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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Discernment Dilemma

My parish is a full-stewardship parish, meaning that we are fully self-supporting financially and in practice. This is a new status for our parish and somewhat experimental in our area, but we are a large church and really the ideal place to start such a calling.

With that, our leadership structure has become much different than the basic parish-council model.

We have a Parish Council, to be sure, and our Pastor has complete The-Buck-Stops-Here authority over all decisions. The council is made up of the chairpersons of all of the various Commissions...Finance, Liturgy, Education, etc.

Our leadership follows a discernment process, as opposed to a "nomination" process, so what happens is that the parish prayerfully discerns those who should be called to leadership and nominates them. The nominees, if they accept their nominations, attend two informational sessions to aid in their own discernment in order to determine whether or not they are indeed called to this service. The last disernment meeting is a regular Commission meeting (in June) during which the Commission of interest explains their role, learns about those discerning and they, in turn, learn about the commission and what is expected.

Last year, I was discerned onto the Liturgy Commission at my parish, beginning with 5 nominations. (I still have no idea who 3 of my nominators are). This involves a three year term, and I felt I could give that type of committment.

I remember thinking about grad school, was surprised by the thought, and figured, way back last May, that it was a done dream...I was dismissing the very idea, thinking it would never happen. So I stepped up to the plate and offered myself for the service of my parish.

It's been an interesting year, and I have come to understand that each and every meeting is one hour of my time served in Purgatory. As Father Corapi says, "Pay now or pay later!" I see my Commission service as "pay now!".

I'm not a "meeting" type of person. I hate politics. I'm developing a severe distaste for committees. My typical desire is to stand up and say, "LET'S MAKE A DECISION AND JUST DO IT!"

I'm ready to head out and carry out the decision.

Apparently I'm not a visionary...I'm a doer. I'd rather be given an assignment and take to it and see results, whereas a Commission involves discussing the obvious and considering the inane as though the inane were valid, define our role in the inanity, whether we should get involved in the inane and the obvious, and whether we have the authority to carry out the inane, and whether if we don't have the authority, who the proper authority should be and how it should be addressed and which authorities are actually qualified to carry out the decision on the act.

I don't think I can take this, but I have submitted so far for a year.

It's not all bad...I've met some great people through this service and I have learned a great deal from them. But I hold with my own initial feeling for my pre-nomination days: I can't "lead" my way out of a wet paper bag. What am I doing in "parish leadership"?

I actually attended a couple Parish Council meetings, and was seated next to one of our Associate Pastors (we had 4 priests at the we have 3. We're a "mega-church", over 5200 registered families/individuals). I commented to him my above observation about this being Purgatory, and I'm not the first to say it. Actually, I think I asked him if the Council meeting alone counted for time off in Purgatory?

He laughed at me. I can't figure out why.

Then enter my Graduate School process. A year ago, it wasn't even on the radar screen; I'd actually given up on it but thanks to a friend, I considered it again and went seeking info, and now, I've been accepted to both the University of St. Thomas for an MA in Catholic Studies, and to Ave Maria University for an MTS (Masters in Theological Studies) in Pastoral Theology. I've accepted the latter, and look forward to goign through a 5 credit regimen beginning in late August.

I know what kind of committment this is going to take, and I don't plan to drop my involvement in RCIA. My level of committment to RCIA is likely to grow because our team has shrunk and our RCIA Coordinators have stepped down. I think our Faith Formation director is taking the brunt of that loss, but it will involve a higher level of committment from the two of us that remain.

I know I am called to serve in this ministry so I can't eliminate it even for Grad school.

So I thought to step down from the Liturgy Commission. I gave a committment for three years, but each year we discern on new members. The process allows for life changes, and I think that there is one happening for me, and whoever takes my place would be giving a 2 year committment.

I sent an email to our Chair to advise him of my discernment to step down. We had a brief discussion at our meeting this month, and today I happened to run into him after Mass.

