Perhaps you’ve received a call lately from your friendly neighborhood Parish Representative!  If so, you may have tried to jog your memory about what you’d heard at church, trying to remember “Who are Parish Reps?” and “What’s that group all about, again?”  The goal of the Parish Rep ministry is to continually build the culture of our parish to one that provides a sense of belonging, welcoming,  and engaging, allowing Christ to work through each of us in loving service to each other. We want our parish to be vibrant, joy-filled, and Spirit-led. We want people to encounter Christ–and deepen their faith.

As part of this effort, our parish has been gradually adding to  the group of Parish Representatives (now at 51 members), consisting of men and women of varying age groups, representing 12 mapped-out areas of our parish.  Our parish is made up of people who come far and wide from many areas in and around Jackson. These “areas” are meant to become “smaller communities within our larger community” to aid in the process of helping you get to know more of your fellow St. John parishioners and share in fellowship and faith with them.  Remember the Fireside Chats? That was the beginning of gathering these smaller communities! (If you’re curious, the map in the Community Room of the Parish Center would give you an idea of which area you reside. There you will also find a listing of current Parish Reps.)

Part of the “building-up” process of this group of reps has been the participation by many of them in the Reach More Small Group Training where they learned to lead small group Bible studies, some choosing to do so within their area. Further, their attendance at Focus Missionary Joseph Gruber’s Win-Build-Send talk series in the spring helped to create in them a foundation for the heart of evangelization.  

Currently, Parish Reps have been making phone calls within their areas, personally inviting parishioners who live in “their part of town” to the Made for Happiness Diocesan Assembly.  Maybe you’ve already received your call!  If not, there are several factors that may be the reason…one of the biggest being that, in an age of cell phones, many of the “home” phone numbers that we have on record are now “no longer in service!” If that’s the case for you, please use one of the cards in the pews to update your contact information.  It helps us reach out to you! In other cases, the reps have not had luck connecting with an actual person rather than a voicemail; additionally, reps are still working on the dozens of calls they’ve agreed to make! Whatever their experience through this process, though, they’ve shared many stories of enjoying their time  getting to know people better, and in some cases, not even realizing that “so and so” lived just around the corner!

Another current initiative that the reps have been asked to undertake is to simply meet someone new each weekend at Mass...whether it be in the parking lot, before or after Mass, or at the assembly registration tables that they’ve been manning.  One goal that our parish has been working toward, between our reps (and our relatively new Greeter Ministry), is to create a community that is ever more welcoming. That is what so many already love about St. John Parish…”It feels like home” is a reason often given when someone describes why they attend St. John Parish.

As with anything, though, we can always look for ways to grow, ways to more fully shine with the light and love of Christ.  And our reps are often suggesting ideas that they’ve had or have seen in use at other parishes as they travel. Just recently one of our Parish Reps shared this reflection prayer that she experienced at a church as she vacationed up north:

Prayer for a Stewardship Parish

Dear Heavenly Father,
My parish is composed of people like me; I help make it what it is.
It will be friendly, if I am.
Its pews will be filled, if I help fill them.
It will do great work, if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.
It will bring other people into its worship and fellowship, if I invite and bring them.
It will be a parish of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, and a parish with a noble spirit, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things.
Therefore, with Your help, O God, I shall dedicate myself to the task of being all things that I want my parish to be.  Amen.

As the Parish Reps have begun their “ministry”  in the ways mentioned earlier, we are so grateful for their ongoing work to help build our parish community and “make it what it is”!  The reality, however, that this prayer brings to light is that all of us represent our parish!  Of course that seems obvious, but sometimes we all need to take the opportunity to “step back” and assess:  “Do I reach out in friendliness to those around me after Mass?” “Do I invite others to join me at Mass?” “Am I a generous giver?”  At times, we can all fall short in one or more of these areas…I know I do…but each of us asking for God’s grace to continually assess and improve will move St. John more fully into being “all the things I want my parish to be.”

This beautiful prayer from Blessed John Henry Newman helps us ask for just that grace, so for now I will close with it and with the invitation to help make our parish “what we’d like it to be”!

Dear Jesus,
help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.