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Evansville, Indiana
March 27, 1998     The Message
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March 27, 1998

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Singing God's praises at St. Phi i Expanding ministries in the pariSh future, parish present By ANN M. ENNIS Special to the Message How does a brawny, ex- Marine, retired air traffic con- troller find himse, If singing "Give God the Glory, Glory" with a bunch of first grade stu- dents at St. Philip School? Loud- ly and with pizz-azz! Song is as much a part of Gary O'Neill's ministry as is the scripture or the sign of the cross. O'Neill, 51, is Pastoral Asso- ciate/Directo r of Religious Edu- cation for St. Philip Church, Posey County. This is the first paid ministry position for O'Neill, who accepted the full time job in September 1997. In his position, O'Neill is directly responsible for vacation bible school, religious educa- tion, sacramental preparations, visiting shut-ins and "standing in for Father Fleck, when he's not here," O'Neill said. His bachelor's degree in religion and his Limex training are used in every encounter. He keeps a catechism and bible on hand, too. But more to the point for the children in summer bible school, or children in Kristen Girten's first grade class, is the beautiful acoustic guitar. "When I was in my 20s in Cal- ifornia, and doing some soul searching about where I belonged spiritually, a lady came from across a parking lot after Mass and said, 'You know, you and that guitar would be great in youth ministry,'" O'Neill said. He went on, "My name and the word ministry were not often heard in the same sentence in those days, but I listened and eventually came to be doing youth and other ministries." It grew into a full fledged calling, he said. He even went on to pursue a bachelor's degree in religion. Last year, after his retirement from the air traffic field, he opted to follow his heart and work as a minister on the parish level. O'Neill sees the relatively new position of Pastoral Associate evolving differently from parish to parish. His case is not differ- ent from many associates, "I am new to the position at St. Philip and the job description is not fully defined," he said. "It's most important to be flexible. As situations arse, we take steps Father David and I -- and see if I am comfortable in it." Just recently O'Neill added being spiritual advisor to the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society as part of his ministerial duties. "In a way my job is to offer opportunities to people. If they don't want to take the opportu- nity, that's their option," he said respectfully. In another view with a gospel twist, O'Neill describes Pastoral Associates and himself as fishermen. "I fish by trolling muddy waters. I don't know where the fish are and I don't know what the right bait is." For guidance and to compare notes, he and Father Fleck meet often during a typical day, but" sit down at least once weekly for a formal staff meeting. "I am independent to a degt'ee, but Children dance as Gary O'Neill plays his gui- tar in Kristen Girten's classroom at St. Philip Father Fleck is the boss." As future parish staffing unfolds, O'Neill sees Pastoral Associates being called to fill even more varied spiritual needs, and that can "be every- thing short of the sacraments." In the next five to 10 years, a congregation's acceptance of Pastoral Associates or DREs in new and stronger roles will depend on the level of trust that today's associates and DREs are nurturing, he said. O'Neill believes the way to approach inevitable Church changes is to nurture trust along the way. He School, Posey County. -- Message photo likens it to the situation of a run- ner warming up his body. "You first have to stretch before you can run. But even with that, you can't just start hard stretch- ing; you have to go slow. Change is hard if it is too fast n it can hurt. But a gentle going makes it work," he said. O'Neill uses his music and his energy to make the going gentle -- and fun, too. He is a fisherman, a song master, a builder o[ bridges between the today's parish life and that of years to come. When asked, he said that the Boston faces future, may close 60 Law pointed out is a two percent decline in Sunday Mass atten- dance over the past five years. "How sad it is" that people are "depriving themselves of the grace of the Eucharist," the car- dinal said. "Please come home. You must know the emptiness we suffer by your absence." In the overall planning cluster to discuss planning con- cerns or obstacles. Representatives of many clus- ters reported successes in joint confirmations, youth ministry, shared rectory living, adult reli- gious education, vespers and revamped Mass schedules. Among major concerns iden- tified were the need for better ning efforts "are not for the pur- pose of closing parishes." Cardinal Law added, "Our planning is not from the top down." What will be decided in the long run is "how the personnel and material resources at our dis- posal can be more effectively used for the mission of the church," he explained. "As we pro- ceed epresentatives of many clusters successes in joint confirmations, youth ministry, shared rectory living, adult religious education, vespers and revamped Mass schedules By WALLY CAREW Catholic News, Service with planning throughout the archdio- cese, it is essential that we remember that the church is more than the parish." An unsigned editorial in the March 13 Pilot noted how the archdio- cese's larger cities "once teemed with first-and process, parishes have been assigned to clusters which, fol- lowing a time line, make recom- mendations and implement actions and report to the region- al bishop in charge of the clus- ters. At the convocation, the arch- diocese was divided into regions and people gathered at tables by i ii communication, education and training; the lack of leadership and need for more support from pastors; and the fear of many that "clustering autohtatically means closing." In his column in the March 13 issue of The Pilot, Boston's arch- diocesan newspaper, Cardinal Law said that the pastoral plan- i second-generation Catholics." "Until the prevalence of the automobile as the common mode of family transportation, most Catholics lived, and expected to die, within walking distance of their parish church m huge structures that could seat 800 to 1,000 worshipers for Sunday morning Masses." i ii ,i i i COMPLETE INSURANCE SERVICE Auto! Home! Fire & Life! Your Personal Service Agent James L. Will Ins. Agency Inc. 1925 W. Franklin Street 425-3187 i i i ..... i '1 BOSTON (CNS) -- The devel- opment of a pastoral plan to take the Boston Archdiocese to its bicentermial in 2008 may require the closing of up to 60 parishes in the next 10 years, according to Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston. The work of "assessing the present configuration of parishes" is a pastoral plan- ning objective, Cardinal Law said March 7 at an archdiocesan convocation that drew more than 3,000 people to Boston's World Trade Center. He added that he does not have a list of specific cities, towns and parishes that may be affected. Currently there are 738 active priests in the archdiocese and 387 parishes. By 2005, the num- ber of priests is projected to shrink to 573 and by 2008 to decrease even more. Another challenge Cardinal \\; TRUCK AND TRAILER SALES ICnDO0 STATE HVCY 57 * EVANSVILLE, IN 47732 --] message at his( center is John that you may have abundantly. "Jesus has and I may happily," who can be God's Gary stresses of aircra the stresses often to the He's done work  well. ? but one "exploded wil connecting paved, the call of the sistible to leave their poorer for remains very The C "Some for fuse would be nO the "It is the same Christ to Wol Mon. "- Ur On the air Or ,