Archdiocese of Detroit's new governance model encourages parishes to seek opportunities to join forces to serve neighbors, introduce Christ
Editor's note: This is the third in a six-part monthly series focusing on ministry and mission within the Archdiocese of Detroit's new parish governance model, called Families of Parishes. Learn more at www.familiesofparishes.org.
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Since Christ fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, charity has been part of the Church’s mission.
From the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan to food banks and the parish poor box, charity might be the most visible sign of the Church's witness to the world.
Under the Archdiocese of Detroit's new Families of Parishes pastoral plan, the connection between the physical side of charity and spiritual side is being made even more explicit.
In each new Family of Parishes, a newly appointed director of evangelical charity will ensure the Church's outreach goes well beyond feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving drink to the thirsty; rather, evangelical charity is about making known Jesus' love in the community.
“It’s great we have people focused on the physical needs of a person, but there are also the spiritual needs,” Marlon De La Torre, Ph.D., director of evangelization and missionary discipleship for the Archdiocese of Detroit, told Detroit Catholic. “Outreach should never be siloed. Outreach should never be focused on, ‘Well, we only do the food pantry,’ or ‘We only do soup kitchen.’ No, it’s all connected. The reality of our faith, our baptism, is we are driven to serve those in need.”
As parishes transition to the new family model, each family will appoint six new — mostly lay-led — positions representing both "mission direct" and "mission support" areas of ministry. Along with evangelical charity, those roles will focus on discipleship formation, engagement, family ministry and worship, along with a mission support director who will focus on administrative areas such as human resources, finance and technology.
Each parish within a family may retain its own Christian service director, but directors of evangelical charity will work to ensure parishes' efforts are executed in a coordinated way.
“The director will oversee direct collaboration with those who provide services and outreach from a spiritual standpoint and from a mission standpoint,” De La Torre said. “This person will look to reach out to not only the Catholic population in the area of their Family, but to those abroad, those who many not be Catholic but are engaged with the Catholic faith through a service or outreach program.”
John Karski, who previously led Christian service efforts at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township, was recently named director of evangelical charity for North Macomb Family 2, which includes the parishes of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Isidore in Macomb Township and St. Francis of Assisi-St. Maximilian Kolbe in Ray Township.
Karski said he views his new role not as a "reinventing of the wheel," but a chance to work more closely as a Christian community.
“I look at it like I’m walking side by side with my counterparts and working together on joint calendars, looking for ways we can come together and do things that are applicable to all parishes in our area,” Karski said.
For example, Karski said, when St. Francis of Assisi-St. Maximillian Kolbe recently hosted the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST), the parish reached out to St. Therese of Lisieux for help making 60 dinners for the homeless guests.
“Our Knights of Columbus did that in our parish, provided funding, setting an example of how one parish can help out in a pinch where they probably wouldn’t have thought of asking us,” Karski said.
But the role of the evangelical charity director goes beyond syncing schedules and encouraging collaboration. It’s about making sure every clothing drive, every sandwich and every conversation is accompanied by a message that the person being served — and the person doing the serving — is a beloved daughter or son of God.
“Believe it or not, Christian service has always been evangelical in its nature,” said Deacon Marc Rybinski, Christian service minister at St. Paul of Tarsus Parish in Clinton Township and director of evangelical charity for Central Macomb Family 5, which includes St. Paul of Tarsus, St. Thecla in Clinton Township, St. Ronald in Clinton Township and St. Malachy in Sterling Heights. “We bring Jesus’ corporal works of mercy to people, and by doing so, we can introduce the Gospel as well."
“Evangelical charity” emphasizes serving people who aren't necessarily active parishioners, or even practicing Catholics, Deacon Rybinski said.
“The Church is about relationships, and evangelical charity is a relationship with the folks you serve; without those lines of communication, all of this can’t happen,” Deacon Rybinski said. “It’s about proclaiming the Gospel and working together for the common good, which is one of the principles of Catholic social teaching.”
While Families of Parishes may change the way parishes approach evangelization, creating disciples has always been a group effort, Deacon Rybinski said.
“If you look at the history of the Church, it’s always been about working together, all of these groups coming together,” Deacon Rybinski said. “Jesus had his twelve apostles, and they had their differences along the way. But they put their differences aside and worked together. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to do just that: to come together from our different parishes to serve the people of God — to become the hands and feet of Jesus through our outreach.”