The word that captures the essence of the past 2022-23 parish year is most certainly “stewardship.” Stewardship is the practice of building a worship-based relationship with God, whereby the disciple offers their time, talent, and treasure back to God in gratitude for all that He has given to us.
The four pillars of parish stewardship — hospitality, formation, prayer, and service — were the focal points of our past year. As a Church, growing in these four areas was the goal — and now as we look back, it is clear that the goal was met.
Elayne Kramer, Parish Business Manager, reflected on the past year and noted that these pillars of stewardship were at the root of all of the parish’s growth and accomplishments.
“Now that the pandemic is over, we hoped to encourage more people to return to Church and get involved,” Elayne says. “To our great pleasure, people did come back and the increase in Mass attendance and ministry involvement was tremendous!”
Possibly the greatest area of growth came in the form of hospitality.
“Our Hospitality Committee has had many events this year starting with annual staples like the Clambake, Parish Anniversary Breakfast, and Santa and Easter Bunny Breakfasts,” Elayne says. “In addition, this year we brought back the Chili Cook-off and even added three more events that brought the parish community together, such as the wildly successful Pancake Breakfast that saw over 300 people in attendance, the Pasta Dinner, and the Ethnic Potluck Dinner.”
These events truly brought parishioners together and allowed all in attendance to meet new people and enjoy fellowship with each other. The effect of such social events was seen in Mass when those in attendance would recognize new friends and faces that they had just met at the hospitality events.
This past year also offered fruitful opportunities for growth in faith, specifically among the adult faith formation programs that were offered throughout the year.
“Through Fr. McNeil’s Catechism classes and movie series, and Deacon Paul’s ‘Bible Study’ program and ‘Exploring the Amazing Catholic Faith’ program, we were able to broaden the formation of many of our parishioners,” Elayne says.
These unique adult faith formation opportunities were standouts during the year. Fr. McNeil completed the two-year-long Catechism class, as participants went through the entire Catechism, coining every major topic and doctrine of our faith. Deacon Paul’s interactive programs were short, eight-week programs that were focused on inspiring and deepening faith.
“Not to forget about our children, our summer Vacation Bible School (VBS), Family Prayer Group, and PSR program all successfully encouraged spiritual growth among our young people,” Elayne says. “Our VBS is always a highlight and this year was no exception. This past summer was packed with faith and fun and every spot was filled. The impact of VBS is evidenced by the many teenagers who are eager to come back as program coordinators. The next VBS is scheduled for June 12-16.”
The parish year would not be a success without an increase in prayer. Our parish prides itself on offering many prayer opportunities that go above and beyond Mass and the other sacraments.
“We had many opportunities for all to join in prayer this year, from our six different prayer groups to our 24-hour Adoration Chapel,” Elayne says.
The prayer groups are smaller gatherings where parishioners come together and pray in communion with one another for a common cause. Often, members of the prayer groups pray for each other and support one another.
Similarly, service is also an important part of a successful parish year. The Christian life is not only contemplative but also evangelical. In imitation of Christ, we are called to serve those in need.
This area is a strength of Immaculate Conception. We have a plethora of ministries that reach out to our local community in many different ways. However, one of the largest ministries of the year was our Society of Mother Teresa.
“The Society of Mother Teresa is an internal program that operates Monday through Friday and is fully dependent upon Immaculate Conception volunteers,” Elayne says. “This ministry cooks, packs, prepares for freezing, and then delivers to those in need or without loved ones.”
Each week, the Society of Mother Teresa serves about 70 to 75 people, distributing seven meals to each person served to ensure that they have a week’s worth of hot food. This prolific ministry partnered with the Greeting Card Ministry, which created kind and heartfelt cards for those served during holidays like Christmas and Easter.
Unfortunately, there are simply not enough pages in this newsletter issue to highlight each of our many wonderful ministries or the works of mercy that we were able to accomplish this year. But there is one thing that Elayne was sure to note.
“It is obvious that when a person gets involved in one ministry or area of our parish life, it often leads to getting even more involved in other ministries,” she says. “Those involved in ministry get to know fellow parishioners who share the same purpose with you — namely, to be a disciple of Christ and bring God to others.”
All in all, the obvious highlight of this past year was communal growth in the stewardship way of life, which has truly enlivened our parish with Christ and has brought us all together in faith and fellowship.