a structure and plan of implementation for a merger to present to the parishes. Please keep this process of discernment for the future of our parishes in your prayers.
Also of note, is our Tri-Parish Youth Group. They have been a new blessing to our community. These young people have taken on several activities of fun and service, including baking bread for our nursing home and homebound parishioners, bowling, and raking leaves in the community. Also a blessing is our new Tri-Parish Prayer Chain, a wonderful opportunity to share our special prayer intentions with those in our community and pray for the needs of others.
We have also expanded our parishes’ outreach through new media. Late in 2015 we began launching a new tri-parish website at www.saintsmmk.com. We also established a Facebook page, and now, each parish has its own app. Finally, accessible at no cost to all parishioners is the online platform www.formed.org, a great resource of Catholic programs, movies, audios, and books.
These are just some of the things from the past year that include all three of our parishes together. Next week, I’ll list some things from each parish separately, and set some goals for this year.