During this Holy Year of Mercy, the parish of St. Gregory the Great is embarking on the Faith in Our Future initiative while, at same time, having freshly completed work on our five-year strategic plan. This confluence of blessing, review of accomplishments and renewed planning provides an opportune time to reflect on the past as we go forward in planning for the future.
As we look at fresh approaches to spreading the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, we also look back at the ways the people of St. Gregory the Great parish have served and glorified our God during the past five years. The parish strategic planning project began in 2010 with a parish-wide survey. The data collected through the survey was supplemented by input collected at a series of focus groups. Six task forces were convened to review these findings and to develop objectives and strategies for a plan that would be implemented over the years from 2011 through 2015. The areas of focus were: Communications, Evangelization, Stewardship, Youth, Religious Education, Art and Environment, and Facility Usage.
During those years, much was achieved in these areas through the prayers, hard work and dedication of many of our fellow parishioners. We experienced a renewed recognition of the Eucharist as source and summit of the Christian life through the continuation of our practice of weekly adoration in the chapel, the addition of a Holy Hour one evening a week and on special occasions, the repositioning of the tabernacle to a central place of honor in our sanctuary, the initiation of a Lenten “Forty Hours Devotion,” and the attendance at Mass on Friday mornings by school children.
Our strategic plans called for a number of efforts aimed at bringing people to a deeper understanding and appreciation of our beautiful Catholic faith. The Adult Faith Formation Core Team (AFFCT) was established to increase our capacity to address adult faith formation and enrichment efforts. Resulting opportunities for parishioners to learn and grow included our wonderful Tuesday Night Live Series, Bible studies, instructional series on the basics of the Catholic faith, spiritually enriching Parish Missions, and uplifting guest speakers. We also saw the initiation of several new ministries that attend to the spiritual needs of specific groups (e.g. That Man is You). A series of talks by noted experts on issues faced by today’s Catholics brought us timely information on how we can live out our faith in today’s world.
In our effort to bring our young people closer to Christ and better guide them to a lifetime of walking with Our Lord, we restructured and added a number of new features to our religious education programming. A part-time Youth Minister position was created so that we would be able to reach greater numbers of our youth. The Academy and Religious Education catechetical curriculum were reviewed and revised. A summer Religious Education program and a home study program were initiated. Mandatory parent meetings and children’s retreats were instituted for the sacraments of First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Renewed emphasis was placed on the corporal works of mercy through the involvement of Academy and religious education students in the Mt. Carmel Guild food drive, Christmas outreach to Arcadia Nursing Home, Loaves and Fishes, and other charitable efforts.
Today, communications is a critically important evangelization tool. Our ability to bring the Good News and parish news to the people of St. Gregory the Great was greatly enhanced through establishment of a full-time position on the pastoral staff. The Director of Communications has spearheaded efforts to revitalize our website, introduce a social media presence, plan programming for our gathering space screens, and manage other media. A Communications & Marketing Board was also established to provide parishioner input and assist in the development of extensive communications to promote liturgies, activities, and ministry activities among the people of the parish, as well as the Hamilton and Robbinsville communities. Enhanced signage on campus to assist visitors and parishioners alike in navigating our large campus also resulted from the Strategic Plan.
These are just a few examples of the accomplishments of our parish over these past five years as a result of the Strategic Plan of 2010-2015. We have addressed and met many of the objectives put forth in the Strategic Plan. Our thanks and appreciation goes to all who worked to make these and other achievements possible as we continue building our parish and the faith lives of our fellow parishioners.
We now bring the same spirit of dedication and focus to Faith in Our Future as we see what is next for St. Gregory the Great in the years to come.