Fergus Falls parish hosts first regional ministry gathering

Forming leaders, making connections at core of new diocesan initiative

At Bishop Donald Kettler’s request, diocesan staff have been visioning new ways to be missionary disciples — to go out to the peripheries and share the Gospel.

After months of groundwork, dialogue with parish leaders and collecting data, diocesan staff members launched a new effort called regional ministry gatherings intended to help form lay leaders across the diocese through prayer, training and networking opportunities.

On Oct. 25, a group of diocesan employees and Bishop Kettler headed to the western region of the diocese and held a regional ministry gathering at Our Lady of Victory Church in Fergus Falls. The event was the first in a series of 12 leading up to Diocesan Ministry Day, which will be held Sept. 30, 2019. The gatherings will take place in different areas of the diocese and cover multiple topics based on survey responses from parishes about their individual priorities.

“It was good to see people engaged in conversation,” Bishop Kettler said. “When you bring together a group of people, together we are much richer in what we can do.

Diocesan pastoral planning director Brenda Kresky, left, talks with Jeff and Diane Gerst, right, members of St. James Parish in Maine Township, after her talk. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

“As with our planning process, we are trying to show that church life is bigger than a parish,” he said. “If you can work together in a region, there are more opportunities and more resources and you can do more things.”

First, Bishop Kettler said, there must be a desire for learning and growing.

“When we do something like this, people realize there is much more that we can do,” he said.

About 75 people from more than 25 parishes attended the event, which included prayer and an opening talk on baptism. The theme for this year’s gatherings is “Called to be… Prepared to do…”

After the opening talk, participants were invited to attend one of three sessions: “Exploring the Essential Elements of a Vibrant Parish,” “Planning, Building and Fostering a Culture of Life” or a presentation on Hispanic/Latino ministry and the National V Encuentro.

Bev Terhurne from St. Leonard Parish in Pelican Rapids attended the session on the Encuentro after being involved in a local Encuentro event at her parish. Terhurne ministers as a volunteer music minister.

Music has been a bridge between the English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners at St. Leonard’s. The community, which has weekly English and Spanish Masses, decided to have at least one bilingual Mass together each quarter. For those liturgies, the English and Spanish choirs combine.

“It’s a lot of work and is sometimes challenging,” Terhurne said. “But everyone shows up and we work through it. I imagine there are similar challenges in other ministries as well.”

Terhurne said she loved the conversation that took place in the workshop she attended.

“We have to have discussions like this because we have to start somewhere. If we don’t face the challenges, we will never get anywhere. Even if it takes a long time, it will be worth it. We are on the cusp of something good,” she said.

Anita Reisenauer, who serves as the parish secretary at St. Olaf Parish in Elbow Lake, attended the session on vibrant parishes with her husband, Greg.

Participants take part in an opening prayer during the first regional ministry gathering at Our Lady of Victory Church in Fergus Falls Oct. 25. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

“There is always room to grow, for your parish to grow stronger, and I just thought this was a good opportunity. I was thankful that the diocese was willing to come out our direction and I wanted to show my support,” Anita said.

“We can all improve on reaching out to our parish and the community and grow in faith.”

This idea for regional ministry gatherings sprung from Bishop Kettler’s call to action after attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, in July 2017. After returning from the conference, which he attended with 10 delegates from the diocese, a session was held with a cross section of clergy, religious, lay leaders and lay people from around the diocese. The group was tasked with discerning the greatest areas of need in the diocese. Among the top findings was the area of lay leadership formation.

Subsequently, a survey was sent to all the people in the diocesan database, which includes priests and deacons, religious community leaders, parish staff, Catholic school faculty and staff, liturgists, musicians, catechists, parish council and committee members and other volunteers, asking for their input on the needs in their individual parishes.

Diocesan staff evaluated the results of the survey and began developing a plan to talk about the top priorities in four general regions of the diocese: north, south, east, west. Additional regional ministry gatherings will focus on the greatest concerns each region identified.

Kristi Bivens, associate director of lay leadership formation for the diocese, attended the pilot regional gathering in Fergus Falls.

“As we go forward, the hope is that more and more parish leaders will attend the regional ministry gatherings as well as those interested in taking on more leadership in their parishes,” Bivens said. “These gatherings are a great opportunity for formation and networking, close to home, without a huge time commitment.”

As the schedule and locations are determined, upcoming regional gatherings will be advertised through The Visitor and online at http://stcdio.org/regional-ministry-gatherings/.

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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