Transition Team

Transition Team Final Report – December 2014.

As we journey through this transitional time with our new Pastor, the Transition Team gathered information about the current state of the parish and learned about people’s hopes and expectations. The report below includes our findings.

PDF file click here – transitional team final report

 

Transition Team Final Report

December 2014

 

The Transition Team, selected from parishioners nominated by the parish, met with our new pastor Rev. Msgr. Joseph Mirro, for the first time on August 6, 2014. Fr. Joe began by describing the three phases of the transition process: endings-evaluating the past, interim-gathering information, and beginnings-helping the pastor consolidate options for the future. He then explained the tasks that the Team would be expected to complete in the process. First, write a prayer for the transition period (see attachment 1) that was shared with the parishioners through the bulletin. Second, and the critical work of the team, gather information about the current state of the parish, the people’s hopes and expectations. Third, prepare a report.

 

To accomplish these tasks, the Team created a questionnaire (see attachment 2) that was published in the bulletin and made available in the church, the rectory and from Team members. The questionnaire was also available online. Over the course of the next twelve weeks, members of the Team met with the staff and various ministry groups including the Knight of Columbus, the Columbiettes, the Catholic Daughters, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Baptism Team, MOM’s and the Senior Group. Questionnaires were also made available to the parents of Religious Education children.

 

The Team conducted seven town hall meetings at which team members facilitated small group listening sessions with the 74 parishioners who attended. A total of 212 surveys were collected. The result of this work is presented in the following report.

 

Parishioners of St Anthony of Padua R.C. Church who responded to the Transitional Team questionnaire affirmed that they are proud to belong to our parish. They acknowledged that spiritual development and growth are the most important aspects of evolving into a successful, happy and whole human being. They identified St. Anthony of Padua as a place where spiritual recharging is available to keep the relationship with God strong. Most parishioners feel that our church serves our community, and it is seen as an integral part of their lives and a continual source of faith.

 

Many who responded praised the positive and welcoming attitude of the parish, its sense of community, and the beautiful church building itself, all of which keep them close to the parish. The presence of many positive and varied ministries was recognized as outstanding with special appreciation for these: Parish Outreach, St. Vincent de Paul, the Teen Mass, the Family Liturgy Committee, Youth Ministry, Vacation Bible School, Peanut Butter and Jelly Gang, Faith Formation Ministry, Music Ministries and the Bible Study Group. The ministries were identified as playing a key role in parishioners’ decision to remain involved and close to St. Anthony R.C. Church.

 

An important part of our task as the Transitional Team was to identify the concerns of the parishioners, to identify what needed to be changed, let go of, or rebuilt. We organized the responses according to these areas: Physical, Social, Spiritual, and Communication Related.

 

Physical Concerns: The church itself is viewed as a beautiful building; however, there was concern about the regular maintenance within the church and on the grounds. It was suggested that the grounds need to be kept neat and clean and the outside ashtrays emptied on Mondays after BINGO. The moss build-up on the pavers in the front of the church needs to be kept under control since it becomes slippery when wet.

 

One major issue is the snow removal during winter months. In recent years, the parking lot has remained dangerously icy while nearby public parking areas were cleared. On weekends when there is a light snow or ice, it is the ushers who are in charge of putting down the ice melt and unfortunately, ice melt has not been available at many times when it was needed.

 

Of concern is the absence of the custodial staff on the weekends when the majority of the activities take place. If there is a funeral on Saturday, there is no one to put out the signs that say “no parking”, and the mourners and family members have an additional parking concern as they grieve. It was suggested that the custodial hours could be changed so that they are in the building later and on weekends. If the custodians had weekend hours, they could take care of the snow and ice problems in preparation for the Sunday masses, or at least supervise the ushers.   Perhaps the custodians could walk around the ground and pick up the debris around the outside of the church.   It was also suggested that the custodial staff appear professional in their outfit, perhaps wearing polo shirts with a St. Anthony logo so they could be easily recognized.

 

Many parishioners expressed concerns regarding the amount of lighting outside the church and rectory. When there are meetings at night, many people felt the lighting around the sidewalks and back steps to the Rectory Meeting Room is insufficient or more likely, not turned on. Cracks in the sidewalk and inadequate drainage make the sidewalks and stairs slippery and dangerous. Additional lighting, better drainage of RMR steps, repair of any cracks in the sidewalks and steps, and more coverage of stairs and walkways were suggested. These projects need to be addressed and prioritized.

