SANTEE — “What are two or three things that would allow your family to participate more in our church?”
“What would work for you and your family?”
“What makes you happy about our church, and what do you struggle with?”
Staff, ministry members and volunteers at Guardian Angels Parish in Santee are reaching out to families that register for religious education through phone calls or the platform Flocknote and asking for their input. Their goal is to connect with the families on a personal level, welcoming them to the parish, and to respond to their concerns to the extent possible.
That listening is at the heart of the process the Catholic Church is fostering through a four-year, worldwide initiative called a synod.
In the San Diego Diocese, parishes are working in a variety of ways to respond to the concerns their community members have expressed through this process.
Meanwhile, the Universal Church is conducting another round of listening sessions, this time on a continental level. Several members of the local Church are participating in those virtual sessions, which will conclude in January.
Tammy Mansir, the director of faith formation at Guardian Angels Church, explained how her parish is responding to what their parishioners said in small-group sessions held last spring as part of the synod. One of the overwhelming concerns they expressed was that the parish was not engaging young adults enough, including young families.
Led by the pastor, Father Andres Ramos, the parish is responding in several ways. It began a monthly Children and Youth Sunday Mass, where youth serve as lectors, ushers, bring gifts to the altar, and sing in the choir.
“The children really enjoy this opportunity,” Mansir said, “and it’s slowly bringing more families to Mass.”
The faith formation team started inviting parents to participate in service activities while their children are in religious education classes. The service time can help reduce the cost of these classes, helping many who are experiencing financial hardships.
The parish recently hired a new youth and young adult coordinator, who is working to revitalize the young adults group. And it’s offering a meeting space for teens, where they can socialize, at the newly opened Blessed Carlo Acutis Hall.
Mansir said that the parents have told them that it’s tough to make religious education classes since both are working. So, the parish now offers a distance-learning opportunity and encourages parents to come to a family event.
And the parish changed the Thursday Mass from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so working parishioners can attend at least one daily Mass a week.
A parish must be intentional in this approach, she said, and must involve every member of the church team: catechists, ministry members, even advisory council members.
The team invited young families to help work the booths at the parish’s annual festival in October, for instance.
“We had nearly every shift full,” she said. “In the past, we were searching for anyone to help.”
She recommends that parishes form a team and start reaching out to parishioners through calls or emails.
“Find out who they are and what they need.”
She said this process is gradually resulting in more individuals participating in the parish in one way or another.
“They are feeling more and more connected to Jesus, to their faith, and know that Guardian Angels is their home parish.”
For more information, visit sdcatholic.org/synod.