By Eric Brooks
Approximately two years ago Father Dan reinstituted the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Council. This of course begs the question, “What is the Council?” Traditionally, a Parish Council is composed of the heads of various parochial committees and ministries. It exists to give the pastor information and updates as to what those ministries and committees are up to in the parish. For those of us who grew up handwriting school test essays in “blue books” and remember first hearing the tortured cat caterwauling of a dial-up modem connected to the “web” this type of Council makes sense. It helps the pastor to remain informed, for committees and ministries to coordinate efforts, and to keep everyone pointed in the same direction.
Of course, we now live in the age of social media, email, direct messaging, texting, and countless other forms of instant communication. What used to require long Council meetings can now be accomplished with a few group texts or one of those dreaded Zoom meetings we have all become accustomed to. Father Dan recognized this new reality when he re-formed our Parish Council. The new Council is composed of a representative cross-section of the congregation. We are men and women; Millennials, retirees, and everything in-between. We volunteer and work in an incredibly diverse number of ministries throughout the parish.
For example, I am obviously active with the bulletin and parish communications and I also help with SVDP, am working with the parish facilities staff on a new project, and generally make a nuisance of myself whenever possible. Others on the Council are deeply involved with Men’s Faith Formation, Leadership Team, the OLPH school, finance, Asia’s Hope, Choir, Walking with Purpose, Creation Care Council, Knights of Columbus, lectors, St. Vincent DePaul, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and Masters of Ceremonies. While we are working for the parish, we are also most definitely part of the parish.
Diocesan guidelines mandate the formulation of a finance council within each parish. They also encourage a consultative body, such as a parish council, but exactly how that board is set up and run is up to each parish. Across the Diocese of Columbus, you will find many different types of parish councils with varying numbers of members, terms, and selection processes. Here at Our Lady, Father Dan asked specific parishioners to consider serving on Parish Council. It is possible that in the future, rotating terms could be instituted.
The next obvious question is what has this new Parish Council actually done. The answer is, surprising or not, we have not accomplished much so far. Although the Council is two years old, we spent a full year on formation. This was getting to know each other, researching what made other Parish Councils successful, reading a stack of books, and looking into what dynamic and growing parishes were doing right. We even had regular homework. Yes, you read that right… homework.
Following our year of formation, things went somewhat sideways for both the Council and the parish. Our pastor went on sabbatical leaving the Council essentially leaderless and without a function. When Father Dan returned from his sabbatical there was some minor progress and then he departed again for his inpatient treatment. As you read previously, all of us are very involved in the parish and seasons such as Lent, Advent, Easter, and Christmas demand our attention be focused on things outside the Parish Council and made coordinating meetings difficult. Oh yeah, and then the world essentially shut down due to the virus.
When things return to normalcy the secondary purpose of the Parish Council is to provide strategic advice to the pastor. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a large and growing parish as is the larger Grove City community. My wife and I moved to the Holt-Alkire area of Grove City a bit over a decade ago and, at that time, everything south of our house was empty fields. Now there are condominiums, housing developments, the entire Central Crossing school campus (four large schools and counting,) and a new apartment complex opening this Autumn. That does not even count the retirement home near the railroad tracks on Southwest Blvd much less the massive development going in where Beulah Park used to be.
Our parish needs to look forward to these changes. We would much rather plan ahead and be positioned to anticipate situations 5 years, 10 years, 20 years in the future rather than be left desperately reacting to every new crisis as it occurs.
As an example, a growing concern is simple meeting space on the parish campus.
With an ever-growing number of groups hoping to find 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or several hours to gather a handful to several hundred members, space has become an increasing issue at the parish. If you have ever tried to schedule a meeting on a Wednesday evening, you have probably encountered this. The parish staff does an amazing job of playing an immense game of Tetris with meeting space, but it is something that will need to be addressed strategically rather than piecemeal. And this is merely one of the long-term issues Our Lady of Perpetual Help needs to address.
Despite its role to plan for distant eventualities, the Parish Council is merely an advisory body; we do not and cannot formulate parochial policy. All the Council does is attempt to anticipate strategic needs for the parish, research options, and then present them to the pastor. Ultimately it is the pastor that forms and directs policy for OLPH.
Astute readers may have noticed that strategic planning is the secondary purpose of the Parish Council. Our primary purpose is to listen to the congregation and present the congregation’s voice, your voice, to the pastor. As Father Dan said in his homily at the parish feast day Mass, the parish is not the buildings, not the pastor, not the Parish Council. The parish is each one of us who comes together in our love for Jesus Christ as a community. The Council does not impose directions, plans, rulings on the congregation. Instead it elevates the voice of the congregation to help the pastor make plans.
With that said, the Parish Council has not at all done a good job of listening. While we did not intend to meet in secrecy, hidden away from you, we also failed at letting you know who we are and what we have been up to. At the end of this article you will find a list of the Council’s current members. We absolutely welcome anyone to speak with any of us regarding your thoughts on the parish. The entire council can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to Parish Council, Monsignor Cody’s policy is that anyone can approach him with any topic and he will make time to meet with them. We want to hear your concerns!
I also cannot stress how important it is for individuals and small groups to find something they are passionate about in the parish and then make it a reality. Environmental issues and zero waste initiatives; that was a result of Sr. Nancy and a small number of parishioners embracing an issue and making it a reality. Asia’s Hope; that was Deb and Ray Sheridan making BB5 an beloved part of our parish and school. Even now we have Jason Gale starting up a virtual group of Courageous Dads.
The Parish Council is eighteen people, but you are an entire parish of impassioned and excited people. The Council needs you; we need your passion.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:1 – 4)
If you lay the seeds, we will do everything we can to water them.
YOUR PARISH COUNCIL
Msgr. John Cody
Fr. Jim Colopy
Mike Ford, Sr.
Mary Jean Girard
Deacon Michael Kopczewski
Look forward to an upcoming article on the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Finance Council!
“Active participation provides an opportunity to serve the Parish by advising the pastor on numerous elements of parish life and its administration. It also provides a forum for diverse forward-thinking discernment where our parish is headed and how to meet its mission.”Andy Johns, Parish Council Member
“As member of the Parish Council, I serve as an Advisor to the Pastor and Leadership team, not a decision maker. My goal is to help further the parish Mission and ensure that our activities are in alignment with that mission. I serve as a representative and a voice for my fellow parishioners as we identify current and future needs of the parish family.”Mary Jean Girard, Parish Council Member