Facilitators help lead parish discernment

Parishioners of the Church of the Annunciation in Shelbyville, Ky., sang during a Mass in 2015. Parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville have spent time in prayerful reflection as part of the Parish Discernment Process. (Photo Special to The Record)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville have spent considerable time in prayerful reflection over the course of the last year.

This period of parish discernment was prompted by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz’s 2017 pastoral letter “Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst.” In it, the archbishop asked parishes to prayerfully consider “How God is calling you to grow in holiness.”

Those helping lead the process are volunteers from around the archdiocese.

Sister of Charity of Nazareth Pat Huitt served as a facilitator for St. Ignatius in White Mills Ky., and St. Ambrose in Cecilia, Ky. The parishes are clustered and Father Benedict J.F. Brown serves as their pastor.

Sister Huitt said watching parishioners’ ability to work together and to listen to one another was a source “of great joy.”

“I have found an enthusiasm of the people for the church, for God and for working together to really be a very vibrant parish,” said Huitt, who recently spent 15 years ministering as a missionary in Botswana.

As part of the discernment process, parishes were asked to celebrate what they think they are already doing well. Sister Huitt said she was encouraged to hear of the multitude of activities St. Ignatius and St. Ambrose take part in.

“They are trying to help people through difficult times and simply being present to people,” she said.

Denise Ruiz assisted the parishes of Sts. Edward and Michael with their discernment process and called the experience “affirming.”

Ruiz said parishioners at both St. Edward and St. Michael identified sacramental formation as bright spots in parish life.

“Overall they felt like they

did sacraments well in terms of how formation was happening,” said Ruiz, who serves as the pastoral care coordinator at St. Margaret Mary Church. “They both were very strong in service and outreach as well. I was amazed at how much they did.”

Deacon Keith McKenzie served as a facilitator for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. He commended Archbishop Kurtz for his effort to listen to the parishes, both near and far.

“I think Archbishop Kurtz really genuinely wants to hear from the people,” said Deacon McKenzie, who serves as a permanent deacon at St. Augustine Church.

Art Turner, the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Faith Formation Office facilitated the discernment period at Good Shepherd Church, John Paul II Church and St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky. For him, the discernment exercise was a chance to reflect on the diverse ways in which Catholics in central Kentucky are Christ present in their communities.

“I appreciate the wide diversity in how the church is expressed in these parishes, the unique expression of Catholicism,” he said.

Turner said the prayerful, reflective nature of the discernment process set the tone for parishioners’ participation.

“Every time I left a parish, I thought ‘Wow, I get to do this.’ It nurtured my faith for me, it fed my faith,” he said.

In total, 28 individuals served as facilitators for parishes taking part in the parish discernment process, said Sal Della Bella, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Parish Leadership Development.

Six parishes participated in a pilot phase in the spring of 2017, 13 in the first wave during the fall of 2017 and 26 in the second wave in the winter of 2018. About 35 parishes are currently participating in the third and final wave.

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