Funny...just as I had been contemplating my status in the parish, the status as a single woman and where I am called to be.

My "resignation" is not being accepted. I explained to him the reason for stepping down; because I know the level of committment needed for my grad studies, and I can't guarantee I can be there for the Commission or dedicate myself to our work outside of the meetings as I will need that time to study and to deal with other life issues that arise for all of us.

He informed me that he understands, but for now, my name will remain on the roster and if I can't make it, they're willing to deal with that.

So I accepted this...since the terms are out there and they still want me to serve, I will serve.

We do have some things in the works that I helped to a possible Latin Norvus Ordo Mass, maybe a Tridentine Mass (for both, a one-time thing as a type of experiment), introducing Latin back into the Mass, little by little, etc. Bringing back the statuary and art so that we don't look so darned Protestant, giving better suggestions to break the dictatorship of the Environment committee (not a Commission) to be certain our decorations look liturgical and not like an Easter Basker exploded in the Gathering Space, etc.

I am still entertaining thoughts of stepping down, but I know that every valid call within the Church has to be affirmed by the Church, and since my resignation is not being accepted, and in fact, I'm being called to MORE service, in spite of my possible Grad classes and less time available, I'm thinking that my service is a Call.

I've been wondering all year what I'm doing serving on a Commission, wondering if the disernment process is broken for having placed me there.

But God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes He asks us to do things we would not otherwise do, and He uses others to bring us into His service.

I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I pray that whatever it is is God's will and that if I do remain on the Commission, that I am able to fulfill my obligations, and I am able to do all I need to do with RCIA, and I am able to do well in Grad school, if God does choose to pay for it for me. (My only obstacle to Grad school is funding, at this point...I still have no idea where the money is coming from as they are not accredited so I can't get tax breaks or regular student loans.)

As St. Therese of Avila once said to the Lord, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have very many!"


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Your paragraph on discussing the inanity of the inanity had me howling! Sounds like my work day meetings. Hell- could be meetings. Think about it.

I'm delighted that you are "stuck" on the Commission. You must be doing something right, if they refused to accept your resignation.

Anonymous said...

LOL! adoro--welcome to volunteer church jobs 101. Once your in a position, they don't accept resignations! Your probably very good at what your doing--so your definetly not getting out of the job.

I started teaching Catechism 3rd grade, I've asked Father Erik to let me stop--he said NO! I have no other reason to stop, but that it takes time and energy to plan lessons. He said that was not a good reason, and if he accepted resignations from everyone--he wouldn't have teachers

Lesson learned--Don't accept ANY church position unless your willing to do it till you die.

Adoro said...


Thank God the Liturgy is only a 3 year assignment and the rules REQUIRE stepping down at the end of the term. This enforces a change in leadership, prevents monopolies, etc.

And of course I won't leave RCIA, and they are truly in need!

Our Word said...

I'm glad you're staying (stuck?) on the liturgy committee - we need an advocate for the reform of the reform!


Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Tara is right. The only way out is in a coffin!

Adoro said...


I'm not sure how much good I am, and I've already had my head chewed off once for forcing the discussion on the protestantization of our entry way. And I'd do it again, darn it! But change is slow and frustrating and all we ever accomplish is talking about how to accomplish the latest accomplisment and how to address it at the enxt meeting. It's insane!

But I still have hope to step down...I'm going to see how many are interested and want to discern on, and if the opportunity presents itself, I may still do so. Of course, I'm also keeping an eye out for orthodoxy, because a lack thereof will make me stay out of a sheer sense of duty.

Fr. Richsteig ~ I'm not ready to die...but OK...if that's what it takes....

But wouldn't that be martyrdom?

Unknown said...

If I got on somebody's liturgy committee, I'd have to wear that armor described in Ephesians 6:10-18 that Cathy was talking about the other day.

How about that? I remembered a bible cite! I didn't remember the numbers, but I remembered it was Ephesians and that my Jerusalem Bible had a "heading" over that section.