Our Next 10 Years: A Parish Mission and Vision for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and the People of Payne County Oklahoma
In his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis lays out for the Catholic Church around the world, a missionary vision. It is a vision with global consequences but also with effects that are quite local. Here in Payne County, OK the Catholic faith has been alive and active since the 1890’s when Catholic missionaries first came here and built the original St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church near downtown Stillwater. Over these many decades, the priests and people built a parish centered on the Sunday Mass, hard work, and family. In the 1950s, a movement began to better minister to the needs of students at Oklahoma State University and thus was born St. John the Evangelist Catholic Student Center. Over time, these two communities worked together and brought many converts to the faith, baptized, buried, married, and evangelized Payne County for the glory of God. Over the years, the two communities came together as students and parishioners alike worshipped in both places.
In March 2018, a new era began for the Catholic Community of Payne County. With the dedication of the new St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and the clarification of the mission of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Student Center as a ministry to and for the graduate and undergraduate population of Oklahoma State University, the Catholics of Payne County are poised for an explosion of evangelization reaching out to all in Payne County who seek to know Jesus Christ and the Church He founded, and to those who may not yet know Whom they seek. This pastoral plan outlines goals and strategies for a “New Evangelization of Payne County, OK” and has been developed with much prayer and discussion in light of Pope Francis’ documents on evangelization along with the most recent diocesan pastoral plan “God Builds a House” promulgated by Bishop David Konderla in June 2018. The three main priorities of Bishop Konderla’s plan are 1) Strengthen the Family and the Domestic Church 2) Formation of Catholic Leaders and 3) Parishes Making Missionary Disciples. It also includes significant influence from the Four Pillars of Stewardship (Hospitality, Prayer, Formation and Service).
The St. Francis Xavier Mission and Vision Plan outlines a discipleship process and various major initiatives that will, with God’s grace, grow and strengthen the Catholic faith in Payne County for generations to come. In addition, this plan details the mission of St. Francis Xavier in light of the Holy Spirit’s guidance at this appointed time in history. The “mission statement” follows the discipleship process the parish intends to utilize in order to become an evangelizing parish. This is not a strategic plan, which identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to our mission, but rather is a framework to identify where the Holy Spirit is leading the parish over the next 10 years.
Mission: St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Stillwater, OK is committed to helping each person in Payne County: Encounter Jesus Christ, Grow in relationship with Him as a disciple, and to “Go, make disciples”.
Vision: Our vision for the next 10 years is in line with Bishop David Konderla’s vision for the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma in his Pastoral letter God Builds a House. The vision of the Diocese is to “build a culture of discipleship and community, inviting all in our [parish] to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We will work to equip all the faithful to evangelize Payne County and to build the next generation of strong families who seek the call of God in their lives.”
This vision will be accomplished through the intentional focus on a discipleship pathway for all the faithful. The discipleship pathway is “Encounter, Grow, Go”, which provides intentional movement to help guide each person into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, to grow in faith, and to help equip each person in the parish to evangelize Payne County. Each stage of the discipleship process will be further defined as we move forward, but will include initiatives centered on prayer, discipleship, evangelization, and building for the future, with a focus on simultaneously growing Hispanic ministry in each of these areas. Ultimately, the goal is to center the parish on the missionary identity of the Church, which is to “Go, make disciples.”
Encountering Jesus Christ: Initial Conversion, Continued Conversion, Prayer, Hospitality
“In the complex reality of mission, initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man ‘into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ’ and opens the way to conversion. Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching. Just as the whole economy of salvation has its center in Christ, so too all missionary activity is directed to the proclamation of his mystery.” -St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio
For God’s glory we go frequently in praise and petition to the Father for the good of Payne County and the larger world.
Since the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian Life” (Lumen Gentium), Jesus must be at the center of prayer lives. Regular attendance at Mass and time with the Blessed Sacrament should be a normal part of parish life for every parishioner no matter their age or state of life.
1) St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church will offer 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration. This will allow parishioners and seekers outside the parish an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at any time of the day, to experience conversion in each person, and in the parish as a whole.
2) The parish will have aligned activities, ministries, events, faith formation, and religious education to the mission of the parish, and determine areas in the discipleship process that are lacking opportunities for encountering Jesus Christ.