 

Several parishioners suggested installing an elevator in the church to replace the chair lift that is difficult to operate and frequently does not work.

 

It was recommended that we establish a volunteer maintenance committee who would follow up on any work that has to be done, assuring that it is completed in a satisfactory way. Custodial staff hours should be adjusted.

 

Another concern expressed by some parishioners was the current state of the baptistry in the back of the church. People requested that the space be cleaned out and utilized for something other than a storage room. Suggestions included turning the space into a book store/gift shop, a space for Eucharistic Adoration, a small chapel, or a quiet room for prayer.

 

 

The sound system is one of the major concerns of the parishioners. The system was a state of the art digital system when installed back around the year 2000. The system works well when the church is filled with parishioners, but there is an echo when there are fewer parishioners in attendance.   Each priest and lector speaks with a different tone, pitch and volume, and the unevenness of the sound system is quite pronounced. Sometimes, the words can be heard well in the rear of the church and not well in the front. There are some locations in the church that might benefit from additional speakers, particularly the sanctuary and the rear center of the church.

 

The recommendation would be to call in a company to evaluate the system and see what can be done to improve it.

 

Social Concerns: Although many in our parish expressed that we are a welcoming community, through the questionnaire, it was apparent that many see this as an area of concern. The parishioners strongly felt the need for a more welcoming community to be developed emphasizing fellowship and hospitality. They felt that there should be more social activities to create increased interaction between parish members. In that way, they could more easily develop new friendships and relationships, and encourage new members to feel at home in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.

 

Some of the suggestion were to have “fun” nights for families; have teen socials, but split the youth groups into two age brackets; develop social programs for 20’s/30’s/ and 40’s; and encourage interaction between youth and adults. Practical suggestions included parish picnics, dances and dance competitions, karaoke nights, movie nights, neighborhood gatherings, and mass at the beach, creating a bigger presence of church, priests, and parishioners in the community.

 

There is a need to have more programs for children and adults with special needs. A Faith Formation program is currently being developed but could be enhanced by a monthly special mass or a Respite program.

 

In addition, we have a large Hispanic community that is witnessed by Parish Outreach and St. Vincent De Paul and yet seem to be attending mass in another location in Huntington.   We need to examine how to be more welcoming to the Hispanic Community. Some felt that we should have an ESL program to teach English to those who speak other languages. We need to strive to be a more inclusive parish, welcoming and reaching out to all.

 

It is recommended that we establish a Social Committee to enhance the welcoming aspect of our Parish and to plan events that are inclusive.

 

Spiritual Concerns:

Spiritual concerns were categorized into several areas: the mass, the music, and the opportunity for growth through faith formation.

 

Mass: The masses at St. Anthony of Padua Church are beautiful. Liturgy is always thoughtful and well planned. However we did receive feedback from the parishioners to make improvements. The most frequently expressed area of concern (with 80 comments) was with the homilies. Many parishioners were concerned about the length of the homily: it was suggested that the homily last from 8 – 10 minutes and no longer. It was reported that recently a homily lasted 35 minutes, and the value of the message was diminished or lost due to the length and presentation. Sometimes it is difficult to understand what the priest is saying which may be due to the sound system or in some cases, the accent or intelligibility of the priests. On the whole and most importantly, what people seem to be seeking is a homily that focuses on the Word of God and helps them to relate it to their everyday lives. They want to be able to take something away from the homily, a reflection, a thought, an inspiration, a word to help us through the journey, to provide a source of strength and to help us grow.

 

Although many of the responses the committee received about the mass dealt with the homilies, the committee did receive suggestions and comments regarding others aspects of the mass. Parishioners ask that the schedule of masses and mass times be reviewed. Lengthening the time between masses might alleviate parking problems and traffic flow, especially on Holy Days like Christmas and Easter. Parishioners would also like to be informed in advance if there is a special mass like Girl Scout Sunday when the mass time will be longer than usual. Then families could plan ahead and attend a different mass if need be.

 

It was suggested that that there be more ongoing training and support for lectors, altar servers, ushers and Eucharistic Ministers so that they can be more effective in assisting at the masses.

