Photo by Patrick McPartland - Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in Lancaster has grown to 1,800 families, 50 ministries and new programs.
Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in Lancaster has almost doubled its membership in the last five years and now offers more than 50 ministries and programs. When asked about the reasons behind the rapid growth, pastor of the parish, Father Leon Biernat gave several answers.
“I hope and pray it’s God’s Grace,” said Father Biernat. “On a practical level, it’s a parish merger with SS. Peter and Paul. The rest is just growth.”
Since Father Biernat came to the parish five years ago he has tried to reinvigorate the parish with new ideas and member involvement.
“When I arrived there was just Mass and religious education. Since I’ve been here we have started a junior high youth group, we have expanded the bereavement ministry, we started a family ministry and a social club which is open to anyone. We started confirmation overnight retreats, a summer vacation Bible school, RCIA, a ministry for caregivers and a liturgy committee.”
The need for a larger staff blossomed from the expanding ministries and increased productivity for the parish. When Father Biernat arrived the parish had one secretary.
The parish added a full-time director, the office staff, a full-time business manager and two permanent deacons.
“If you have a good ministry, then people will come, and then the ministry will grow because of the people who came.”
Father Biernat also spoke about how positive the merger was for the growth of both, and how together they formed a new identity which is respectful to all and flourishing.
“The merger was wonderful here,” said Father Biernat. “It was difficult in the beginning, but now the people are thrilled to be a part of the community. We forged an identity as Our Lady of Pompeii, and we don’t see a need to change that. It speaks volumes of how well the people are working together. When I arrived, there were a lot of people with a real hunger to do something. The merger had given the parish a whole new infusion of life. I experienced a real welcoming and a new desire to forge together a new community. I have tried to set a positive tone from day one.”
Our Lady of Pompeii Parish was first established in 1909 when an Italian Mission Church of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Church in Lancaster was created to satisfy the particular spiritual needs of the Italian immigrants who came to the area. The Mission Church was officially dedicated by Father Nelson Baker on March 14 and given the name Our Lady of Pompeii to honor the Blessed Mother under the same title as the world famous shrine in Pompeii, Italy.
As for the future of Our Lady of Pompeii, Father Biernat would like to see more ministries become available.
“As I look to the near future, I believe that our parish needs to establish an evangelization team to reach out to many in our immediate neighborhood who either do not belong to Our Lady of Pompeii or who may belong but are not regularly practicing their faith.”