3) The parish will offer at least one new entry point, an opportunity for encountering Jesus Christ. This will be offered to the parish as a whole, and to those outside the parish who are seeking to know more about Jesus. An example of this entry point is the Christ Life (Discovering Christ) series.
4) Through the efforts of the Stewardship Committee there will be an increase in daily prayer. This goal will be a witness to the fruit of conversion and a daily commitment with lives centered on Jesus Christ.
5) Attendance at the Sunday Spanish Mass will increase. This will be an indication of the outreach efforts of engaging our Hispanic ministry.
6) “The Intercessors of St. Francis Xavier” will be established. This group, consisting mostly of homebound and nursing homebound parishioners will pray daily for the the spiritual battle inherent in the missionary evangelistic focus of the parish. These prayer warriors will assist in praying for the needs of the parish, for an increase in vocations, and for this strategic plan to be fully implemented.
7) The Sacrament of Reconciliation hours will increase, to allow for disciples to receive more opportunities for the mercy and love of Jesus Christ through the Sacrament.
8) The rosary will be publicly recited at St. Francis Xavier and will be encouraged for use in the home and in neighborhoods, with a focus on Our Blessed Mother’s intercession for the parish and the missionary activity defined throughout this plan.
9) So that church goers can better understand the words of the Mass, detailed and easy to use liturgy cards will be available in every pew, in English and Spanish.
Growing with Jesus Christ: Intentional Discipleship, Formation, Prayer
We are a parish full of families and individuals in love with Jesus Christ and His Church. Parishioners will be called, challenged and given opportunities to become committed missionary disciples.
1) The parish will have aligned activities, ministries, events, faith formation, religious education to the mission of the parish, and determine areas in the discipleship process that are lacking opportunities for growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
2) There will be new opportunities for every parishioner to intentionally grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This offering will be a way for disciples to learn what it means to follow Jesus in the world today, to be in the world but not of the world. One example is the Christ Life (Following Christ) series.
3) Registered parishioners will be invited to participate in parish based small faith groups, or mid-sized groups that encourage the culture of discipleship, nurturing and sustainable relationships.
4) St. Francis Xavier parish staff will receive consistent formation in their faith so they can better serve their families and the parish community as committed missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.
5) Adult catechesis, which is connected to the formation of committed missionary disciples, will be offered in Spanish.
6) A comprehensive marriage preparation program will be established. It will include meetings with a priest or deacon, a weekend retreat, an assigned sponsor couple, an introduction to Natural Family Planning, formation in discipleship, and an understanding of living as missionary disciples within a marriage.
7) A comprehensive marriage strengthening program will be established to help engage and accompany couples towards a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage and to help each couple grow as committed missionary disciples.
8) A significant emphasis will be placed on the promotion of the priesthood, religious life, and diaconate. (seminary trips, convent trips, vocation dinners, spiritual director for those discerning). St. Francis Xavier will increase the number of vocations each year, as fruitful evidence of the evangelization efforts of the parish, internally and externally.
9) The people of St. Francis Xavier will have more opportunities to attend “Life in the Spirit” seminars, charismatic prayer meetings, and there will be a growing awareness of the need for and dependence on the Holy Spirit in the lives of all disciples.
10) Since committed missionary disciples are interested in learning more about their faith, the parish will see an increase in the use of the FORMED website and app.
Go: Evangelization, Service, Prayer
Having been converted to Christ we strive to “set the world on fire” (Luke 12:49) so that every person in Payne County will know the good news of Jesus Christ and the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. We will be a parish of missionary disciples, equipped to spread the Good News only Jesus Christ can offer.
Responding to Christ’s call, we will work to alleviate the spiritual and material poverty of our brothers and sisters in Payne County and beyond, as committed missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus has a deep concern for the poor, so as his disciples we want the impoverished in our community to be served with love and mercy.
1) The parish will have aligned activities, ministries, events, faith formation, religious education to the mission of the parish, and determine areas in the discipleship process that are lacking opportunities for our people to go and make missionary disciples.
2) Initiatives will be put in place so that the poor are always welcome at the parish for daily and Sunday Mass, and will be welcomed and loved as Jesus loves.
