The San Damiano Cross is the large Romanesque rood cross that St. Francis of Assisi was praying before when he received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the church. The original cross presently hangs in the Basilica of St. Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara) in Assisi. The cross is the symbol of Renew My Church.
Catholics across the Archdiocese of Chicago learned Jan. 21 and 22 who their parishes’ partners would be as the Renew My Church initiative moves forward. (Complete List of Groupings)
All parishes have been placed in groups, determined by geography and other factors. Each group is expected to come together to decide how they can best evangelize and serve the people of God in its area, using a facilitated planning process.
Renew My Church is a multi-year planning process for the archdiocese to strengthen parish vitality and better align its resources and its mission.
“The goal of Renew My Church is to make our parishes more vital and more sustainable,” Cardinal Cupich wrote in a letter announcing the groupings the weekend of Jan. 21 and 22. “We do this not on our own initiative but in response to the call of Christ, which was first heard by those disciples recounted in today’s Gospel. The call is the same as it was in those early days of the church: to be his disciples and take responsibility for carrying on his mission in our time. The place to start is by working together to make our parishes vibrant communities that form missionary disciples of Jesus. This will also mean being realistic about our limited human and material resources and evaluating how our present structures may need to be organized differently to keep pace with changing realities.”
Cardinal Cupich announced the initiative almost a year ago, in February 2015.
Father Jason Malave, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, 2215 W. Irving Park Road, said the Renew My Church groupings shouldn’t come as a surprise to many Catholics, especially if their pastors have kept them informed.
In addition, parishioners also won’t see any drastic changes immediately, said Malave, a member of the Renew My Church priests steering committee.
“The first thing is just to get to know one another,” Malave said.
That means the priests should get together, and parishes should consider having joint gatherings of pastoral councils or finance councils, Malave said. Parishes could invite their partner parishes to social and spiritual events.
“Find out what makes another parish vital,” he said. “Show them what makes your parish vital. What makes your pastoral council vital? What makes your finance council vital?”
St. Benedict was grouped with St. Andrew, 3546 S. Paulina Ave.; St. Edward, 4350 W. Sunnyside; Immaculate Heart of Mary, 3834 N. Spaulding Ave.; and Resurrection, 3033 N. Francisco. The parishes are in three vicariates and have different populations. St. Andrew, St. Benedict and St. Edward all have schools; Resurrection and Immaculate Heart of Mary both have Mass in both Spanish and English.
“We didn’t want to have five parishes that are all the same,” he said. “Then how do we share our gifts?”
Plans for grouping parishes have been in formation for some time, Malave said. Parishioners were asked to participate in a survey about their parishes last spring, and the past three archdiocesan priest days, at which Renew My Church was a prime topic, had historic levels of attendance, he said.
Father Richard Milek, pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish, said his parish and its partners are already working together.
St. Francis Borgia, 8033 W. Addison St., is partnering with St. Priscilla, 6949 W. Addison St., and St. Rosalie, Harwood Heights. The three parishes are already part of the same deanery, “so we know each other,” Milek said.
In fact, the grouping of the three parishes did not change after it was initially proposed, Milek said.
The parishes already are combining their confirmation classes for a single confirmation liturgy this year, something Milek expects to continue, and they will likely hold joint parish missions and reconciliation services.
Because St. Francis Borgia is the only one of the three parishes with a school, Milek said, “that can be the school for all of us.”
Malave said some groups will be ready to be “activated” — or to take more serious steps, such as looking at staff changes or combining ministries — sooner because they already have good working relationships. Others could take longer to get to that point.
“A group could say we won’t be ready to be activated for three years, because we have five new pastors here and we’re not ready for that,” Malave said. “That’s their decision to make.”