St. Rita parishioners take part in Marian
University program to renew parish

Father Michael Tobin, back row center, was photographed on the campus of Marian University in Indianapolis with a group, including St. Rita Church’s parishioners, taking part in the Renovación program. (Photo Special to The Record)

In response to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), St. Rita Church is taking part in a new initiative called Renovación to form parish leaders for evangelization.

Renovación, which means renewal in Spanish, is a certificate program through Marian University in Indianapolis to form missionary disciples. Father Mike Tobin, pastor of St. Rita, along with four parishioners are enrolled in the two-year program.

The Gospel must be “announced, communicated and shared, especially with people living on the peripheries,” said Father Tobin. “Key for parish renewal is that we form active parishioners to use their gifts of the Holy Spirit to reach out and connect with those that have been lost and disconnected from the church for whatever reason.”

Though only four parishioners are taking part, Renovación will touch the entire parish, said Father Tobin. The four individuals being formed will use their new skills to form other leaders in the parish, he said.

Among the four being formed is Cesar Gordillo.

Cesar Gordillo, left, and his wife Irma Gordillo, far right, are members of St. Rita Church. Their children all attend Catholic schools. Cesar Gordillo is one of four St. Rita parishioners taking part in Renovación, a program through Marian University in Indianapolis to form missionary disciples. (Photo Special to The Record)

Gordillo and his wife, Irma, have been members of St. Rita for close to two decades. The Gordillo’s three children have grown up in the parish and attend Catholic schools. Their eldest daughter is a freshman at Bellarmine University, their son is a junior at St. Xavier High School and their youngest is a second-grader at St. Rita School. The Gordillo family will be featured in a promotional video for the Catholic Education Foundation during the annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner March 15.

Cesar Gordillo said he believes Renovación will help him gain confidence to talk about his faith.

“I’ve always loved theology and I’ve always wanted to learn about theology and the church and be able to respond when people ask about the church,” said Cesar Gordillo. “Sometimes I don’t speak because I don’t know what to say. I hope to learn and achieve the ability to help with the right answers and help them to know and be part of the church community.”

The Renovación program will take place over the course of two years, during which time Cesar Gordillo and the other participants will take online courses on Scripture and the Hispanic church in the U.S., lead spiritual retreats and create small faith communities that can evangelize, said Father Tobin.

Forming leaders for evangelization is important to reach the Hispanic community, which is a largely young population in need of attention, said Father Tobin, who is the Archdiocese of Louisville’s vicar for Hispanic ministry.

“One of the primary goals is to hold on to youth and young adults,” he said. “We want to make them welcome at church.”

Cesar Gordillo, a member of St. Rita Church, is one of four parishioners taking part in Renovación, a program through Marian University in Indianapolis to form missionary disciples. (Photo Special to The Record)

Father Tobin said the 100-year-old St. Rita parish is comprised of a “vital and aging community who have traditions and fondness and ownership of parish” as well as a “young community, given birth to around 1997, who are increasingly becoming stake-holders. … We want to train leaders to take on more responsibility for the parish … and to make them full members of the church,” he said.

He believes Renovación will give the youth confidence to do so, he said.

Eva Gonzalez, who serves as director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Hispanic Ministry, said it’s exciting to have St. Rita participating in the first cohort of the new program.

She hopes that by the end of the program, other parishes will see St. Rita’s growth and want to take part as well, she said.

Gonzalez believes Renovación has the potential to help create parishes that are “more welcoming,” where “there’s space for everyone,” with “more ministries and more people wanting to participate,” she said.

The program will help participants “learn how to lead and see much more closely how this takes place. They’ll have a better vision of what constitutes a parish,” she said. “We’ll have to walk together, listen to each other. It’s what a synodal church is, that we listen to one another and walk hand-in-hand to accomplish the mission of the church.”

Renovación is funded through an almost $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., a private foundation that awards grants to help enrich the religious lives of Christians in the United States.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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