Since arriving in Bartlesville in July of 2017, I have been so blessed to be a part of the Catholic community here. When, in July 2020, Bishop David Konderla asked me and Fr. Carlos to serve St. James in addition to our duties at St. John, I must admit I was a little overwhelmed. To take on the role of Shepherd in the midst of the pandemic restrictions was a daunting task, but one I prayed Fr. Carlos and I would be able to properly carry out. To serve two parishes in the same town is also a very unique reality. With a little over three years of experience with both parishes, I have been encouraged and pleased at the unity that continues to surface in the Catholic Community of Bartlesville. As the people of God in Bartlesville, we are living the Gospel and so sharing the Good News of salvation to all we meet.
In these last three years, we have also witnessed some of the unmet needs and challenges facing our Catholic community. As pastor, and as someone who wishes to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me, I have been praying about what the Catholic Church in Bartlesville should do to ensure a vibrant, thriving faith for those who practice now, and for those who will come after us. To give a little history, the Envisioning Team of St. John was discussing long-term strategic planning for Bartlesville just as the pandemic changed everything. Needless to say, that was tabled as we navigated quarantines, social distancing, online Masses, and the aftermath we still feel from COVID-19.
Prompted in prayer and by the Holy Spirit, I feel an urgency and an importance for us to look intentionally at the past, the present, and the future where God might be leading us as Catholics. I, along with leadership from both St. James and St. John, believe it is time to do some all-encompassing strategic planning. No pastor leads a parish forever, but as your pastor, I am also responsible for looking to the future and addressing issues in the now to best serve both the present and the future needs of the community.
In June, I led a Strategic Planning Mini-Retreat with about 50 people representing current and past leadership of both parishes. As we prayed together, shared our stories, learned of the state of the parishes, current and future needs and challenges, broke bread together, and had open and honest initial discussions about our community, I was encouraged by the interest and care that our people have for our community. As we closed the retreat, I asked each person present to pray that we, as a community and as leaders, might listen for and hear God’s will for our community. I also asked them to pray, to seek God’s prompting, if they might be called to serve on the strategic planning team. We are blessed to have a strong group of leaders who have discerned themselves to be a part of this process.
Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting individually with these team members to discuss in more detail some of the needs, challenges, and realities that I see as pastor. I also met with Bishop David Konderla and Vicar General Rev. Gary Kastl to discuss our interest in an intentional and forward-looking process of planning and discernment. The Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma is also in a period of strategic planning, so our timing seems to be very good. They are both pleased and supportive of our direction.
As we move forward, the team may be calling on outside consultants and our diocesan leadership, to navigate the process of gathering, assimilating, and processing information. We may be reaching out to parishioners and key ministry leaders through surveys, listening sessions, and other vehicles to determine the scope of our needs, the resources available, what future needs we envision, and of course, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the process.
I ask you to pray for the team, pray for our community, and pray for the Church as a whole. In a time fraught with division and conflict, we as Catholics should be examples of a willingness to follow God’s will and serve each other. It is in this spirit that I pray I am a shepherd to you. Thank you for your prayerful support.
Strategic Planning Team
Howard & Shawna Thill
Chuck & Alice Rohrs
David & Laura Hunt
John & Kim Barbour
Chris & Pamela Wilson
Brian & Regina Kennedy
Aaron & Christine Beldner
Scott & Patti Mason
Javier & Livimar Dias
Terry & Suzanne Lauritsen
Dcn. Jerry & Lucille Rutherford