Catholic Herald staff
Celebrating parishioners’ service and inspiring their ministry were goals of a retreat-style event held in Three Lakes.
More than 80 people who serve in various capacities at St. Theresa, Three Lakes, and St. Kunegunda, Sugar Camp, gathered April 25 for Ministry Day.
All who minister — musicians and greeters to lectors and groundskeepers — were invited to St. Theresa to listen to speakers, discuss their ministries in small groups and share an appreciation lunch at a nearby restaurant.
“We are the Body of Christ,” the event’s theme, evoked parishioners’ collective strength as well as their individual gifts.
Fr. Manadu Bala Showry, parochial administrator of the two clustered parishes, welcomed attendees in the morning and addressed them again during lunch.
“Your presence is a clear sign of the spirit of God working and bringing us together in our church family,” he said. “I sincerely appreciate you all for your zeal and love for Christ and our parish communities.”
Joyce Heil, an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, works at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae. In the morning, she led prayers and songs before handing the microphone over to her husband, Carl Koch.
A retreat leader at Marywood who has authored several books on Catholicism, Koch spoke about the value of “small and obscure deeds,” of using one’s gifts to the best of one’s abilities.
“God is not expecting us to be anybody but who we are,” he said. “God didn’t create me to be Mother Teresa.”
Koch quoted St. Francis de Sales, who wrote, “Be who you are and be that well.”
“It’s all of us in our own lives, doing the small things,” he said.
“Small and obscure deeds, but that’s what really counts in life, in the long run,” he added – doing the best we can with who we are, using all the gifts we have “with love, kindness and wisdom.”
As servant leaders, ministers are in a position to influence others, Koch observed. Catechists, for example, influence the children they teach.
“Ministry is meeting people where they are at, and taking them where God wants them to be,” he said. “It’s a nice definition of ministry, I think.”
Koch spoke about the importance of the role, but cautioned his audience against the potential pitfalls of leadership.
In Pope Francis’ homily on leadership, the subject of an April 14 article in the Harvard Business Review, the pontiff talked about the 15 “diseases” afflicting leaders. One was “the disease of a downcast face.”
“This sense of being the Body of Christ should give me joy,” Koch said.
He quoted another of Pope Francis’ lines: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service.”
In our service, we should embrace the whole of humanity, he said. “In our ministries, do we embrace the weakest?”
With that in mind, attendees divided into ministry-based groups to discuss ideas and challenges. It’s the first time such a collaboration has taken place between the two parishes, said Anne Lindeke, worship chairperson at St. Theresa.
For parish officials, it was an opportunity to learn more about ministers’ needs and facilitate community-building and communication.
“The biggest issue, especially with eucharistic ministers and lectors, was more training. That’s something we’re addressing now,” she said.
Finding enough eucharistic ministers at St. Theresa can be difficult, and they now know St. Kunegunda ministers are willing to help out when they attend Mass in Three Lakes.
Musicians, too, are discussing collaboration.
“We are pursuing a possibility of once a month doing a joint choir, and going back and forth,” she added.
Lindeke facilitated the discussion among ushers, which focused on the logistics of money-handling. Members of women’s groups brainstormed how to grow their membership, while finance councilors considered what the parishes would look like in 20 years, and catechists talked about attracting young families.
“They came out of those focus groups just buzzing, just talking, talking, talking,” Lindeke said.
On the one-block walk to the restaurant, the mood didn’t fade.
“They just kept talking all the way,” she added. “There was just so much energy.”
At the restaurant, Fr. Bala discussed being the living stones with which God builds.
“They seemed so open about the living stones concept,” she said. “There was such a positive reception to everything Father said.”
Lindeke says the parishes are blessed to have Fr. Bala, a gifted leader and homilist, as their priest.
“We are so lucky,” she added. “We’re so lucky.”
Overall, the event was rejuvenating for ministers and their parishes.
“I didn’t anticipate that it was going to generate that much excitement,” she added. “I think we were all surprised.”