Lent is a time of personal reflection when we are called to examine our habits, behaviors, and relationships. In the context of Pope Francis’ call for a Revolution of Love and Tenderness, Lent 2017 finds many of us considering questions such as “How well am I caring for the needs of others?” “What keeps me from serving more fully?” “How can I be more Christ-like in my daily life?” Similarly, the Parish Council has been pondering many of these same questions at a parish level by exploring the topic of parishioner engagement. At its core, this initiative seeks to better understand how parishioners are engaging with one another, how they would like to engage with the parish and its programs, and what barriers they face when trying to engage. Our first task was to listen, so we initiated an online survey and then conducted a series of focus group discussions with parishioners and community members.
Gratefully, through candid discussions with parishioners, we learned a great deal about what makes The Basilica a spiritual home for many! Parishioners consistently told us that our beautiful building attracted them, that they appreciate the quality of liturgy and music, our openness and diversity, and the strong commitment to serving the needs of our community. Many things are going well at The Basilica!
However, we also learned that there are some things we could improve and change in order to be easier to navigate, more open to different needs, and make it easier for people to connect with the parish and one another. Some key themes included:
Getting Connected and Involved: Many told us that in such a large parish, it is not always easy to get to know others or to navigate ways to become more involved; we can improve and diversify the ways that we communicate and help foster interpersonal connections.
Technology: Platforms that streamline signing up, getting news, making financial donations and other transactions are rapidly evolving; in order to be user-friendly, we need to be sure that we consider how to integrate new technologies into our programs and communication channels.
Inclusion and Diversity: The Basilica is blessed to be a diverse and growing parish with a wide range of ages, household compositions, and ethnicities, but this creates a greater need to ensure that our programs, ministries, and liturgies are open, welcoming, and inclusive and that we actively work to reduce and eliminate barriers to participation.
In order to ensure that The Basilica continues to be a strong and vibrant community, the staff and Parish Council want to proactively address these areas of opportunity. Watch for additional information, more focus groups or other sharing forums, and ways to share your skills and talents. Just as during Lent we eagerly await the hopeful promise of the Easter season, through this process of parish self-reflection, we seek the hopeful promise of an engaging and thriving Basilica that will be a beacon of hope well into the future.
Jill Ahern, Parish Council Chair
Parishioner since 2009
Jill serves as a St. Vincent de Paul Meal Team Leader and as Co-Chair of the Basilica’s Strategic Planning Initiative. She has shared strategic planning expertise with the St. Vincent de Paul Leadership Team and Development Committee. Professionally, Jill leads Insights & Design at HAVI.