Evangelize Your Parish In All Your Communications

Posted on June 24, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

St. John Vianney Catholic Parish is a welcoming Catholic faith community with a dedication to lifelong faith formation of its parishioners. It has numerous ministries, an active school and parish community, as well asan engaging website. The goal of this makeover was to help the parish fully utilize the power of its weekly print bulletin to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.


Original and Redesigned Bulletin

Using the entire space for staff information prevented the parish from using its bulletin cover for the faith formation of its parishioners. The solid block of color with white type reversed out was hard to read. Moving this information to pages 2-3 opened up space to feature the church photo from its website home page and to highlight the weekend’s Gospel reading. The parish mission statement was hidden away on page 7; now featured on the cover each week, it will get more attention.

Highlights from the makeover of the interior pages

Colors drawn from the parish website tie it to the bulletin, photos and graphics make the pages pop, and background images and shading separate articles without harsh lines.

Interior Pages

Original bulletin

Mostly colorless and unformatted, these inside bulletin pages don’t use the white space effectively and leave large gaps between items.

Original Bulletin

For more inspiration and design ideas for all your parish communications, click here.

Water in the Desert

Posted on June 22, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 28, 2015, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Biblical Tamar Park in the Arava desert, Israel.The Arava Desert is the northeastern portion of the Negev Desert in Israel. It is arid, rocky, and hot. This is where I am for three months of volunteer work at Biblical Tamar Park. There is a tel here (archeological site), going back to the time of Abraham. This oasis in the desert has been a stopping place for centuries. King Solomon built a fortress here named after his sister, Tamar. Conqueror after conqueror has established an outpost here, one on top of the ruins of the last. The Israeli Antiquities Authority is working together with Blossoming Rose, a nonprofit organization in Michigan, to oversee, restore, and maintain this fifty-five-acre site. In plain English, to keep life flourishing here in the desert.

That’s quite a project! Physical life is a challenge here. Yesterday, the power went off for over an hour. We said to each other, “Don’t open the refrigerator! Don’t open the door … our cool air will escape!” We asked, “Can we survive in heat well over a hundred degrees without A/C?” Almost every green thing living here has to be watered. The timed irrigation systems are on backup batteries. We wondered, “Are those batteries all working? How long can they last?” Without water, just about everything on these fifty-five acres will die, except some of the weeds! Without water being pumped to us, will we die? As we were discussing all these questions and possibilities, there was a beep. The A/C was back on … just in time to start cooking lunch. Life had returned!

This weekend’s readings are about life and the threats to it. In Mark’s Gospel, we are still close to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Mark wants to make sure that we realize the message of Jesus. He has come to bring life in all its fullness.

Hopefully, our presiders will read the total Gospel passage, rather than the abbreviated version. The story of the hemorrhaging woman illumines a situation many people experience in our society today, the situation of isolation. According to Jewish law, no one was allowed to touch a woman with an issue of blood, whether monthly or continuous. This particular woman had not been touched for twelve years! Why else would she weave through the crowd and sneak up behind Jesus? If he was a keeper of the law, he would not have touched her without becoming ritually unclean. Even in the “pressing” crowd, had she been discovered, she would have been excluded. This woman was living in solitary confinement in the midst of society, an untouchable … so thirsty for human interaction!

Her faith gives her the courage to reach out a finger, a finger seeking healing, seeking new life. That faith is rewarded. She feels wholeness within herself. The flow of blood dries up. The water of wholeness floods her being. Her desert life blossoms! Jesus brings her out of isolation and into the family of faith, calling her, “Daughter.” She belongs once again.

Many in our society wither in isolation. Standing in a crowd, living in a neighborhood, or even sitting in a pew, some are deeply lonely, touched by no one. Why? Many reasons can isolate. Among them might be a difference in language, education, social status, physical looks, age, health, race, marital situations, even religion. All or any of these factors can isolate a person from the living waters of human kindness and love.

We, as the living Christ in our world, turn to these hurting ones and say the word of relationship … friend, neighbor, my sister, my brother in Christ. Isolation flees.

The situation could be reversed. I could be the isolated one, whether self-imposed or situational. I may be the one who needs to imperceptibly work my way through the crowd until I can reach out in faith seeking healing. I may be the one who thirsts for relationships with others. I may be the one who hasn’t been touched for years. Can I build up my faith and courage, just as this nameless woman did, and reach out to be healed?

Many people are dying of thirst in our world today. Through the power of Jesus, life-giving water is available to all. Can we reach out to give another a drink? Can we reach out to receive the water of life ourselves? Faith is the wellspring of courage, courage to seek what is needed for life. The words from the Book of Wisdom need to be planted deeply in our hearts. “God did not make death.” “God formed man to be imperishable.” God brings water to the desert of our souls that we may live and live fully!

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB


A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God—
it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless,
and without water.
I look to you in the sanctuary
to see your power and glory.
For your love is better than life;
my lips shall ever praise you!

I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
My soul shall be sated as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
I think of you upon my bed,
I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.

—Excerpt from Psalm 63. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the NABRE © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 CCD, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the NAB may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Download PDF

Fortnight for Freedom

Posted on June 16, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 21, 2015, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the USA. Image of the Immaculate Conception by Murillo, 1660.
What is a fortnight? It is simply another term for “two weeks.” It is a word more frequently used in England than in the United States, perhaps because of our shorter attention spans.

In 2012, the bishops of the United States established the Fortnight for Freedom in reaction to the HHS mandate requiring those who provide health insurance to their employees to include coverage for sterilization and birth control, including abortifacient devices. The narrowly defined religious exemption would mean that many religious institutions would be required to comply with the mandate or otherwise face steep penalties. Beginning on June 21 and ending on July 4, the two-week period provides an opportunity for prayer and education on the most basic of human rights, the right of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

This year’s Fortnight for Freedom begins this Sunday, June 21, with the theme, “The Freedom to Bear Witness”. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers many helpful ways for us to participate and witness to the role faith should play not only in the lives of individuals but in our civic engagements.

The issue of religious freedom is increasingly taking center stage in American politics. The controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act this past winter as well as the rancor that is sure to result from Governor Rick Snyder’s effort to pass similar legislation in Michigan highlight how emotional the debate has become.

The dysfunction in our political discourse that makes issues of race so difficult to talk openly about has now poisoned our national dialogue on issues of religion and morality. People of faith and conscience are called “bigots” and “haters,” pushing bakers and photographers onto the front lines in the current culture wars. The effect of the name-calling, as well as the fines and loss of employment for those who seek to live in accordance with their conscience, is chilling. I can’t help but wonder myself what might happen to me if one of my clients were to read this article and somehow take offense to it. However, the debate over how to balance the right of people to live as they choose with the rights of others to practice their faith will not be advanced if either side stays silent or allows one side to bully the other into submission.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith. He expected them to remain strong and confident despite the storm that threatened to batter their boat. Jesus demands the same faith and courage from us as we strive to live the Gospel despite the increasing climate of intolerance in our society. This year’s Fortnight for Freedom is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the civic discourse and serve the common good by insisting that the rights of all persons, no matter their faith or values, be respected.

Douglas Sousa, STL


O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
or the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty, © USCCB, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

Download PDF

Mass: “The Heart of the Matter”

Posted on June 16, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Celebrate MassThe Archdiocese of Milwaukee released a powerful video that follows the story of two friends, one an Atheist, who are drawn into the joy and beauty of the Catholic Mass and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Their story stands as a great testimony to the need for evangelization in our everyday lives and how everything can be changed in a single encounter with the Lord of Lords.

Click here to watch the video