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Parish Life Renewal

Parishioners give their input for Road to Renewal effort


One of the keys to success of the Road to Renewal’s effort to transform how the diocese is structured is the input of laity during the consultative phase of the Road effort.

The following are reports from representatives from two parishes that highlight what has transpired within the parish conversations during Family of Parish meetings.

Mary Anne King is a 30-year parishioner at the former St. Ambrose, now Our Lady of Charity and she got to know Father Bryan Zielenieski who was the former pastor.  When he was appointed to lead the Renewal effort, she had some background on the Renewal.

King’s proposed family of parishes includes Our Lady of Charity, (including Ambrose and Holy Family worship sites), St. Teresa, St. Martin of Tours and St. Thomas in South Buffalo.

She said that she discovered that South Buffalo was territorial with parishioners strongly identifying with their parishes. Over the last couple of meetings, she sees a real working together and members are embracing the effort.

“Father (Steven) Jekielek gives us the agenda, and we have homework assignments,” she continued. “For example, we look at Mass attendance and propose Mass schedules for the family.  And he keeps meetings to an hour long.”

She said the family of parishes doesn’t want to lose the momentum they have built, and they are ready to go to the next steps.

“We want to work together, and if it is decided that if we have to go to Mass at St. Thomas at 4 p.m., that’s OK,” she said.  

The effort has created a lot of positive vibes, and we should be proud of this effort. And by the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit we will be successful. The biggest thing is communication. We need to talk about the effort, and we owe it to our parishes to be open and honest and make them excited about it. 

Tom Henninger and his wife, Annette, parishioners at St. Gabriel’s in Elma, began their involvement with an invite from Father Walter Grabowski to the Aug. 29 renewal Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine. 

Tom’s initial reaction is that he loved the idea of the RTR because it provides the opportunity to get the benefit of scale of opportunities without losing the essence of the parish.  

“It provides us the opportunity to say bring in a national youth speaker that we would not be able to do as an individual parish but that you can do as a family of parishes,” Tom said

During the initial regional meeting, Tom got the impression that St. Gabe’s may not be a good fit for the family of parishes initially proposed. He said it may have been the wrong geography of parishes. The day of the second meeting, Tom felt it was clear that the initial family recommendation was not a good fit. It was a chance to air out the issues and it was an honest debate, a good debate.

“I would like to see the Road to Renewal effort framed as a plan for our growth and future, we need to focus on our youth,” Henninger continued. “I’m tired of hearing that we are trying to manage the decline in the diocese, this is an opportunity.” 

With the focus on youth, he sees parents getting reinvolved in their parishes.

We have an opportunity to share best practices with our parish family. What are the best audio visual practices, what works on social media, how to best raise money, he explained.

We also have a chance to leverage the experience of parishioners with legal, medical, and business expertise for the benefit of the family. He sees benefit in economies of scale with the parishes working together and of course the spiritual component of hosting larger sacramental events.  

This enthusiasm created by all this activity will help bring more people through our church doors, he explained. 


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