Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 22

This weekend, at all Masses, we are observing Commitment Weekend for our Faithful To Our Mission Capital Campaign. The campaign has been chugging along now for several weeks. We are doing well. Volunteers as campaign workers have been contacting parishioners and soliciting pledges and donations. Over $2 million has been pledged so far. Much work, effort and some money has been spent on this effort. It is time now to begin to bring our capital campaign to a successful close. So at all Masses this weekend I will be preaching, making the request to support our campaign. We need the participation of all of St. Austin’s parishioners and friends to truly be Faithful To Our Mission.
It is vitally important to the mission of our parish that we succeed in this campaign. I cannot stress that enough. We could do for a while longer without handicapped accessible bathrooms, and we could go on for several more years as we have, with an unattractive exterior, but we absolutely must deal with the issue of the spalling of the stone and make the campus safe, and we absolutely must make a significant dent in our debt to have the resources to allow our various parish ministries (religious ed, music, liturgy, RCIA, social justice, clergy, etc.) to function well, much less to flourish.
This campaign is truly about being Faithful To Our Mission. Without a mission there really is no reason to have a St. Austin Catholic Parish. So what is our mission? Why do we have this parish? After four and a half years as the pastor here, it is not easy to put into words. Partly this is because we have several missions, and they do not always pull easily in tandem.
The most obvious mission is being a Catholic parish of the Diocese of Austin. We serve the spiritual and pastoral needs of this area of the Diocese, strategically situated near the State Capital, near one of the country’s leading State Universities, in the center of one of America’s most dynamic and fastest growing cities. That, in itself, is a fairly tall order. While there is plenty of room for improvement, given the resources we have in facilities and in our financial resources, and also the enormous talent and engagement of our parishioners, I think we do pretty well.
But in addition to that whole aspect of our mission, we also are a parish founded and staffed by the Paulist Fathers, who have their own agenda. Succinctly put, the Paulists are concerned about out-reach and evangelization. This entire parish is invited, encouraged, indeed expected, to own and participate in this Paulist mission.
Our concern should be for “Who is NOT here? Who is missing? How can we invite and entice them in?” This takes place in many ways, most of them not programmatic, not efforts you can easily point to. It involves good music that helps people to pray and so keeps them coming back. It involves good preaching that makes sense to adults and makes them want to come back for more. It involves a sense of hospitality and welcome that makes people feel at home when they walk in our doors. But most of all it involves active and faith-filled parishioners who evangelize by the example of their lives and by the witness they give. Evangelization is NOT proselytizing, which involves beating people over the head with their need to go to church, but rather a sharing of something the evangelizer has found helpful and important in his/her own life. It is sharing a gift. It most often takes place outside of church.
If all we do is pay down some of the debt, repair the fa├žade of the church and rectory, clean up and enhance the exterior, add a couple of spaces, but do not further our mission(s) as a Paulist parish, then the effort and the time and the money spent don’t really matter. But if we use all of this to strengthen and enhance our mission(s), then we have really accomplished something important, something worthwhile, something neat. I hope you recognize what a special and important place St. Austin Catholic Parish is and are willing to join so many other committed parishioners in advancing our mission. Only then will we be Faithful To Our Mission. Thank you!
God bless! 

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