Recently I received an article written by Paula Rehkemper of St. Paul Parish in Highland, sharing with me their success story of a wonderful event hosted at their parish after the four weekend Masses. Paula and her husband Jerry, along with their parish stewardship committee — also made up of Michael and Mary Kay Durbin, Shannon and Dawn Autry, Deanna Harlan, Austin and Shari Meyer, and Eric and Heidi Kukowski — are St. Paul’s representatives who are a part of the diocesan efforts to help bring “Discipleship as a Way of Life” to our diocese and its 128 parishes.
Here’s what she wrote:
Discipleship and stewardship is on the move at St. Paul Catholic Church in Highland. Last weekend was the parish’s first ministry fair since the inception of “Stewardship and Discipleship as a Way of Life” in the diocese. The Discipleship and Stewardship Committee at the parish decided that a theme based upon Scripture combined with a fall flair of decor would set the tempo. Thus, “Harvest of Ministries Festival; Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord” was held on Oct. 22-23 after all Masses.
Straw bales, corn stalks, pumpkins and gourds, the smell of bratwurst on the grill, apple cider and homemade treats lured parishioners after Mass to come, taste, and see the goodness awaiting them. Upon entering, attendees received a passport to take with them on their journey and present to each ministry they visited to have it stamped. After completion of the seven stamps for adults, five stamps for children, their passport would be entered into a drawing for prizes.
The creativity of the various ministry leaders was a sight to behold. Each ministry offered a visitor not only information about their respective ministry, but offered a tasty treat that evolved around a quote of Scripture. The Christian witness and fellowship at each booth allowed a person to experience an intimate look at how their God-given gifts could be utilized in ways they may have never thought of.
The feedback from the attendees and ministry leaders was encouraging:
“I would have never considered signing up for that ministry but because I actually talked to someone about it and learned what it offered, I signed up.”
“How wonderful to see everyone seeking out where they can give of their time and talents!”
“What a wonderful event! Everything was so well-organized, set up so well, and looked beautiful. Well done!”
“I enjoyed it for three reasons: First, it gave us a chance to tell more people about how rewarding and fulfilling adoration is. Second, it gave us a chance to meet people who were already involved in adoration and to thank them for their time. Third, it gave all the volunteers at the booths a chance to visit and to get to know each other.”
The results of the ministry festival exceeded our expectations in every way. Especially, the fact that every ministry represented had people sign-up to share their God-given gifts that had not done so previously.
And so —
Without a doubt, a ministry fair is a great opportunity for Christians to learn how to use the gifts that God has graced each of us with. Henri Nouwen, a much-celebrated Catholic spiritual writer, tells us that “Living a spiritual life is living in an intimate communion with the Lord. Living a life of ministry is witnessing to him in the midst of this world. It is opening the eyes of our brothers and sisters in the human family to his presence among us to that they too may enter into this relationship of love.”
Discipleship is the life of the Spirit in us and sharing the gifts he has given us, belong together just like the two beams of the cross. It is a way of life for us all on the journey! Plan your ministry fair and use the gift of creativity that God gifted us to make your event special. Then taste and see the blessings that emerge as a result.
In the Diocese of Wichita I have seen a diocesan event which strongly encourages folks to come to know of and hear about the many ways “stewards” (Catholic faithful) can participate in the life of the church at both the parish and diocesan level. The diocese likewise helps and encourages every parish to develop a parish event, which often is called a parish ministry fair.
Every parish can do this and they too, like the above-mentioned parish, can be as creative as they want in bringing about a successful event which teaches and does great formation about ministry in each parish, and also helps “sign up” folks to share their gifts with their parish family. If you haven’t already, start the conversation on how this can be your parish and your successful ministry fair. Let the Holy Spirit be in charge!