By Gordon Nary
Gordon: Congratulations to you and your colleagues on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Transformation Communion Committee for the extraordinary 2015 Easter After Masses Greeters Event. Father Pat looked like St. Peter greeting everyone to heaven.
Can you give us some background on the planning for this Greeters Event? Are there similar plans to repeat this or similar greeters events in the future?
Robert: Thanks Gordon. During Parish Transformation last year, Father Pat mentioned that he would like to see our parish warmed up a bit. We worship together weekly, but how well do we really know one another as parish family members? Hence, our Communio Team saw the need to place more emphasis on greeting and welcoming fellow parishioners and visitors to Mass before they enter the Sanctuary each week. The Greeters are the frontline so to speak in setting a warm and friendly tone for those coming to worship as the body of Christ.
Creating a hospitable environment is an integral part of this ministry. Just as one is greeted and welcomed at the front door of a friends’ home, so should we be greeting each other into our Church home. Once inside, we make sure all are comfortable and graciously see to their every need. Then, when it’s time for the guest to depart, we meet them at the door and thank them for coming and sharing.
Very soon we will install a Welcome/Information station in the vestibule where parishioners and visitors can inquire about parish activities, volunteer opportunities, how to become a member of our parish, and any other questions or concerns that can be passed on to the appropriate clergy or staff at the parish. Our new greeter/hospitality ministry will require many volunteers to be successful so to all parishioners, please consider joining us. The commitment will not be time consuming and the rewards will be very satisfying. If someone usually attends a particular Mass, we would just need them to come a little early and greet and welcome those attending Mass.
For those not committed to a particular Mass, we could work out a revolving schedule much like the Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, so one would not have to committed to every week.
Gordon: I understand that you and your colleagues are also considering some new after Mass gatherings, Could you discuss any plans on what these gatherings might include and when they may be launched?
Robert: When launched, we will offer after Mass Gatherings on the lawn or in Casey Hall depending on the time of year. In the beginning, we will select one Mass each week to hold a gathering. refreshments will be offered and parishioners and visitors will have time for fellowship and have the opportunity to get better acquainted with each other.
Once again, we will need volunteers to head up the gathering, set up for the gathering, and clean up after the gathering.
Gordon: At the Parish Transformation Meeting, there were some discussions on the use of the term Communio which was initially suggested as the name for the Communion Committee. Could you explain the term Communio and how it is related to Communion, and how these are both related to the concept of communications?
Robert: The three terms Communio, Communion, and Communication have one common word definition: To SHARE. Communion is derived from the Latin word “communio” which means to share, exchange, and fellowship together. In Christianity, it is the close relationship of Christians with God and with other Christians as individuals or as church. In the Mass, “Communion” is the Sacrament where we share the consecrated bread and wine and are united with Christ through his body and blood. Communication is the act of sharing verbally or non-verbally in fellowship of ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Again, SHARING is the common denominator.
Gordon: Can parishioners still join the Parish Transformation Committee to help on the various projects detailed in the plan on the OLMC website? If so, can you suggest how they could participate and apply?
Robert: The Parish Transformation Committee as such has concluded. Their function was to select specific areas to concentrate on and come up with action plans within these areas in moving our parish forward.
The three areas are: MISSION ACTION PLAN which includes three sub-committees, 1. Communio, 2. Evangelization, and 3. Catechesis, SCHOOL/EDUCATION ACTION PLAN, and FINANCE ACTION PLAN.
Within these groups there are many volunteer opportunities and there are Volunteer Opportunity Sheets in the vestibule or at the Parish Ministry Center Office that can be filled out with return instructions. We strongly urge all our parishioners to take advantage of the wide variety of opportunities at OLMC. The parish that works together, grows strong together.
We are holding a volunteer ministry fair on September 26th and 27th after all Masses. Parishioners can inquire about the various volunteer opportunities available to them at the parish. All ministries and outreach groups will be represented with someone from their area to answer questions and sign up volunteers.
Gordon: You serve as a Lector at Mass. How are the schedules for Lectors planned? Does OLMC need more Lectors? If so, to whom should they apply?
Robert: Stephen Palanca is our tireless Liturgical Director at OLMC and does one incredible job. Stephen schedules the Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers on a two month out basis and puts out a call I believe twice a year for new ministers. If one is interested, contact Stephen Palanca at the Parish Office. Always room for one more.
Gordon: You are also a member of the OLMC Parish Pastoral Council. Could you provide our readers with an overview of the Council's principal responsibilities?
Robert: Thanks to Father Pat, we now have a functioning “Parish Advisory Council” at OLMC. The Council is comprised of nine chairs which oversee specific areas of parish life. These areas not only keeps our parish running smoothly, but through thoughtful discernment and creative innovation, assures the success of a vibrant, growing parish for this generation and for generations to come.
Father Pat oversees the Council, but it is the Council that takes responsibility for implementing action plans for our Parish Home.
The nine areas of responsibility of the Council are: Parish Catechetical Programs, Parish life and Community Building Programs (Communio), School and School Parents Programs, Parish Events and Fundraising Programs, Parish Facilities Maintenance and Repair Scheduling, Parish Communication and Updating Technology Systems, Parish Spiritual Life and Spiritual Formation Programs, Parish Liturgical Ministries, and Parish Ministry Outreach to Youth and Young Adults. Katherine Delaney is the Council's Quarterly Oversight Coordinator.
Gordon: What are some of the specific parish challenges that the Council has addressed in your recent meetings?