 

We received much praise for the Teen Mass as it is seen as interactive and engaging for the young people. However, there were many suggestions for the formation of a new planning committee for the Teen Mass, one that would include more teens and adults alike. The goal would be to enhance the teen mass by using witness speakers, teen speakers and the use of song sheets to increase participation. A suggestion was also made that the parish increase the number of teen masses to more than once a month.

Another recommendation was that we consider having a healing mass on a monthly basis. This is offered in other parishes for people who are ill in body, mind, or spirit with an anointing available right after or during the mass.

 

As mentioned in the previous section, there is a need for a Spanish mass, at least on a monthly basis.

 

Music: Many parishioners praised the music ministry saying that the music is beautiful and enhances the liturgies. It was recognized repeatedly that Br. Fran is an invaluable leader of this ministry. However, there were some concerns voiced that we can report here. Some stated that the music was too loud and they wanted a chance to have quiet reflective time at mass. Others wanted more upbeat music to create a more joyful, interactive environment. Parishioners questioned why we sing so many parts of the Mass and felt that if the prayers, like the Gloria, were spoken, more could participate. One of our committee members discussed this with Br. Fran who explained that we sing what is liturgically correct. However, if the congregation is not aware of this, then perhaps we need to educate about this further in the bulletin.

 

Our committee discussed the current availability of the different types of music in our parish – quiet mass, children’s choir, adult choir, and teen musicians. A suggestion might be to list the type of music available at each Mass in the bulletin so that parishioners might find the mass that is best for their own personal musical preference.

Another point worth mentioning is that the music may indeed be too loud in some places of the church due to the unevenness of the sound system as was previously discussed.

 

Faith Formation: The parishioners would like more opportunities for faith formation with the development of some new groups and programs. Many expressed how pleased they were with the current Bible Study group and would like to continue to develop this type of program. People are thirsty for the opportunity to learn more about the Scriptures and how they relate to our daily lives.   Small Christian Communities within the parish would afford people a more intimate spiritual growth opportunity. There is also an interest in more retreats for all in the parish. Retreats could be offered more frequently and with speakers who are adept at engaging the parishioners.   It was also suggested that confessions might be scheduled during the week in the evening.

The parishioners talked about the need for small groups where people in similar life circumstances could reflect on the Word of God and how to live our lives. Groups to be developed might include programs for older married couples to refocus on their marriage, a group for single parents, a group for divorced parents, or perhaps an extension of the pre-Cana for the young married couples. Each of these programs would give parishioners an opportunity to reflect in a small group on the presence of the Lord in their daily lives.

A suggestion was also made to provide a post-confirmation program to serve our teen and young adults to keep them connected in spiritual way to the parish. Perhaps the Vacation Bible School could be developed further and maybe we could offer children’s booklets for mass so that they could better follow along.

 

It is recommended that Adult Faith Formation be expanded to include a creative team able to examine the further development of programs.

 

Communication Concerns: The general consensus from those parishioners who responded to the questionnaire is that the current communication is ineffective. People called for better communication between priests and parishioners, among parish ministries, and between priests and staff. This seems to be improving already but has plagued the parish in the past.

 

There was concern expressed about the lack of communication between the Finance Committee and the parishioners about the financial status of our parish. It was stated that when Msgr. Dreasen became Pastor, the church had 3 million dollars in reserve and now it has dwindled down. Parishioners want to know how that happened and what the plans are to address the financial concerns. People would like to see more transparency and accountability with the Finance Committee. Those contributing to the parish want to know how the funds are used. Many of those who responded on the questionnaires had questions about how the Finance Committee and the Parish Council members were selected. A lack of updates on the Capital Campaign was also noted.

 

Parishioners would like to see more current information on the parish website regarding events. Many responded in a positive way to the e-mail blasts that have been sent out to date. Social media has become the preferred method of communication for the younger to middle-age parishioners of our parish, and it was suggested that Facebook and Twitter accounts be created for our parishioners to follow.

 

People are looking for more information in the bulletin, for example, which priest is saying which mass. This concern was mentioned repeatedly since at one time, the information was available in the bulletin but then was removed without explanation. Some would like to know more about activities at neighboring parishes such as their mass schedules, times for confession or Nocturnal Adoration. Some people asked for clarification of procedures for submitting weekly offerings electronically.

 

It was suggested that prayer chains for the sick and death notifications could be spread much more efficiently by e-mail. Currently, by the time the information is printed in the bulletin, it is too late to attend a funeral mass.

