I recently asked a mentor in ministry to recommend a retreat emcee. Rather than replying with the qualifications of her most accomplished colleagues or students, she named two people who could lead the retreat “without getting in the way.” As I recall who broadened and deepened my understanding of the Catholic faith, they are either people without social and educational distinctions, or people committed to the hard, ongoing work of putting their qualifications and education at the service of their baptismal call to live the Gospel. They are people like John the Baptist, free to actively point others not toward themselves but toward Christ. John the Baptist’s preparation for ministry in the desert is particular to his circumstances. Still, his presence to others without getting in the way and service that intentionally invites Christ into his efforts is a model for ministry.
In Catholic parishes, the sacraments give rhythm to our lives, along with the days, weeks, months, and years of the liturgical calendar. Yet, even as the liturgical calendar punctuates our daily lives, the forward movement of time can feel deeply impersonal. Parish life, however, offers ways of accompanying universal experiences—even ones as complicated as death and grief—with tender rituals and personal touches. Throughout the month of November, we focus on death and grief as common human experiences through which God and parish companion us. Ministers and fellow parishioners accompany each other through moments that matter, even when those moments are hard.
One of the most captivating stories in the Gospel to me has always been Jesus calling Peter out of the fishing boat, inviting Peter to join him on the rough seas in the middle of a storm (Matthew 14:22–33). The same way the Apostles find themselves on the boat, waiting and watching, lay ministers around the nation are waiting and watching to see what will happen with the Church in the coming months. There have been many phrases—“in this together,” “unprecedented,” or “brick-and-mortar”—that we never really thought we would use in such a way as we do now. The word that I have meditated and prayed with throughout these months—and the driving theme of my Faith Formation team at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Houston, Texas—has been “opportunity.” Although we have been intimidated these past months by crashing waves, howling winds, and loud thunder, there is an opportunity unlike any other, one that we are being called to walk toward together.
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.
At the heart of Notre Dame Vision is the mission to empower young people to recognize grace at work in their lives and respond to God’s call by offering their gifts in service to the needs of the world. For the past eighteen years, this mission has been carried out each summer through four week-long conferences for high school students and parallel conferences for campus and youth ministers.