Accompaniment unique, important part of Renew My Church

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, June 11, 2017

One of the major things that sets Renew My Church apart from similar efforts in other dioceses is accompaniment.

"Accompaniment is very simply walking with another person. You come without an agenda but you come to meet the person where the person is and walk through whatever experience they are going through," said Sister of St. Joseph Kathleen Brazda, pastoral accompaniment leader for Renew My Church.

Renew My Church is a multi-year planning process for the archdiocese to strengthen parish vitality and better align its resources and its mission.

Brazda worked for many years accompanying people in Chicago through Taller de José, a local ministry of her community that links people to services and resources like housing and food and also provides emotional and spiritual support.

"In Renew My Church people are going through a process that they may have questions about or not totally understand in the beginning. So the companion in Renew My Church is walking with them, helping them to understand the process — the planning process, discernment, being there to answer questions," she said. "As the process unfolds there will be perhaps difficult situations or difficult decisions for people to accept. It’s really walking with them in their grief, in their joy, in their confusion, in their pain."

It is also about listening, she said, with the hope that if it is needed, the companions can connect them to resources.

"It’s just being with people," Brazda said.

Each of the archdiocese’s 344 parishes have been put in one of 97 groupings, and each grouping is expected to go through the process in the next three years. Each grouping will have a companion from outside the parish who will follow them through the process and afterward.

Two groups of parishes, one in West Humboldt Park and one in the North suburbs, started the pilot Renew My Church process in February and expect to give their final recommendations to the archdiocese in July. Those recommendations will include how to change parish structures and allocate resources in their areas to better bring Christ to their people, in line with the seven signs of mission vitality laid out by Cardinal Cupich when he announced Renew My Church.

Brazda has been accompanying the pilot groups.

"It’s companioning but I think in the Renew My Church process, just like at Taller de Jose, it is to bring them to a new step as they’re ready," she said.

It’s helping them understand that the process is for the whole of the archdiocese and for the mission of the Gospel, "to also bring them along to a greater understanding but not dismissing their own feelings of loss and sadness."

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