Dear Parishioner of Immaculate Conception and St. James Parish Family,
I am writing this introductory letter about myself on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to our Blessed Mother. Two phrases come to mind from Luke’s gospel today, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” and, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” I want these two phrases to be in your heart and in my heart as we come together to celebrate our faith and who we are as children of God with a sense of renewal in the near future.
Your pastors, Fr. Jo Andre Beltran and Fr. Michael F. McMahon have graciously invited me and provided me some space in your Sunday Bulletin. First, I am grateful to both of them as a brother priest and a colleague in ministry. I admire their leadership and love for you during these past years as well as their leadership during the regular meetings for Renew My Church (RMC). They have offered me their support, wisdom and guidance in the months ahead as I start transitioning into my new parish.
I am also so grateful to God, and excited to know that you are going to be my new Spiritual family that God has called me to love, serve and share my Catholic faith. A would like to share a little bit about myself, since we will have plenty of time to get to know each other soon. I am from Mexico. My family lives in Guadalajara. I am number 8 out of nine siblings, and grateful that my parents are still alive. I have another brother who is a missionary priest in Bangladesh. I graduated from Mundelein Seminary in 2011. My first assignment as priest has been St. Athanasius Parish in Evanston till my new assignment with you. I am passionate about our faith, and the many ways we can live it out. I love the gift of my priesthood. I enjoy reading novels, books about spirituality, and other topics. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, and some Polish. I love the outdoors and long walks in nature.
Like all of you, I too wish Fr. Jo Andre and Fr. Michael well as they prepare for their next priestly assignment in service of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I look forward to the many pastoral opportunities and many ministries we will create together to renew our church and to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you during this time of Lent, and as we prepare to meet each other. And please keep me in yours. Your faith inspires me to continue loving, serving and sharing my priesthood with you.
In the Lord’s joy!
Fr. Hernan Cuevas
"High Park Wood" Grouping
Please Join Our Parish Conversation on Renew My Church
As a first step, we invite you to join parish leadership for a Renew My Church parish conversation on Monday, November 29th at 7pm
Renew My Church: Parish Conversation to Discuss our Future
As Jesus Christ calls us to constantly renew His Church, we must be prepared to lend our voice and efforts to the possible ways in which we bring about that needed renewal. Included here is a summary of where we are today. We will continue to keep you updated as discussions continue and how you can provide feedback to the process.
Renewal requires envisioning, planning, and new means to bring Jesus Christ to others. There are nearly 100 groupings of parishes and schools across the Archdiocese engaging in a process to address necessary questions of structure, how to work together across communities within each grouping, and to establish a strong foundation for vitality through focused evangelization and faith formation efforts. Supporting our parishes with the best structures enables us to breathe renewed life into our efforts to make disciples, build communities, and inspire witness.
To initiate discussion, the Archdiocese has offered a set of initial scenarios on page 2 that show potential models of how our parishes could be configured in the future. These initial scenarios have been developed accounting for data such as demographics, Mass attendance, and financial conditions. The scenarios reflect input from archdiocese staff, vicariate leaders, and local pastors.
These initial scenarios, which will be shared in detail at our next parish meeting, are conversation starters only. No decisions have been made. The Grouping Feedback & Discernment team may propose additional scenarios they believe merit discussion as long as they would be viable.
These scenarios will be evaluated against a set of criteria determined using data across the Archdiocese for how a structure would support vitality and ensure viability, such as:
- Ministerial and spiritual needs of the parish:To enliven the work of evangelization, formation, worship, and pastoral care in today’s time and culture, parishes ordinarily will build a strong a staff team to support the pastor. Staff teams will be professionally trained and justly paid. To support this staffing and basic operations, such as paying utilities, parishes generally will need operating revenue of $750,000 or more (excluding rental income).
- Parishioner count and Mass attendance:Based on the number of pastors expected to be available across the Archdiocese in the future, a minimum of 800 parishioners attending weekend Mass is generally needed to be assigned a full-time, resident pastor. In addition, parishes need enough people power (i.e, parishioner count) to support vibrant ministries.
- Pastoral manageability:It is critical that our structures support our pastors and pastoral teams to focus as much time and energy as possible on ministry. These structures need to be realistic to manage, considering potential travel between campuses, sacramental coverage, and administrative, facility, and ministerial needs.
- Parish financial stability and facilities:Parish financial stability and adequate, accessible and safe facilities with capacity for growth and affordable ongoing repair/maintenance.
Note on Foundational Principles in relation to the challenges posed by COVID-19
The foundational principles written above remain the benchmarks against which to consider the viability of structural scenarios. Parish data will need to be compared against the foundational principles considering both pre-COVID data (i.e., Fiscal Year 2019 financials and October 2019 Mass attendance) and how COVID has impacted the financial sustainability of each parish and potential scenario. What is important is how those financial implications affect the future. Short-term financial challenges should not significantly influence decisions. However, where it is clear the effects will continue into the future, that reality will need to be included in evaluation of each scenario.