3) We will continue working with Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma to address needs in the Stillwater community, specifically in the areas of education and job placement, using the old St. Francis Xavier church building as a launching point. This project will allow growth into other areas of need within Payne County.
4) We will educate the parish on three key priorities to encourage others be be evangelizers: Divine Intimacy, Accompaniment, and a Commitment to Spiritual Multiplication.
5) We will establish a mission in another country where parishioners of St. Francis Xavier could support and help individuals they encounter with material needs, while simultaneously helping missionaries commit their lives to the service of others. This mission will allow both the missionaries and the ones served to encounter Christ and further conversions as disciples of Christ. The mission work will be evangelization focused, rather than worked based in order to stay in line with the goals of the parish to be an evangelizing culture. The needs of the communities served will be met through fundraising and relationships built within the community.
6) The parish will more fully embrace the use of new media to evangelize Payne County through social media sites, podcasts, and videos that show the vibrancy of the parish and the beauty of the Catholic faith.
7) The parish will offer evangelization training in order to prepare each person to embrace the call of the baptized to be missionary disciples and to be equipped to share the Good News.
8) At the Easter Vigil and at other times during the year, teenagers or adults will be baptized or received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, having experienced a true encounter with Jesus Christ, they will have decided to become committed missionary disciples in the Catholic Church.
9) A Confirmation program for adults will continue to grow in order to reach those who were not Confirmed as young people but who seek to complete their Sacraments of Initiation. This program will be in line with the process of conversion to ensure each person is evangelized, encounters Jesus Christ, has the opportunity to commit to being His disciple, and is open to learning how to evangelize others. (established March 2019 - Anointed).
10) Opportunities will be explored to bring Spanish and English language Catholic radio to the Stillwater area, in order to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ that is experienced in Payne County can be shared by others.
Building for the Future
In order to evangelize and welcome seekers, we’ll need the facility to match the mission. Knowing that beauty attracts and that beauty itself evangelizes, all facilities will be built with high quality and with beauty in mind.
1) By December 2019, a rectory will be built which will house the pastors of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Student Center and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in addition to having space for future associate pastors, a retired priest, the vocation director, and summer or year long seminarians. The Stillwater rectory will be a place of prayer, priestly fraternity, and occasional parish events.
2) A comprehensive plan for design and funding of stained glass windows for St. Francis Xavier will be in place by December 1, 2019. These windows will be of the highest quality and will reflect the beauty and artistry already present in the current St. Francis Xavier Church.
3) A committee will be convened to look at expansion of existing classrooms so the parish can offer more classes, programs, and small group meeting space, to accommodate our growing parish of missionary disciples.
4) A committee will be convened to look at establishing a St. Francis Xavier Catholic School housing students in grades K-8. The Catholic school will provide solid Catholic education in an inclusive environment, where discipleship is fostered as a community.
Over the period of these next 10 years this plan offers a strategic vision for where we are headed as a parish, with goals established every two years beginning in the summer of 2019. It will take great faith to see it through. We entrust this mission to the prayers of St. Francis Xavier, himself a great evangelizer to the east. It will require the time, talent, and treasure of many inside and outside our parish. May God make it so.
Rev. Brian O’Brien
Goals for Encounter>Grow>Go: Beginning summer of 2019 - Every two years these goals will be clarified with SMART goals as suggested by Bishop Konderla’s Pastoral Letter. The SMART goals will be defined and set by the Parish Leadership Team with input from parish staff, and approved by the Parish Pastoral Council. SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound.
Vision Plan References:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”
“Write down the vision; make it plain upon tablets...For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.”
“We cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected Him.”
-Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 14-15
“Pastoral Ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says, ‘We have always done it this way.’ I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style, and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”
-Evangelii Gaudium 33
Discipleship Pathway References:
“This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God's love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ.”
-Ad Gentes from Document of the Second Vatican Council
“Accordingly, while not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church's pastoral mission that have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or that spring from it. These elements are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching through the kerygma to arouse faith, apologetics or examination of the reasons for belief, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments, integration into the ecclesial community, and apostolic and missionary witness.”
-Catechesi Tradendae, 1979.
Kerygma as defined by St. John Paul II- “The initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.” Catechesi Tradendae, 1979.