LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Representatives from four parishes in three states — including St. Anthony of Padua in Camden, N.J. — gathered last month at the headquarters of JustFaith Ministries to discuss a new program from the popular social justice adult formation ministry.
“We were invited,” said Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony’s, “because we responded to JustFaith founder Jack Jezreel’s invitation in Washington during the Ecumenical Advocacy Days,” The other parishes were from Hoboken, N.J., California, and Louisville, he added.
Jud was joined on the Aug. 9 to 12 trip by the parish’s JPIC and Hispanic ministry director Kristen Nalen, outreach director Rina Abreu and St. Anthony’s School alumna Sharina Ovalles.
At the EADs, JustFaith introduced its newest initiative, “Gathering & Sending” or “The 50/50 Parish Project.” The Camden parish will pilot the project, which was also promoted on YouTube.
“Jack explained to us in Louisville, ‘We’re trying to create an environment in which people of faith can thrive,’” Jud said.
Call to Mission
The premise, he explained, is that parishes have succeeded at gathering people — for Masses, religious education, fundraisers and social events — “but since Jesus gathered people in order to send them, parishes follow the Gospel call when they focus as much on sending people as on gathering them,” Jud said. “Traditionally religious orders have done this well. Now the idea is for parishes to be those communities where people encounter that call to mission.”
Parishioners will be teamed up in groups of roughly 12 to gather and then be sent out — to a soup kitchen, to paint someone’s house, to visit the homebound, on service trips or to do community organizing.
“Everyone in the parish will be expected to belong to a mission team according to the type of service to which they are called,” Jud said. “Where this has been done, it has energized the church about living the Gospel. It improves liturgies, increases youth participation and attracts new parishioners.”
St. Anthony’s already has some aspects of “sending” in place, he said, “but the idea is that instead of a few dedicated people doing this, it will become the norm for everyone in the parish.”
As one of the pilot parishes, JustFaith Ministries’ staff has agreed to fully support St. Anthony’s in this effort, at no cost to the parish. “We can implement any of their programs here as well,” Jud added. In addition, Jezreel will be directly involved in drawing up the plans to implement “Gathering & Sending” at the parish.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us,” Jud said. The core team, currently consisting of the group that traveled to Louisville, will grow to include others. They will have bimonthly conference calls with Jezreel and the other pilot parishes.
JustFaith Ministries has a staff of 14 and is allied with Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Bread for the World and Pax Christi.
Since its founding in 1989, more than 30,000 Catholics have participated in JustFaith programs in some 1,400 parishes belonging to 125 dioceses. The overwhelming majority of JustFaith alumni add new activities or increase their involvement in social action.
The widely recognized, well-respected Catholic organization is based on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and incorporates prayer, reflection, retreats, guest speakers, readings and community building. Each JustFaith program forms small communities as participants reflect on the Gospel message and the social implications of the Catholic faith. Details about programs and workshops are available on the ministry’s website.
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Photos of the Louisville trip can be viewed in the August, 2011 photo album on the St. Anthony of Padua Church & School, Camden, NJ Facebook page.