 

Parishioners feel that it is important to promote all the good things we do at St. Anthony and to let the community know what we are all about. We would like to better engage the community and possibly inspire others to become more active in the parish.

 

More time and effort should be spent promoting the different ministries of the parish, spotlighting, and giving information on a regular basis, perhaps at the mass or at a table set up in the vestibule after the mass.

 

It was also suggested that the church should create a wi-fi network or unlock the parish network so that it would be accessible to all those who are present at the parish.

 

Miscellaneous Concerns: There were a few concerns that were mentioned repeatedly but were hard to categorize. Bingo, for one, is an example of that. There appears to be a great deal of animosity between the Bingo volunteers and others who need to use the church facilities near or around the same time. Volunteers such as Girl Scout leaders reported being reprimanded for using the space, even though the time is well before Bingo is scheduled to begin. Smoking is prohibited but there is excessive smoking just outside the church and the cigarette butts are not cleaned up. It was reported that the Bingo volunteers keep the crucifix covered during the Bingo games and that was felt by some to be an insult to our church. There seems to be a need to foster relationships between the Bingo volunteers and others in the parish by beginning a dialogue.

 

Another concern was regarding how at times, people may have been treated insensitively when they contacted the rectory regarding funeral arrangements or baptism for their child. There were reports of people being asked if they used their weekly collection envelopes as though that was the criteria for making arrangements. Some parishioners felt that staff members could be more nurturing and patient when someone calls the rectory in time of need as our mission statement includes “We are a welcoming, loving Catholic Community centered in Christ”. There is a need for welcoming from the moment a person contacts the church, from every person who answers the phone, and of course from each one of us as we strive to be ministers of the church itself.

 

Some parishioners expressed concern about the carbon footprint of the church, including the use of pesticides and other chemicals, the installation of solar panels, etc.

Summary: The Transition Team thoroughly reviewed the responses from our parishioners, carefully reflecting on each concern and recommendation. We have compiled this report in consideration of all of the responses but have tried to represent the recurrent themes that were expressed. Overall, the parishioners are seeking a more welcoming, inclusive parish with opportunities for spiritual growth and development.

 

  • The homilies offered at mass should be meaningful source of reflection and spiritual growth.       They should be a reasonable length (8-10 minutes for the most part), intelligible, and help the parishioners understand the Word of God as it relates to their daily lives.

 

  • The sound system needs to be reviewed, evaluated, and improved.   The sound produced throughout the church is uneven, adding to the difficulty of hearing the priest during mass.

 

  • A Social Committee should be established to enhance the welcoming aspect of our parish and to plan events that are inclusive. The parish should offer more socialization opportunities for families, singles, youth, middle aged, and seniors. Our church should be a comfortable meeting place, a loving community where people can enjoy each other’s company and also have fun.

 

  • We need to provide a Spanish mass to meet the needs of our Hispanic Community.

 

  • Special Needs Faith Formation needs to be developed further with the possibility of a Special Needs Mass on a monthly basis, and perhaps development of a Respite program.

 

  • Parishioners are seeking better communication between the priests, the people, and the ministries. There should be openness with the Finance Committee, the Pastoral Council, and the parishioners. The clerical staff should be approachable and responsive.

 

  • Adult Faith Formation should be further developed with the help of a committee.       Opportunities for spiritual growth should be offered through small groups, more frequent retreats, and continued Bible Study.

 

  • A Volunteer Maintenance Committee should be organized to oversee some of the physical projects that need to be completed. The lighting outside the Rectory needs to be improved. It isn’t safe for parishioners who attend meetings in the evening to walk to their cars in darkness.

 

  • Some of the issues regarding the physical grounds could be addressed if the custodians’ hours coordinated better with the needs of the parish. It is recommended that the custodians’ hours be changed to include weekends and perhaps early evenings.

 

  • We need to focus on improving community relations, having more of a presence in East Northport. There should be an emphasis on better communication with the help of technology including social media.

 

Together we can build the parish for the glory of God. It has been a privilege to serve on this committee, to speak with the parishioners, and gain insight into their concerns.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Kathy Raniere, Peggy Rupnick, co-chairpersons, Fran Melvin, secretary, Carl Burle, Chase Cetta, Sr. Eileen Christie, Lisa DeGiglio, Fred Leonardo, Susan Modelewski, Kristen Ng, John Piropato, Virginia Regan, Javier Terrones, and Kara Werner.

The Transition Team