Parish Outreach Proposal

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This is an outreach proposal I put together that was specific to the strengths of this particular parish community… 

Outreach Proposal

Subject:  A proposal to develop a new Outreach/Social Ministry program.

Purpose:  Clearly Pope Francis has caught people’s attention.  But the question we have to ask ourselves is ‘how’ and ‘why’?  That should guide our mission and plan of action for outreach. He has repeatedly expressed his concern at the scandal of poverty in a world of plenty. He said he wants the Catholic Church to be “a Church which is poor, and for the poor”. His call has reached the hearts of many people across the world, and it should inspire us to explore how we might respond to the Pope’s call.

Problem:  With the innovation of the Internet, people are often more aware of issues in other countries than issues plaguing their own community.  This disconnect and lack of awareness can numb our ability to see clearly and be truly empathetic.

From a sociological perspective, our culture has a deeply engrained social stigma attached to poverty and homelessness. The gap between the rich and poor is increasing and has become more polarized. The demographics of our parish are diverse, yet overall it is a highly educated and wealthy population. That being the case, developing a strong program with a focus on the social teachings of the Church is vital for the spiritual health of our parish community.

Pope Francis is challenging us to reevaluate our lifestyle and the way in which we are responding to the poor and marginalized among us.  What is catching the attention of the world are the simple ways he is following the radical teachings of Jesus. He has been speaking out about injustice and encouraging, by his actions, an encounter with those on the margins. He is encouraging us to open our eyes and see through Jesus’ eyes.

Parishioners at St. Dominic’s are extremely charitable and there is a strong desire to respond to the challenge Pope Francis is putting before us. Our task is to cultivate discussions about the social teachings, increase awareness around social issue, and promote methods to put the teachings into action.

“To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person and face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, in the face of Jesus.”

~Pope Francis

Thomas Merton

Solutions:  Inform, inspire, and equip parishioners to love and serve people in a manner that reflects the nature and character of God.

Embrace the Dominican charism of preaching and challenging systems of thought. Outreach and social ministry incorporates both the spiritual works of mercy, as well as the corporal works of mercy. Teaching about social issues raises awareness and motivates people to engage.

Respond to the global momentum of Pope Francis on a local and personal level with a program to raise awareness of social issues in our city and ways to be of service.

Examples:

  • Establish an ongoing lecture series focusing on the Catholic social teachings.
    • Incorporating outside speakers from local agencies and organizations to raise awareness of social issues in our local community.
    • Lecture/discussion about the social teachings (spiritual works of mercy).
    • Exploring the writings/homilies/interviews of Pope Francis.
  • Develop a database of volunteer opportunities in the city parishioners can engage with based on their strengths and gifts.
    • The list should incorporate group and individual volunteer opportunities with a variety of commitment levels so to incorporate parishioner’s level of availability and willingness to engage.
    • One time and ongoing opportunities.
    • Collaborate with Interfaith and other non-Catholic groups in the city.
    • City run events like Project Homeless Connect.
  • Provides information on these issues to the parish and others.
    • Social media (could incorporate video).
    • Articles about social issues.
    • Personal stories/experiences.
    • Reflections on volunteer experiences (written/video).

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Conclusion:

Start a discussion:

Pope Francis is encouraging us to wrestle with the social teachings of the Church and how it relates to the lived reality of our time.  He is challenging our system of thought and providing abundant material for us to reflect on.

Raise awareness:

Develop a deeper relationship around issues that clearly affect the dignity and respect of those in our community.  Utilize the tools given to us by our faith and our experiences to construct a vision that seeks to bring out the full potential of our parish, families, and community.

Gather & Send:

Parishes are for gathering and sending.  If we gather, but don’t send we become static because we’ve lost our mission.  Gathering is for the Church, but the Church is for the world.  We don’t need to reinvent the wheel… we can connect with existing opportunities in the city. (ex. Project Homeless Connect, Gubbio Project, etc.)

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“We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick.”  ~Pope Francis I

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