From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

Small groups are a new thing for our parish family. Frankly they are a new(ish) thing in Catholic life, which may explain some of our hesitancies. Some have recalled belonging to a RENEW group, which was an effort around the jubilee year 2000 to begin small groups in parishes all around the country.

Personally, as I reflect on my life, I see the profound impact of small groups. This influence begins really in the life of my Mom, Colleen, who for years belonged to a Women’s Group. They met, prayed, cared for, and supported each other in the faith. They journeyed together for years, sharing each other’s burdens. They invited speakers and healers to come to the parish. It was because of this group that I had my first experience with the power of the Holy Spirit as a child. This group deeply affected Mom’s faith, and in turn the faith of our whole family. This wonderful group, for which I am so grateful, also introduced me to spiritual masters at a young age, authors that I still turn to for support and wisdom today.

Small groups have also been a big part of my own life. First, I should confess that my family and I have been deeply marked by the path of sobriety. That path included weekly meetings on Friday evenings to share life and gain support as a member of Alateen. It was a weekly ritual, and a beautiful time and a great strength for me personally. I also became involved in the local parish “Youth Group” which included talks and small group discussions, sharing life and faith together. We went on many retreats: Kairos, Search, Antioch - which all have a common denominator: small group faith-sharing. It made the large bunch of teens small, so that we could ask the hard questions and begin to embrace our faith for ourselves. Having the Faith be not something that our parents wanted for us, but a reality that each of us lived and embraced was pivotal in my life. In my opinion, embracing the faith as one’s own is the number one indicator that our Catholic faith will be practiced later in life. And for me, small groups played a key role in that process.

As I began to hear God’s call to follow him as a priest, discussions and intimate conversations with friends made that calling louder and clearer. My friends helped me to hear God’s voice through the noise of the world and the clutter of my heart. At one point, a priest mentor assembled a few young people together who thought the Lord might be calling them; those meetings made a world of difference. And the three of us are all consecrated to the Lord now. Even later in life as a priest, with some other priest friends, we began a small group meeting monthly to share our journeys together and gain support from one another.

As I think back over my life, nothing can be more certain than the fact that small groups have changed my life. I would not be where I am today without small circles of people meeting intentionally to share fellowship and faith. I could share even more stories!

This weekend we are asking you to join a small group. I know it sounds like something new and different and maybe even a bit off putting. Please step through those barriers and fears and make this Lenten commitment. We are not on this journey alone. God gave us this parish family so that we can be built up in love, support each other and grow in his grace and goodness. I know the beautiful things the Holy Spirit will accomplish if we give ourselves over to small groups. Please sign up for a small group - just a seven week commitment. Say “Yes!” to the adventure of growing in faith together.

Yours in the Body of Christ,
Fr. Joel Wilson