The parish’s first pastoral plan puts at the forefront of all parish activity the Great Commission: “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” (Matthew 28:19).
“Successful business organizations function well because of a clear, foundational plan,” said leadership team member Patty Marmie. “They have a why, a purpose, a vision, a mission. This foundational plan gets everyone moving in the same direction. These same concepts apply to parishes.”
Pastoral plan development began in 2014, when the parish’s evangelization team began studying the New Evangelization in Church documents and contemporary sources. Pastor Father Kenneth Borowiak and Father Eric Clark, assistant pastor at the time, attended the “Amazing Parish Conference” in Denver in 2015 with other parish leaders.
“The Amazing Parish Conference gives busy pastors and their teams the tools they need to transform their parishes—to move from ‘maintenance’ to ‘mission,’” said Father Borowiak.
“We came back energized to make St. Michael an amazing parish by focusing on ‘three Hs’—hymns, homilies, and hospitality.”
As many more conversations occurred, the plan’s focus became clearer.
“This spring,” Father Borowiak continued, “we committed to becoming a community of missionary disciples. Our purpose as a parish is to be intentional disciples who bring others to Jesus Christ and His Church.”
On Pentecost Sunday, Father Borowiak officially announced the St. Michael Pastoral Plan. In his homily that weekend to all Masses, he spoke of his vision for the parish.
“We have been called to not only be disciples of Jesus,” he said, “but to help others do so, as well.”
Discipleship begins with encounter, said Joy Martin, pastoral administrative assistant at St. Michael Church.
“When a person encounters the mercy and love of the living God in such a profound and personal way, he opens his mind and heart to the Holy Spirit, permitting transformation to begin,” she said. “When he knows the joy and peace of Christ, he wants to share the great love with others.
“Father Borowiak’s vision is profound because it doesn’t stop at evangelization, which should always be ongoing,” Martin continued. “Rather, it calls for a deepening in one’s own relationship with the Lord and a generous investment in the faith lives of others; it moves into discipleship.”
In advancing the parish’s mission, the Evangelization Team has incorporated a number of ongoing, parish-wide initiatives. The fall schedule of events for the parish of more than 800 families includes multiple opportunities for scripture study, in formal groups or casual settings, such as “Donuts with Doher,” led by current assistant pastor Father Jason Doher. The parish began the first phase of its Eucharistic adoration program Sept. 29, and a weekly prayer workshop begins Oct. 18.
There are events to encourage spiritual growth, like “Spiritual Boot Camp” and “Discovering Discipleship.” But there are also fun events for families and for married couples, aimed at helping the parish family grow together.
The leadership team said they realize that changing a parish culture takes time—years, even—and a tremendous reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
But they believe the Holy Spirit has an active presence in other parishes and dioceses beyond Lincoln. They learned that Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit also launched a pastoral letter the Saturday before Pentecost in which he charges his diocese to become missionary disciples.
“We were overjoyed to discover many of the same conclusions in his letter that we had derived in our prayer over the last few years,” Martin said. “Leaders in their diocese were also highly influenced by their Amazing Parish experience. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is guiding this all.”