For St. Mary Parish, ‘Sent on Mission’ is about getting parishioners to heaven (VIDEO)


Royal Oak parish’s ‘missionary strategic plan’ focuses on young families, married couples, better outreach to growing community

ROYAL OAK — For Fr. Paul Snyder, the mission of St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak couldn’t be clearer.

“For St. Mary’s, our whole goal is to get every single one of our parishioners to heaven,” Fr. Snyder told Detroit Catholic. “We want our parishioners to fall in love with Jesus and really own their faith.” 

With such a lofty goal, Fr. Snyder said, creating a “missionary strategic plan” was a vehicle for the parish to figure out how to do just that.

“When you start to ask, ‘What will help us to do that?’ we really had to brainstorm,” said Fr. Snyder, pastor of St. Mary.

The Royal Oak parish was one of eight archdiocesan parishes to recently complete a “missionary strategic plan,” a practical blueprint for evangelization based on Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel.

Fr. Paul Snyder, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak, chats with a young family after Mass. Fr. Snyder said the parish’s missionary strategic plan seeks to address the needs of its young and growing community. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

The plans — which every parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit will eventually create — are part of the local Church’s effort to apply real-world solutions to the challenges of 21st century evangelization. The initiative, called “Sent on Mission,” asks parishes to examine what they’re doing well, where they can improve, and to develop a measurable, attainable roadmap to meet those goals.

For Fr. Snyder, it was a chance to re-envision everything the parish is doing in order to create intentional disciples for Jesus Christ.

“We were able to look at our parish with some creativity,” Fr. Snyder said. “As we were thinking about our parish’s needs and our demographics, we identified what we would like to see happen.”

Some of the elements of St. Mary’s plan reflect its unique distinction as a “young adult parish,” Fr. Snyder said.

“We’re at the edge of a walkable downtown community, and also we have a lot of young singles and young families. In the past two years, 248 households have registered at our parish, and in 77 percent of those households, the head of the household is under 40,” Fr. Snyder said. “That’s overwhelmingly young for a Catholic parish. So we’re looking for ways to support our young families, ways to reach out to the downtown Royal Oak community.”

A family sings during Mass at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak. Home to a growing young adult and young family scene, St. Mary’s ambitious plan includes new programming and services that make it easier for families to come to Mass and other parish events. 

In order to support young families, for example, the parish plans to develop a marriage mentorship program that pairs engaged couples with a “mentor couple” who can coach and guide them through the ups and downs of married life.

“I found it very interesting that statistically, when couples preparing for marriage are asked whether they wanted their marriage to look like their parents, 80 percent say no,” said Linda Maccarone, director of parish mission at St. Mary’s and a member of the parish visioning team, a group of staff and parishioners charged with creating the plan. “It’s shocking. So if they don’t see a good role model for marriage, how do we prepare them?”

The parish also explored expanding child care options so couples with young children can attend parish events, said Mary Jiovani, another visioning team member and former coordinator of the “moms and tots” group at St. Mary’s.

“We have these events we’d like people to come to, but as a young mother myself, it can be difficult to come to something where I won’t be able to bring my children,” Jiovani said. “To have to set up a babysitter, it’s a barrier sometimes. To have child care available could be a game changer.”

To help promote enrollment at St. Mary School, the Royal Oak parish hopes to develop a “Joyful Missionary Disciple” scholarship for parish families and hire a marketing director to spread the word about its unique learning environment. 

Because St. Mary’s has a grade school, Fr. Snyder said the strategic plan also includes better marketing and communication and the possible development of a “Joyful Missionary Disciple” scholarship to help parish families afford to send their children to St. Mary School.

“In addition to the tuition breaks we give, this is more than just a parishioner discount. We see the family practicing, and we would love to offer them some additional help,” Fr. Snyder said.

Fr. Snyder said St. Mary’s School is an asset to the local Catholic community, but the parish needs help spreading the word about its offerings, which is why the parish also hopes to hire a new marketing manager.

“We have a great school here, but I think we could do a lot better with the marketing,” Fr. Snyder said. “I’m the one who posts on Facebook and looks things over from a design standpoint, but I really don’t have time to do that. It would be great if someone who had a marketing mind could help promote our school.”

As St. Mary’s moves into the fundraising portion of the Sent on Mission process, Fr. Snyder is hopeful the parish will see real growth in the months and years ahead. He admits St. Mary’s plan might look different from the parish down the road, but that’s a good thing.

“Sometimes you get handed a plan or a template where things are supposed to fit, and it doesn’t work for every parish,” Fr. Snyder said. “This really helped to take the ‘dream big’ idea and make it concrete.”

St. Mary Parish’s missionary strategic plan

Download St. Mary Parish’s missionary strategic plan here. The parish’s “case for support” involves three main elements: 

Strengthening Parish Culture: 45%

As our parish community has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, St. Mary seeks to enhance and deepen our emphasis on providing a setting for a life changing personal encounter with Christ that will permeate every aspect of parish life.

Strengthening Parish Communication and Technology: 35%

St. Mary is committed to investing in innovation and initiatives which transform how we share the Word of the Lord in our parish community.

Strengthening Catholic Education: 20%

We believe a Catholic education should be accessible to committed St. Mary families regardless of income.