Parish Discernment
July 2018
The publication of Archbishop Kurtz’s pastoral letter, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst , launched a parish discernment process in the Archdiocese of Louisville, which began in the spring of 2017. During this process, parishioners prayed, reflected, and discussed how God is calling the parish to grow in the areas of family life, education and lifelong formation, and service and outreach. The Archdiocese assigned a facilitator to each parish who worked with a core team of parish leaders to guide the process. The third and final wave of parishes completed discernment on June 30 of this year. Below are reflections from a pastor, a parish core team chair, and an archdiocesan facilitator on their experiences of parish discernment.
A Pastor’s Reflection
By Reverend John J. Stoltz

Our parish, Saint Aloysius in Pewee Valley, participated in the second wave of the Parish Discernment Process. Like every other parish, we encouraged our parishioners to read the pastoral letter from Archbishop Kurtz, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst .
We asked people to pray about what God was calling our parish to do in the three areas of family life, education and lifelong formation, and service and outreach. We gathered interested people together and held a listening session. Finally, our core team participated in a couple of meetings to discern what we saw and heard.
As I prepared for this project, I was aware that this would be the work of the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I am tempted to make my vision the parish vision, my mission the parish mission. Here, I stepped back and told the parish that what we were doing would be the work of the Holy Spirit. That meant that I had no idea what the final result would look like. It meant that I could be surprised by the content of our vision. This is expressed by the question, “ What is God’s hope for our parish?”
Our team had faith that this project would be the work of the Holy Spirit, and two powerful tools of our work were prayer and listening. We prayed so that we would be faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for the life of the parish. We listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit mediated through the voices of our parishioners, as they gave thoughtful reflections on family, formation, and service. Our team heard the Spirit calling us to pay attention to the faith life of our youth, to increase passion for the liturgy, and go out beyond our personal boundaries to serve people in need.
Upon reflection, I found the process inspiring. We are now implementing the decisions that we have made. I can see how this particular process of discernment could be a helpful tool for pastoral planning in the future. 
Reverend John J. Stoltz is the pastor of Saint Aloysius Parish in Pewee Valley, Kentucky.
A Core Team Chair's Reflection
By Janice Mulligan

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you… plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:12)
Jeremiah’s words communicate a truth that underlay the Parish Discernment Process, namely that God has a plan for each of the 110 parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville. As Archbishop Kurtz stated in his pastoral letter Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst, “Indeed, parish life is at the heart of where and how we grow as the Body of Christ.” Thriving, vibrant parishes encourage the missionary discipleship needed for a thriving, vibrant Church.
As a core team chair at Saint Augustine (Louisville) in the first wave, I experienced and heard initial questions about how the process would unfold. Was this strategic planning? How was it different? We already had a strategic plan and had recently updated it. Interestingly, the concept of discernment was not a stumbling block for a lot of parishioners because we apply the process in selecting parish leadership. This familiarity with discernment allowed many to set aside any reluctance. More importantly, the community collectively praying the "Discernment Prayer" and the entire parish being invited to participate in the initial phase, the listening session, helped us to embrace the process. Right off the bat, these prayerful and inclusive actions encouraged all of us to see this process as something new, with the question “What is God’s hope for our parish?” at the heart.
After prayerfully listening to God’s hope for our parish, the listening session offered parishioners an opportunity to voice that hope. With over 80 in attendance, parishioners at the listening session shared what we celebrated in the areas of family life, education and lifelong formation, and service and outreach, creating a buzz of positive energy from all present. Beginning in this way provided rich soil to plant the seeds of God’s hope.
Through the lens of the listening session, the core team had the challenge of spotting common themes, determining 2-3 priorities, identifying programs/activities to adopt or strengthen, and outlining resources that would be helpful. While the general ideas arose from the listening session, the difficulty was often in finding the ‘right’ words to express those ideas. We had to remind ourselves that we were responding to God’s call in the present and not for all time.
As a core team chair I witnessed parishioners completing the discernment process with faith that God’s plan was for their “welfare,” with hope for parish growth, and with love for service that reflected our Catholic faith. Production of the final document was rewarding as we turn to the next steps - implementation. As parishes take these next steps, we usher in our “future of hope” and live out the call to be missionary disciples.
Janice Mulligan is the Associate Director of African American Catholic Ministries in the Office of Multicultural Ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
A Facilitator’s Reflection
By Laura Zoeller