Initial Parish Scenarios for Discernment
Based on the average weekend Mass attendance of each parish compared to the foundational principles listed on page 1 (minimum of 800 October Count for parishes moving into the future), the initial scenarios propose focusing upcoming discussions on Immaculate Conception and St. James uniting as one parish. How would the two communities unite as one parish with a common vision for the future? How would each current parish community enrich each other to accomplish that vision? What is the best use of facilities to accomplish a common vision?
What does it mean to be a united parish?
Organizationally, a united parish has one pastor (and possibly an associate pastor), budget, staff, Finance Council, etc. – but may have multiple churches. The assets of each parish uniting as one parish become the assets of the united parish. Parish leadership discerns how best to use those united assets to accomplish the vision of the united parish.
What happens to parish names in a united parish?
A united parish may take the form of a new parish with a new name (Parish A and Parish B form New Parish C) or Parish B becoming part of Parish A, retaining Parish A’s name. When a new parish with a new name is formed, the new parish’s name could be a combination of the former parish names (E.g., SS. Joseph and Francis Xavier) or a new patron for the new parish.
Whether uniting parishes form a newly named parish or retain one of the parish’s names, the church buildings retain their names. So Church B would still be Church B even if it becomes part of Parish A. An example: Sacred Heart Church of Divine Mercy Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Church of Divine Mercy Parish.
What about how the churches would be used?
The Renew My Church Commission will seek feedback from the Grouping Feedback & Discernment team (GFDT) on three initial scenarios:
- What would a united parish look likecontinuing to use both churches for a regular liturgy and ministry schedule?
- What would a united parish look like if all Masses moved to one location at Immaculate Conception?
- What would a united parish look like if all Masses moved to one location at St. James?
The GFDT will be asked to offer feedback on how each of those three scenarios does or does not address local mission needs, the structural criteria listed on page 1, and manageability for a pastor and staff team. The GFDT may offer alternative scenario(s) in addition to the three listed above.
Where can I understand more about each of our parishes to put the scenarios in context? Some very basic data about each parish is listed below.
As we review the scenarios, it is important for all us to do so prayerfully keeping in mind that the spiritual and structural renewal to which we are called to foster are connected. The best and most effective and efficient stewardship of our resources (structural renewal) can allow us to invest more into the ministries that directly work toward making disciples, building community and inspiring witness (spiritual renewal).
During this conversation we will:
- Pray and discuss Renew My Church and the process we are beginning together,
- Review important information and questions about our community such as the strengths and challenges that exist in our grouping
- Review scenarios for how our parishes could be structured in the future
- Answer any questions you may have.
Just as Jesus asks us to pray always, He also invites us to trust always. Together, we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine how Our Lord will use existing structures to create new ones that bring more people into relationship with Him.
Please join us on Monday, November 29th at 7pm! - All are welcome and encouraged to attend!
Renew My Church is a faithful response to Christ’s call to renew His Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago; it is a journey that is both spiritual (to re-encounter Jesus Christ as disciples and parish communities) and structural (to ensure our parishes have adequate resources for vitality).
Through Renew My Church initiatives, the Archdiocese will re-commit our local Church to our gospel commission to make disciples, build vital communities of faith and inspire witness to bring the light and hope of Christ to a world in need. These mission imperatives guide all that we do in and through the spiritual and structural efforts of renewal.
One initiative of Renew My Church is focused on increasing the vitality of our local communities. Cardinal Cupich has asked our parish to come together with the other parishes in our grouping to start a process of reflection, discernment, and planning to consider how we can collaborate and combine resources so that we are better equipped to bring Jesus Christ to the world today.
Our journey will entail collaborating with our neighbors to:
- Assess the current situation in our community,
- Understand the criteria and principles for our planning efforts,
- Discuss possible scenarios for how our grouping’s parishes could be structured in the future, and
- Compile our feedback to share with Archdiocesan leadership and Cardinal Cupich
Let us hold each other and the other parish communities in our grouping in prayer as we enter this time of rededication to our faith in Jesus Christ and planning for the future.
Renewal always begins within our own hearts. As we open our hearts to the renewal process, we will pray the special Prayer for Renewal (below) throughout the upcoming months. I invite you to reflect upon each line of this prayer slowly and deliberately. Thousands of people across our Archdiocese and beyond are praying these words on behalf of our local Church. Allow this to become your prayer, as well.
Lord Jesus, you speak to us today, as you spoke to holy men and women who have gone before us.
In every age and in our own time, you call to us and say: Renew My Church.
Pour out the gift of your Holy Spirit upon us, and so enable us to hear you clearly,
to listen to each other attentively, to imagine our future boldly,
to discern your direction wisely, to persevere in your holy will courageously,
to stay together in charity, to surrender our own plans readily,
to embrace the greater good, to hand on your gifts to future generations.
May we remain in the holy company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the apostles, and all the saints.
May their example and presence inspire us with patient confidence in the work of your grace.
We ask this of you who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.