Respect Life • Our Parish

Dear Epiphany Family,

Thank you to the many who came to our Facilities and Mission meeting on September 18th. It should have made it easier to see the challenges we face with our many facilities. This is a very difficult process but we have to face the reality and come together as a parish family to look toward the future. We plan to share information from the meeting here in the bulletin and likely elsewhere. To give greater context to the estimates and architectural proposals/options, I wanted to share my speaking notes/script from the meeting:

Why are we here? Because God calls us to be on mission – “disciples journeying toward Christ manifesting God’s love in sacraments, worship, and service”. To manifest, share, the Good News of Jesus Christ, who has died for all, and has risen from the dead to free us from sin and draw all peoples to Himself for eternity. Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us, “Go and make disciples of all nations” & reminds us that he is “with us always, until the end of the age”. Jesus is with us today, loving us and guiding us with His Spirit

Some of you may have grown up in big Catholic families in a big home (or know of those who did). Kids move away from home, and the parents have much more space than they need and can handle. Parents sometimes end up having to move and downsize because of prudence & stewardship. It’s not unlike what we’ve experienced here in East Toledo. Many people have moved away and we have to be prudent and responsible stewards of our Catholic home or homes, for what we can realistically afford and stay true to our mission of manifesting God’s love outward.
While we became one Epiphany of the Lord parish family in 2013 – we carry with & in us the heritage of all the former East Side parishes. We are a blended family with roots in the ethnic neighborhood parishes where God worked in many ways and people passed down and shared the faith. The East Side has changed a lot – neighborhoods changing, various groupings and clusters of parishes, closure of parishes and more.

There has been plenty of pain, loss, and heartache. Yet God is with us and God is faithful. We have the greatest treasure there is in Jesus and all His blessings given to us in and through the Church. He brings new life out of pain, suffering, and loss. We can’t live in the past or only look to the past. Our task is to address the present and take us into the future. To bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the East Side; to be the Catholic presence here, caring for people, pastorally reaching out beyond our walls.

We’re here to address our facilities in relation to our mission. With the heritage of three parishes comes a lot of buildings to take care of, and they do need a lot of care. When I accepted the assignment to be your pastor I was aware of the challenges with our buildings. When I came I quickly saw how much time, energy, and resources are spent on attempting to maintain and keep up our many buildings. I have often felt more like a property manager than a pastor. And there were conversations with parish leadership about facilities challenges well before I came.

I knew we had to take a hard look at how our buildings serve our mission. This is no doubt a tough process that we’ve undertaken. And I’m aware that there are fears & concerns you may have. But God is inviting us to remember that He is in charge and has a good plan for us.

After various conversations with parish leadership – our finance & pastoral councils, including an October 2020 joint finance and pastoral council meeting about our facilities, we decided we needed a third party to assess our facilities. A finance council member had a co-worker who belongs to the parish in New Riegel and they had undertaken an architectural assessment to help guide them with the five church buildings and more that they had.

I formed a Facilities and Mission Task Force (with representation from our councils) from across our parish to more closely tackle our facilities in relation to our mission. Members include: Karen Van Dyke (chair), Josh Anderson, Charlie Duvendack, Michelle Hammond, Rick Niehaus, JR Torda, Sue Veres, and Judy Zbierajewski. I appreciate all their hard work and assistance. We interviewed two firms and were impressed with RCM architects – especially with their previous experience using this process and their pastoral approach. The Task Force has been instrumental in bringing us to today.

Some of you may know the story of St. Francis of Assisi’s call by Jesus. He was praying in the dilapidated church of San Damiano and Jesus spoke to him from the crucifix, “Rebuild my Church”. St. Francis first thought Jesus meant to physically rebuild the church he was in and did so. Later he realized that Jesus was calling him to renew the Church, to rebuild and renew God’s people who ARE the Church. This is our first call wasell – to rebuild and renew one another by focusing on Jesus, giving ourselves to, trusting, and sharing Him.

You are probably familiar with our parish Living Stones prayer. This is what our parish needs to first be about, its living stones – our people, built on the Living Stone of Jesus Himself. We are called to build one another up and share Him. This is our mission, and this is what our whole process is about.

Today we will not be making any decisions, but about asking where the Holy Spirit is leading and moving us as a parish. Feedback from today’s meeting will be taken back for further discernment to our Facilities & Mission Task Force, as well as our Finance & Pastoral Councils eventually leading us to decisions/recommendations that will go to Bishop Thomas.

We then prayed our parish Living Stones prayer together. Let us continue to pray for one another and our parish.

In Christ,
Father Eric

To view the live stream Mass on Facebook - Saturday Vigil at 4:00 pm, click here