When I received a copy of Archbishop Kurtz’s pastoral letter, Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst , I felt a deep sense of pastoral care from our Archbishop in addressing the needs of each parish in our Archdiocese. Being asked to facilitate the Parish Discernment Process based on this letter was both an honor and a pleasure. The parishioners and pastor (Father George Illikkal, C.M.I.) of the two parishes with whom I worked were faith-filled, exuberant, and eager to serve their parishes.

My experience began as I celebrated Mass with the parishioners at Saint Theresa of Avila parish in Meade County, which was such an uplifting experience. Seeing the care and attention given to the buildings and grounds, the parishioners, and the liturgy was lovely. Later in the process, I had the opportunity to celebrate mass with the Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi parish community, also in Meade County. The experience was wonderful. I felt welcomed at both parishes.

As we got into the process itself, I began to see just how brilliant it was. Not only was it good to see the leadership (Core Team) come together, but giving every parishioner an opportunity to share was so important. Listening to people of all ages reflect on family life, education and lifelong formation, and service and outreach in their parishes was heartwarming and a privilege.

Although the prayerful discernment portion was new to some people, everyone made great efforts to fully participate. As the decision-making for action steps unfolded, the energy level seemed to increase even more! I was just as excited as Father George was to hear the plans to move forward in each parish. It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit at work in these holy people.

While working through the process, I also discovered that my maternal grandmother had spent part of her childhood in those two parishes! I couldn’t help feeling grateful for my ancestors from those communities and all the work they did to carry on our Catholic faith. I believe they would be so proud of all those at Saint Theresa of Avila and Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi parishes who continue to carry it on today.

Laura Zoller is the Associate Director in the Office of Youth and Young Adults for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Archbishop's Tweets
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July 6
Celebrating my sister, Theresa’s 80th In Ocean City

June 29
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Humane Vitae this year, see the homily I preached about this encyclical at the Cathedral earlier this year at . @USCCB also prepared additional resources, which can be found at

June 26
20th Anniversary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help litany at St Martin of Tours was devout with a festive meal to follow.

June 26
During # ReligiousFreedomWeek, pray for the Lord to protect migrants & refugees & pray that those who serve them are free to serve. For more information about the Church’s work in this area, visit
Upcoming Events

7/21/18 11:00 a.m.

7/25/18 10:00 a.m.

7/30/18 1:00 p.m.
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7/30/18 1:00 p.m.
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7/31/18 9:00 a.m.
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7/31/18 1:00 p.m.
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8/2/18 9:00 a.m.
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8/8/18 5:00 p.m.
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8/11/18 9:00 a.m.
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Resources & Recommendations
This month, we're highlighting some helpful and timely resources for Catholics throughout the Archdiocese. We encourage you to check out the resources below and get involved!

Do you want to get to know our five newly ordained priests ? The Vocation Office interviewed these men and prepared a “Q&A with the Newly Ordained.”

Did you miss viewing any of Archbishop’s 30-minute television program, Conversations with Archbishop Kurtz ? This past season’s (Season 9) segments will be in reruns over the summer on the Faith Channel (Spectrum Channels 19 and digital 279), with January and February airing in July, and March and April in August . For a listing of topics, click here . You also can view the programs anytime on our YouTube channel .

Like to read blogs? Several agencies of the Archdiocese publish blogs . For issues related to families, pro-life, and religious liberty, see the “Family Ministries” blog of the Family Ministries Office . For information about advancement efforts and the good works and ministries of the Archdiocese, see “Impacts,” the blog of the Office of Mission Advancement . To keep up with our lifelong learning and catechetical ministries see “Formed in Faith,” a blog of the Office of Faith Formation .

Upcoming Parish Picnics:

July 26-28 Saint Rita (July 26 Ride Night)

July 27-28 Saint Michael, Louisville

July 28 Saint Thomas

July 29 Holy Rosary, Manton (Music Jamboree)

August 2-4 Saint Gabriel

August 11 Saint Theresa, Rhodelia
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