OUR MISSION AND OUTREACH IN TAZEWELL COUNTY
Produced by the Tazewell Parish Council over seven retreat days
from Autumn 2016 through Autumn 2019
In Autumn of 2016, the Parish Council was convened with the sole purpose of developing a sense of Mission in our Parish of two congregations, through prayer, fellowship, and teaching. Our Parish Council is made up of all Vestry members from both congregations and other ministerial leaders as appointed by the Priest.
This was providential, because as of the year 2018, each eucharistic community in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield was required by canon law ratified at the 2016 Synod to submit a Mission Strategy Report on an annual basis. What the canons intend by this requirement is that each parish in our diocese provide an ongoing chronicle of how it is developing a practice of Mission and Outreach within its particular geographic area, in light of radically changed circumstances in American society as a whole with respect to attitude toward Christianity and the practice of the Catholic religion of the Creeds.
Since that first retreat day in 2016, the Parish Council deliberated on Mission according to the five principles of “total mission and ministry” first articulated in the 1982 General Convention of the Episcopal Church — at first popularly called “S. W. E. E. P.” — but rendered in our case in a more sophisticated way owing to nearly four years of development by parishes around the country. (See “Called by God to be a Missionary Parish” below.)
What has become clear to the Parish Council in its prayer over three years are three foundation of our Mission:
I. We are called by God to be a Missionary Parish
II. S. Teresa of Calcutta is our Patron Saint of the total Outreach ministry and guide in the Sacred Humanity of Christ.
III. “Serving the Lonely” is our Outreach Identity that underlies all that we have been doing and will be doing.
I. “Called by God to be a Missionary Parish”
A “missionary parish” is any Parish that understands that Christian Mission is its sole reason for being. In our case of two congregations sharing mission responsibility, “missionary parish” means thorough-going partnership and shared resources.
Our God-given mission is to proclaim through words and deeds Christ Crucified and Resurrected. We understand mission as a comprehensive and dynamic five-fold “total system”:
Observing Feasts of Our Lord and all Holy Days appointed according to the Liturgical Calendar through both Offices (daily) and Masses.
Both adults and children participating in spiritual formation in the Sacraments, Prayer, Holy Scriptures, and revealed doctrine expressed in the Catholic Creeds.
Stewardship of the well-being within the Parish and our members through loving and giving (time, talent, treasure).
Meaningful, self-less service to the materially, intellectually, and/or spiritually impoverished which recognizes Christ in them.
The work of finding harmony and fit between (1) our obligation to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed and (2) the social realities and needs of Tazewell County and greater Peoria.
The Church is charged by God to embody these dimensions and enter into the Sacred Humanity of Christ offered to the world.
II. S. Teresa of Calcutta is our Patron Saint
The Sacred Humanity of Christ refers to how our Savior regards the world with love, compassion, and wonder. We have found Mother Teresa to be an inexhaustible teacher and inspiration in our discernment of Outreach Identity. Her example of tireless love to the poorest of the poor is a permanent icon of what it means to enter into the Sacred Humanity of Christ.
Pray with this icon of S. Teresa and with these words of Jesus Christ:
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (S. Matthew 25:40)
And also pray with the words of Mother Teresa:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”
“The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
“When all recognize that our suffering neighbor is God Himself, and when you draw the consequences from that fact — on that day, there will be no more poverty.”
“We are to be Christ to the world, and to every person we meet.”
“Maybe our children, our husband, our wife are not hungry, are not naked, are not homeless. But are you sure there is no one there who feels unwanted, unloved? Let us look straight into our own families. For love begins at home.”
“Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
And let us always remember these words of her teaching:
“God did not call me to be successful.
He called me to be faithful.”
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
III. “Serving the Lonely” is our Outreach Identity
There are many ways to offer meaningful, self-less service to the impoverished of Tazewell County. Our discernment over three years has revealed that “Serving the Lonely” is the specific and best way to express both what our two congregations have already been doing and what we can cultivate going forward. God wants us to continue our current charitable efforts but also discover new ways to accompany the lonely people in our area — in a nursing home or assisted-living center; in a hospital as a person is dying; with needs mothers, children, and families; with teens and young adults unsure how to navigate the world; and in other ways.
All parishioners can be engaged in “serving the lonely” outreach: (1) continue to give time, talent, and treasure to the charitable efforts we already have; (2) actively go into the neighborhood and be an agent of hope for lonely people, and (3) daily prayer.
Let us share our stories with each other about how we are serving the lonely, even in “small and ordinary ways.” These stories inspire us and encourage us to keep up our God-led efforts.
Pray with this icon of the Good Samaritan: Christ finding Christ; Christ serving Christ.
WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
After facing the Cross in Mass, we are dismissed to “God in peace, to love and serve the Lord,” that we may face the Cross of Christ in the hearts of impoverished people we meet in the world. Every day, let each of us be an agent of the peace of the Cross to all we meet, whether family, friends, or stranger — Thanks be to God.
Pray this every day:
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before You all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of Your Son, Who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Are you called to more active outreach ministry?
1. Ask God where He would like you to go. He responds to, and leads, those who pray with humility. And ask parishioners how they are already serving the lonely in their lives.
2. When a direction or call of any kind emerges, share it with our Priest and share also with our parishioners. They might become your partners in mission or your support group. Ask for their prayers, and ask the Priest for help.
3. When you feel ready, go out and be with the lonely. Always pray to God for help and offer thanksgiving for everything He provides along the way.
4. Afterwards, share how it went with your support group and pray together for guidance from God.
5. Repeat: this is an every day endeavor of listening to God.
Let us be a Missionary Parish through Liturgy, Catechesis,
Pastoral Care, Outreach, and Evangelization.