Pastoral creativity is an intentional process that begins with prayer and reflection guiding you to identify a community of concern. Listening with compassion to the members of that community leads you to ponder what you learn in light of the Catholic imagination. The fruits of these movements are put into action through creative pastoral response to the needs you encounter.
Your response to the community you choose to serve will reflect the unique needs, gifts, and resources discovered in the unfolding of your personal reflection in dialogue with the members of your chosen community. While you may have ideas of what to do going into this process, be open to what you discover and allow yourself to rethink and reimagine based on the actual needs, hopes, and desires of your community.
There may be practical challenges and difficulties to realizing your initial ideas, especially given the limitations of ministering during a pandemic. When you encounter obstacles or resistance to your ideas, turn to prayer to cultivate the dispositions of hope and perseverance. Try not to become discouraged, but to open yourself up to the opportunity to discover a greater depth of creativity. Sometimes the most fruitful response is actually the third or fourth adaptation of your original idea.
Consider these Questions:
- What do I hope to create? What need(s) am I hoping to address?
- What are my goals for addressing the needs of the community?
- What resources do I already have? What resources will I need?
- How will I use my knowledge, skills, and talents in my response?
- What is my timeline? What major tasks or activities will need to be completed?
- How might my proposed action impact the community?
- What more do I need to learn to successfully shape or implement my response?
- What are signs that this is a fruitful response?
While your response will be unique to your community, to help you imagine the possibilities, here are a few examples of the creative pastoral responses of the Notre Dame Vision undergraduate Mentors-In-Faith who participated in this process over the summer of 2020.
- A collection of prayers for children suffering from long-term illnesses honoring their experiences of anxiety, isolation, and fear while cultivating hope, compassion, and courage
- A devotional for middle school-aged girls addressing the need for identity, acceptance, and personal relationship with Christ through seven spiritual themes related to Disney princesses
- A 30-day prayer journaling “challenge” for young adults including a short Scripture passage, a theme based on the virtues, and reflection questions
- A small group providing a space of discussion and reflection for youth of the parish concerning the racial injustices they experience, their thoughts and concerns, and ideas for action
- A newsletter for parish choirs on hiatus and unable to gather for rehearsal fostering communion through life updates and shared individual meditations on favorite hymns or songs
- An Instagram account centered around mental illness awareness as well as motivation and self-acceptance including quotes from the Bible, saints, and other Catholic thinkers on themes of acceptance, forgiveness, trust, courage, confidence, and hope
- A prayer resource based on the seven virtues for families of patients in hospice care addressing the need for peace, rest, and support for caregivers
- A stationary set featuring an image and brief biography of a saint to help families keep in contact with others and learn to love the saints
After developing your pastoral response, take time to reflect on your process of pastoral creativity as a whole. Consider these questions:
- What did I create? How did it address the needs I identified? How well did it meet my goals?
- How did I use my knowledge, skills, and talents in my response?
- Where have I seen grace at work in this process?
- If I could go back and tell myself one thing at the beginning of this process, what would it be? What would I do differently?
- In creating this project, what did I learn about myself? about listening? about my community? about the Catholic faith?
Focus not only on the project you created, but also on the unfolding of God’s process working within you as you worked in turn with your chosen community. Be attentive to the insights you gained and how the Holy Spirit guided you through the movements of the process, and bear all of these movements in mind as you continue to creatively engage the task of pastoral ministry in the weeks and months ahead.
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