Robert: Many initiatives have been implemented since the Council was formed. We hold our first "Fall Fest" on October 16th to gather parish and community together. Food, libations, music, dancing, a great time and a chance to win a raffle prize of $5000 raffle prize will be offered. The event is a shared parish and Mount Carmel Academy fundraiser, and the opportunity pull parish, school, and community together.
Our communications system and website at the parish is being upgraded. The Spiritual Life and Spiritual Formation group is planning some great programs such as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Many other wonderful programs have been implemented for High School. youth, and young adults. and the Catechetical team is working on a a speaker series for the parish and a 3-night mission event for the parish.
The Communion team is working on parish outing events, the parish greeter ministry, and a buddy system to give rides to church for those who can not get there on their own and also do wellness checks and visitations.
The School and Parish team is working on implementing a child care service for parents with young children during selected Masses.
Gordon: You recently visited with Deacon Pablo Perez from Kolbe House. Could you comment on your discussions
Robert: It was an extremely eye-opening and enlightening experience. I didn't know anything about Kolbe House Ministries except to give to a second monthly collection at the parish. The collection helps support The Archdiocese prison ministry with Deacon Perez, Father Arturo Perez-Rodriguez. and Father Dave Kelly who minister to as many as 8,600 adults ln Cook County Jail, another 550 adults in Lake County Jail, and approximately 385 juveniles at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.
We are asked to look after those who are incarcerated, but we often forget our responsibly to care for those who have been released and help them become productive members of society.
One of Kolbe House's greatest needs is for our parishes and parishioners to help locate some part-time and other work when these inmates are released. We discussed the possibility of parishioners considering hiring them for yard work and shoveling snow in the winter. Possibly some parishes could help find them some occasional part-time employment at their parish. We even discussed the possibility of a pilot project at some parishes to coordinate various temporary tasks and potential full-time opportunities with their parishioners.
These men, women, and juveniles have served their time, done their penance, and need our help to be rehabilitated. Otherwise, they wind up back in person. this is not someone else's responsibility - but our shared responsibility. If we believe in Christ's love and his commandment to love our neighbor, then we need to demonstrate that love to those in the Kobe House ministry when they are released.
Just as I didn't know about Kolbe House, I would like Our Lady of Mount Carmel to invite the Kolbe House ministry to some of our Masses to provide all of our parishioners with more insight into their important ministry and some of the extraordinary art projects of these prisoners that truly demonstrate their love of Christ, and explore how all of us can share in their ministry of rehabilitation.
Kolbe House also has a wish list that I would like to share with our readers.
Gordon: You are originally from the Buckeye State. Could you tell us a little about your background and your profession?
Robert: I’m originally from Ohio, outside of Dayton and a country boy at heart. I have a BFA in Acting which has served me well over the years in my sales career. "Although I do love the stage, making a living won out at the end of the day. I still wound like to do voiceover work here in Chicago and have explored that possibility.
I currently work with my twin brother in his Sales Firm and we cover eight states in the Mid-West. Our clients are fine independent retail/department stores and upscale Restaurants and Hotels and our product lines include upscale, luxury china, crystal, silver and gift lines of American and European origin. I describe my job as selling “theater for the table.
Gordon: As I recall, you transferred from Holy Name Parish to OLMC. When did you joined OLMC and what do you like most about OLMC parish?
Robert: I converted to the Catholic Faith in 1993 at Holy Name Cathedral when Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was our leader. What an honor it was to have him welcome and bring me into my new church home at Easter Vigil. I was involved in the Lector Ministry and was head of training for a time, on the Parish Council, and helped with various events such as “21 Reasons to come to Holy Name Cathedral”. The Cathedral was a wonderful place to start my new faith journey, but after a while I wanted a smaller church home.
After a move back into Lake View I attended OLMC and immediately knew I was home to stay. OLMC is a jewel in the Lake View Community. The diversity of the parish got my attention right away along with intimate size of the church. Also, hands down, we have the best Liturgical Music Program anywhere. The Mass is so beautiful in itself, but when the music is added, it elevates one’s spirit to heavenly realms. Thank you Paul French, Kelly Dobbs-Mickus, all the choirs and musicians. The number of ministries and programs one can participate in also impressed me, so I became a Lector, joined Parish Transformation and here I am today on the Parish Council and Communio Team. I truly enjoy every moment.
I must add that Deacon Richard Johnson has a terrific program with many opportunities in parish outreach ministries and Deacon Tom Lambert with the Ministry of Care Program and the Bible Study Series.
Gordon: One of the social challenges that we share is the lack of awareness by so many of our friends and colleagues of the child slavery in Africa where very young children are sold into slavery to harvest cacao for the international chocolate industry. When were you first aware of this practice?
Robert: As I recall, CNN did a few reports on this horrible form of human trafficking several years ago. Then I saw a powerful documentary titled The Dark Side of Chocolate which made me remind my friends that they should not purchase chocolate products from any company that still uses these child slaves.
Gordon: Hopefully, when your friends and others read this interview, they will be reminded to do their homework on which companies still use and abuse these children and avoid purchasing their products.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Robert: Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a fast growing parish due to many of the new initiatives that we have put in place. It's a parish with a beautiful worship space, liturgy, and music program. A parish open to all with a diverse population and a parish where you can be nourished spiritually and a parish where you have opportunity to nourish others in giving back not only with your treasure, but also with your time and talent. A friend recently sent me a quote from Mother Theresa that sums up a large part of our parish mission, “Help people, even when you know they can’t help you back”
Gordon: Thank you for your leadership, reminding OLMC parishioners how they can help advance their parish mission, your support of Kolbe House, and your commitment to ending child human trafficking in Africa.