In 2019, parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg took the Disciple Maker Index survey and utilized the information they received to develop pastoral plans in union with the diocesan vision, Courageously Living the Gospel. Recently, I checked back with two of the parishes to see how they are doing today. I was not surprised to learn that these parishes have taken their learning one step further and used that valuable data to guide them through the pandemic.
Fr. Gary Dowsey has been pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dunedin, FL for 13 years. He said the Disciple Maker Index had “big impact” in the parish. The leadership team defined and implemented priorities for youth ministry, family life and discipleship as outlined in the diocesan vision. “The DMI was a catalyst to a lot of things,” notes Fr Gary. “It pushed us to implement Flocknote and other communications which helped us prepare for the pandemic. It strengthened our youth ministry and helped us define actions to be more welcoming. More people are connected and growing in their faith today as a result of these steps”
Mass was live-streamed for some weekday Masses in the past. Now, Sunday Masses are live-streamed and Vacation Bible School is offered via Zoom.
While the pandemic has taken things off-course, especially plans that involved personal contact, Fr. Gary says that the actions implemented as steps defined from the Disciple Maker Index are helping to keep the parish together today.
Pam Emery, Director of Faith Formation and Religious Education for Nativity Parish in Brandon, FL, says the priority planning process brought the parish team together to focus on what the parish is truly about. “Before that time, we operated more as silos,” she said, “Now we are coming together in better collaboration. The Disciple Maker Index started this as we set our goals together, and now we are focused on how to adapt to a new reality.”
Emery says that the Disciple Maker Index provided the data to support the investment in ministry to family and catechists. Based on this information, the parish stepped up efforts for both. “We needed to provide more personal attention to our catechists including personal spiritual direction,” she stated. “We also moved from the classroom to family-focused sessions. We recognized we have to educate the parents. Now whole families are saying that they are learning about the faith.”
Nativity has had to adapt by reaching out to parishioners in personal ways during the pandemic. Emery is planning a summer session that is adapted for social distancing and virtual support. “We are continuing our faith formation and religious education. The goal is to bring everyone, parents, children and extended families, back to the source and summit.”
And that is truly the goal of the Disciple Maker Index – to bring people closer to Jesus. Catholic Leadership Institute applauds and prays for all of the participants in this survey who are doing just that.
- Article by Terry Poplava, Catholic Leadership Institute
- Above photo, Family portrait after a baptism at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Dunedin