Seven ‘Big Idea’ projects being implemented across diocese

Seven “Big Idea” projects, developed by a collaboration of people in Area Catholic Communities, parishes and diocesan offices, recently received grants of $2,000 to support their ministry endeavors through the Bridge-Builders for a Thriving Mission initiative, said Barbara Sutton, director of the Thriving Congregations Initiative, which coordinated the proposals.

The focus of the Bridge-Builders initiative, funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, is to nurture the mission of ACCs and animate the gifts of the laity. It is a partnership among the St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, St. Cloud Diocese, and St. John’s Abbey Center for Latino Ministry-Casa San Benito.

Be[e] Pollinator balls are balls of bee-friendly seeds and soil meant to be thrown and dispersed so the seeds are planted. Kristi Bivens, associate director of lay leadership formation for the Diocese of St. Cloud, is creating a program using this “Be[e] Pollinator” metaphor to discern new generations of lay leaders. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)
Kristi Bivens, associate director of lay leadership formation for the Diocese of St. Cloud, will use a “Be[e] Pollinator” metaphor to discern new generations of lay leaders.

“Our Church needs lay ministers as much as priests,” she said. “We need to cultivate good ground where lay ministers can thrive, where their gifts and talents can work in collaboration with the clergy, like creating the right environment for bees. This summer at parishes, meetings and other events, I’ll be listening for people who are becoming ‘fertile ground,’ people discerning their call.”

Brenda Kresky, director of the diocesan Planning Office, is establishing a formation program to assist parish pastoral councils that are re-visioning into Area Catholic Community councils.

“To be functional in planning and visioning, ACC councils need practical tools — everything from how to use data in planning or how to run a good meeting to goal-setting or creating a vibrant pastoral plan for their area. We hosted an introduction to ACC pastoral formation on June 4 and will offer other workshops over the next year,” she said.

Deacon Jim and Bonnie Schulzetenberg envision a strong family ministry in their Five Star Catholic Community, which includes parishes in Browerville, Clarissa, Grey Eagle, Long Prairie and Swanville.

“The Church doesn’t have a separate ministry for families, though it overlaps with marriage and baptismal preparation,” Deacon Schulzetenberg said. “Our goal is to plant the seeds —
to understand the needs and find new ways to support and form families in our five parishes. Hopefully those seeds will take root.”

At Harvest of Hope Catholic Community, which includes Albany, Avon, Farming, St, Anthony and St. Martin, Toni Hudock, pastoral associate, is developing BINGO cards to help parishioners reach beyond parish boundaries to get to know each other. BINGO activities might include attending Mass with new friends, delivering cookies to a sick person they don’t know or hosting a gathering of people from other parishes. To complete their card, parishioners can request help on an interactive, web-based bulletin board. This project will launch in the fall.

Mayuli Bales, diocesan director of multicultural ministries, will focus on encouraging a Latino youth ministry.

“Our long-term goal is to empower Latino youth to take active roles in ministry and the leadership of our Catholic parishes,” she said. “To start, we invite adults to participate in a one-year formation course at Emmaus Institute on youth ministry, to brainstorm the kinds of support our youth need to become agents of transformation.”

Kent Schmitz, the diocese’s associate director of youth ministry and adolescent catechesis, will begin to articulate a vision for young adult ministry. This project will study the needs over several grant periods to identify concerns and include multicultural components.

Pastor Kirsten Nelson Roenfeldt of Salem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud and Father Scott Pogatchnik of St. Augustine and St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud are seeking ways to connect with and build their downtown community in the Mississippi River’s east side neighborhood, composed of many renters and one-person households.

Brenda Kresky checks in with each Area Catholic Community group during the table discussion portion of the ACC Pastoral Council Formation Day at St. John’s University June 4. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Sutton said the Bridge-Builders for a Thriving Mission initiative has many practices and activities that provide opportunities for each ACC to flourish.

“To develop our proposal, people met over a period of months to consider what a thriving diocese would look like,” she said. “We created space to think differently, igniting our imaginations. It’s a grassroots effort of building the Church from bottom up which embraces a pastoral framework of co-responsibility that stemmed from Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching, that as a baptized people we are all responsible for the mission of the Gospel.”

Beginning in September, there will be another opportunity for pastoral leaders to develop and implement their Big Idea. Sutton suggested that people form a small thriving learning community to identify needs in their area or ministry and request a mentor and financial resources for implementation. Several leaders are trained in planning and discernment tools; workshops will be offered throughout the diocese.

In October, a Festival of Learning will gather all who have benefited from the grant in order to share their learning.

“Through these Big Ideas, God is calling us to grow and belong, to create communities that care,” Sutton said. “The Eucharist turns us outward as we become the body of Christ, sent on mission.”

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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