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Archives Building Parishes with Living Stones

September 24, 2014

By Father Jay Seymour
Episcopal Vicar for Clergy

Hopefully you have received and read a copy of the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, “Find Your Home in Christ”, which living stoneswas proclaimed at our Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in April and distributed soon afterwards in the parishes.  
One of the priorities highlighted in the letter was “Building Parishes with Living Stones.” This priority surfaced as one of the fruits of the area “Listening Sessions” held this past year with Bishop LaValley. 

If you happened to participate in one of those “Listening Sessions”, you may not recall talking about parishes as “Living Stones” but you were.  Our parishes are not primarily about buildings and boundaries but about people.  “Living Stones” are people of faith, vibrant faith, and each and every one of us is called to do our part in building up our parishes so that they truly reflect the living, vibrant Body of Christ.

As outlined in our Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, one of the goals set for this priority was to establish a “Living Stones Planning Committee” with a clear mission and broad representation by September 1, 2014. 

That date has come and that goal has been met.  A small preliminary committee was formed, chaired by Dr. William Amoriell from St. Patrick’s Church in Colton, with two tasks at hand: 1) Develop a mission statement for the “Living Stones Planning Committee”; and 2) Recommend a membership in that committee which would reflect broad representation. 

Incorporated into the mission statement of this new committee is the mandate to allow the diocese’s “Christ-led, Christ-fed, and hope-filled Vision” guide all of the deliberations and decisions it will make.

The committee’s main goal is to develop for parishes a plan, along with strategies for implementation, in order to:  a) strengthen parish identity, including but not limited to realignment and restructuring;b) activate greater participation among the laity in leadership roles; and c) assess the parishes’ demographics in relation to the economic and spiritual resources available in each parish and those of neighboring parishes. 

Regarding the second task, assuring that there would be a broad representation that would reflect the diversity and the different needs of the Diocese, a group consisting of priests, deacons, religious and laity was recommended to the Bishop.  Some specific individuals were suggested but it was left to the Bishop to decide on actual membership.

A list of people has been compiled by Bishop LaValley and now we do have a committee of 18 people who have graciously accepted to serve.  At this point the first meeting is likely to be scheduled for early November and we will then get about the task of developing a pastoral plan that will help to prepare our diocese to meet the current and future spiritual, social and economic needs of our people.

Hopefully, we all realize that the task of witnessing and of service in our local parishes is not restricted to clergy and religious or to a planning committee.  Looking at the changing reality of our diocese we can see that our priests are aging, ordinations are down, and frequently pastors are taking on the responsibility of caring for more than one parish. 

While we pray and work for more vocations by strengthening family life, we face an immediate need to assist our priests by having the laity become more involved in their parishes.

We need all the “living stones” working together with Christ, our “Chief Cornerstone”, so as to build up and invigorate the Church of Ogdensburg.

Pope Francis recently made the comment to the effect that too many Christians walk around like “living a Lent without Easter”.  We are not a bunch of walking dead but a living people, an Easter people, and we need to witness to that fact so as to bring to our parishes and to the world the joy of the Gospel.  Relying on the Holy Spirit as guide and our Blessed Mother for support, let us do our part to realize this grand, “mutually shared vision” before us.

Bringing Vision to Life
The pastoral vision for the Diocese of Ogdensburg,  delivered  by Bishop LaValley at this year’s Chrism Mass included three priorities with two goals each.  This is the third in a series of articles describing the work towards realizing each of the goals.

living stones

Photo by Colleen Miner
Achieving the diocesan priority of “Building Parishes With Living Stones” will require the commitment of lay people like that shown by Celina Burns of Ogdensburg and her daughters Jamie of Canton and Mary of Ogdensburg who took part in the diocesan End of Life Conference at Wadhams Hall Sept. 5.


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