Annual General Meeting
Pastoral Report – April 16, 2023
This is the first Annual General Meeting Report concerning our Parish Ministry since I have arrived in Our Lady of Peace in August of 2019. It is hard to forget March of 2020 when the pandemic changed the way we gathered as a parish, the way we ministered, the way we lived our lives and the friends and family we lost.
The purpose of this report is not to give a detailed account of what has happened since March of 2020 in terms of ministry within the parish but rather it is to look at some of the areas that need attention in our faith community. It is also my intention to highlight some of the things that have been happening. Above all it is my intention to say thank you to the many people who make real in their daily lives the message of Jesus. In the Upper Room when Jesus breathed on the disciples, pouring out the Spirit upon them and giving them the gift of peace, he also placed on their hearts the work of forgiveness. I give thanks for the way in which we as people of faith, forgive one another, sharing mercy, being a people who refuse to buy into the words and actions of ‘hate’ and ‘judgment’ that are so readily visible in our culture today, words and actions that marginalize people and suggest that they are less than fully human. Pope Francis invites us to enlarge the tent of the Church so that all may find a home. Thank you for sharing in that ministry.
This report will look at our life and ministry in terms of Liturgy, Prayer, Catechesis, Sacraments, Outreach and Social.
Over the last few years, I have heard people express appreciation for our Liturgies – the Mass, Funeral Celebrations, and Sacraments. There is good involvement of people, there is good music, the environment of the Church is clean and well decorated with an emphasis on simplicity. I have heard from many people that they appreciate my homilies and my style of celebration which is welcoming and reverent while also being somewhat engaging.
I have a few concerns.
Overall, from what I hear our community is a community of prayer. We are good at personal private prayer at home. Our engagement in communal prayer is another story. When we have had special prayer moments – litanies, novenas, celebrations of the Word, the rosary, Taize evenings, Sung Evening Prayer, 6 Hours for the Lord, Stations of the Cross we have had some people take part. Again, I am concerned that many people choose not to take part. The same people come together in prayer and the number seems to be growing smaller. Are these celebrations held at the wrong time? Are they not well advertised? What prevents people from taking part?
Our individual, personal and private prayer in our homes is a sign of a community of disciples. Our lack of engagement in communal, devotional prayer is an area of concern.
Our efforts at live streaming have been well received and there is a sizeable group of people here in our parish who are unable due to health and life circumstances to take part physically in our celebrations. They have let me know of their virtual participation and they appreciate the effort to live stream our prayer.
Somehow, many Catholics have settled into a way of thinking that suggests once the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) are received there is no need for further catechism and for further learning. This manner of thinking is not healthy. God continues to teach us and reveal God’s self to us; in other words, we are lifelong learners. If we no longer pay attention to growing our faith life, our relationship with God shrinks and our connection to the Church suffers. Taking part in our communal prayer life and coming to our Sunday masses is an essential way of learning about our God.
Prior to the pandemic the pastor was responsible for preparing couples for marriage and for baptism. The pastor was also instrumental in preparing children for reconciliation, confirmation and first eucharist. As Catholics we need to nurture our faith our whole life long.
I want to express my concern that many people who come seeking baptism for their children do not come to Church before or after the celebration of the sacrament. In addition, many people resent the little catechesis that is offered them and some walk away because I will not immediately baptize their child.
The sacrament of Baptism is not a magic ritual that protects our children from going to hell. The sacrament of Baptism is our entry into the Body of Christ, the Church. It is the first step in a wonderful relationship with people of faith that reaches its culmination when we are united in the Communion of Saints. A new baptismal formation program is in place. It is not a punishment for people, rather it is an effort to give people the information and the relationships they need to realize that we are baptized into the Church.
The baptismal formation program involves reading and reflecting together on the Gospel of St. Luke. It also involves a few sessions on the meaning of Baptism and the ritual. The program will be delivered communally – people will get to know other folks who are preparing for the baptism of their children. The program also involves people showing up for Sunday mass as a sign that they really want to be a part of the Body of Christ.
An additional concern that I have rests around our young people taking part in catechetical programs. Young people ought to find themselves introduced to the faith in a way that they can understand. This process deepens as they get older. Studying our faith gives us the chance to deepen our relationship with God and the Church. At one time we had catechism classes. When I arrived as pastor, I was able to find a few people who were willing to accompany our young people as they prepared for the sacraments. Because of the pandemic, we stopped our in-person gatherings. Since then, families have been preparing their children on their own. I have volunteered to accompany them and answer questions.
I think it is time for us to gather in person once again for catechism. What that might look like is up to us – those with children and those who are willing to minister as catechists, sharing faith.
Considering that, we need to have some conversations about catechists. We can begin small and then build our plan.
Sacraments and Outreach
One of the ways for us to experience God is through the celebration of the sacraments. Sacraments are not an end in themselves. They offer us an experience of God and of community. If it is our intention to have our children experience a sacrament without regular participation in the life of the parish, we need to think again about what it means to be a Catholic.
As Catholics we need to welcome people into the Church, and we need to be generous in welcoming them. Sacraments are not a reward for coming to the Church. They are celebrations of faith. They mark our journey. They are not prizes to be received, they are gifts to be opened and to be celebrated repeatedly. As Catholics we need to make visible our faith. We lament the fact that our numbers are decreasing.
The Eucharist – Our attendance at the Eucharist is often sporadic. Sometimes we are 150 and sometimes we are 80 people in attendance. There are many more Catholics in our community. I have been praying for the moment when we will have so many people at our Sunday liturgy that we will have to add a second Sunday mass. As of today, our highest attended Sunday mass counted approximately 150 people. We have room for more than 200 people. How do we encourage their involvement and participation?
Reconciliation – The sacrament of reconciliation is our way of growing in our faith, nurturing the attitude of forgiveness. Jesus himself has encouraged us to forgive. Our engagement in this sacrament has diminished significantly. What is the reason for this?
Sacrament of Anointing the Sick – There are several people in our community who are home bound and suffering in some way. I would like us to talk about us setting up a Pastoral Care Committee. The purpose of the Committee members would be three-fold – take communion to the sick following our Sunday celebration and notify the pastor when someone needs to be anointed.
Outreach – Our parish has proven to be generous in our Advent and Lenten Programs for the Door of Hope. In addition, people were generous in supporting the initiative of furnishing a room in The Northwest Community Lodge. We need to continue to look at how we might reach out and support members in our community who are in need.
Social – Over the last few years various attempts have been made to gather for social gatherings, including coffee and snacks after weekday masses, pancake breakfasts, potluck suppers, winter fun days, hotdogs - hot chocolate - ice cream after mass, bingos, teas, and an evening of wine cheese. It is important that we continue to gather as a community of believers. More efforts are being planned which will hopefully help us to reach out to our brothers and sisters to let them know that they are welcome and that they are valued.
Pastoral Council – We have not chosen people to serve on our pastoral council since the pandemic. We must reactivate our Pastoral Council. Please think about volunteering for this important ministry. A huge word of thanks to those who have helped animate (ministers and leaders) the parish since my arrival. Please know that I greatly appreciate your generosity.
Hi! My name is Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI and I am the pastor of the Meadow Lake Cluster. I serve the faith communities of Our Lady of the Smile, Waterhen, St. Jude's, Green Lake and Our Lady of Peace, Meadow Lake. I arrived in the cluster on August 15th, 2019. You can see more information about me on the home page!