The Trail Ahead
Parish Mission Update Jul '21

Yay! We’re re-entering the world after Covid hibernation and seeing people’s entire faces. Apparently that’s not good news for everyone. Two weeks ago when the Pastoral Council gathered to take photos, one member griped about masks, but not how you’d expect.
When asked to remove his, he lamented, “I look better in a mask.” I could relate. Someone made mask wearing much easier for me a year ago when he said, “With a mask, you look like Sandra Bullock.” Now there’s a reason to wear a mask! 
Anyway, we emerge, as a people, and as a parish. And we emerge different. There is the obvious difference: we have a new priest. My role is different as well. Never before has our parish had a Pastoral Associate for Parish Mission.
I'm Debbie Larson, and have been a member of St. Francis for 22 years. My husband, Andy, and I have four sons, all in their twenties, who've run the halls at Incline's schools and served at the altar of our church.

I call myself a writer, but have worked many different positions from screen-text writer at a gaming company, to teacher at St. Mary's College, to server at the Lone Eagle Grille.

I served on the St. Francis parish council from 2002-2006, at which time Fr. Bill asked me to be the Renovation Coordinator for our $5 million renovation. That position lasted until 2008.

I was a delegate at the Second Synod of the Diocese of Reno and was appointed to the Diocesan Pastoral Council, which commenced in 2016 after the Synod. I'm still there. I'm reminded of the Hotel California, where you can check in any time you like, but you may never leave.

Not really. It's by choice I'm there. In fact, I increased my role by taking on the office of chairperson. Thus, I work part-time at St. Francis, so that I may continue to serve on the Bishop's council.

This inaugural issue of “The Trail Ahead,” our quarterly newsletter on our parish mission, will help us all prepare for the journey together. As a people of faith, we live on the move, following more perfectly in our Lord's footsteps, on our way to the Father's house.

I'm telling you right now, it's long our journey and this newsletter. But there's a lot of ground to cover.

So let's get going! You'll find a bonus at the end of both.

Why the focus on Parish Mission? 

You might be wondering if this mission emphasis is just another fad in the Church. It’s not. Honestly. It’s a renewed way of being Church, where the Gospel drives our daily lives, and our parishes are structured in a way to better prepare us for this. 

Far from being the latest trend, this shift of many parishes toward being mission-centered takes us back to our Christian roots and challenges us to be what, by our baptism, we are called to be. 
Jesus said to his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20) 
That’s why — our mission as Christians is one of being sent. And preparation for our mission is at the heart of parish life.

But why are we doing this now?

On May 4, Bishop Calvo wrote to all the priests in the Diocese of Reno. Here are abbreviated highlights: 
The Covid 19 pandemic has had impact not only on attendance at our Sunday Masses but also on other programs and aspects of our diocese and parishes. There are many questions raised within our diocese and beyond regarding how we will emerge from the experiences of the pandemic. 
I asked the Diocesan Pastoral Council to explore “how we gather back together” in the pandemic. 

A crisis can be a moment of opportunity. For the church, one opportunity is to heed St. John Paul II’s call for the new evangelization through new approaches and new means.

Hence, in responding to my request, the Diocesan Pastoral Council took the opportunity to explore and to recommend new practices for parish renewal, taking advantage of this moment as an opportunity for renewal.
Bishop’s memo accompanied a document of the Diocesan Pastoral Council called New Practices for Parish Renewal, which stressed that crucial for lasting change is a focus on mission. This echoed Pope Francis’ emphasis on mission. I’ll spare you multiple quotes on the topic and leave you with his vision:

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.

Now, Bishop Calvo is inviting us in the local Church (the diocese) to take advantage of the Covid-induced global pause. At St. Francis we are cooperating by re-evaluating everything we do through the lens of mission.

We have begun by looking at children and youth faith formation as well as RCIA, which are our most urgent needs if we hope to offer programs in the fall. Which we do!
Thus, as we gather back together as a parish, Father Jorge has asked the newly formed Pastoral Council (PC) to develop a parish pastoral plan that focuses on renewing our parish. This begins with understanding what we and our parish are called to be, and then striving for both. 

How will we do this? 


If you read the New Practices for Parish Renewal document, or have read Divine Renovation by Father James Mallon, you understand that for new methods to take hold in a parish, they must be built slowly and upon a solid foundation. 
Although the PC will continue meeting every other week — double the typical number of meetings — establishing this mission-oriented foundation takes time. Besides, as people of faith, we know that no matter what our plans are, ultimately we do not dictate the timeline for renewal.
Maybe it’s just me, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t always, OK, ever, show up within my specified timeframes.
So, please, have patience as we walk this faith journey together, forever calling on the one who is in control to guide us. Let us help each other remember that the Spirit’s pace is not frenzied or compelled, and that busyness does not mean holiness.


There’s a lot to say for planning. Father Jorge and PC members recently selected Jonathan Smith to lead the council, as he did for many years under Father Bill.

In addition to recycling our leader, we considered keeping the existing vision and mission statements. Ultimately, though, we opted for a more explicit focus on mission. 
The bonus!

Our newly-minted vision and mission statements: 
To make manifest the Kingdom of God in North Lake Tahoe. 

We are the living Body of Christ, animated by Eucharistic union, and sent by the Holy Spirit. As missionary disciples, we must welcome, evangelize and serve all in our local community.
What's your role? 
The three P’s are what we really need from you right now:

Please understand that our efforts are mainly on planning.

As such, the parish is only starting new ministries if a person has stepped forward to lead it or if a program cannot wait, such as religious education and RCIA.

Community is integral to our faith. When invited to gather, we would really like to see you!
We also invite you to read New Practices for Parish Renewal. (Email me and I'll send you a copy.)
Finally, we will reach out to you as we develop our mission-centered plan. We’re counting on your input!

Finally, your prayer support is critical. Our agenda is the one the Holy Spirit is whispering in all our hearts

Please pray for our parish so that we may all “hear” how to live out our mission in North Lake Tahoe.

Also, reflect on how you might be called to personally enhance our parish life. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this message.
Thank you for your ongoing support and care for our parish.
Thank you for your patience thus far.
I always welcome your emails and comments. 
In gratitude for you, my fellow pilgrims, 
Debbie Larson 
Pastoral Associate for Parish Mission
 St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church
701 Mount Rose Hwy
Incline Village, NV 89451
(775) 831-0490