If you work in a parish, you’re probably well-aware of the saying, “Jesus first, others second, yourself last.” And while that is definitely the mindset you want when ministering to your flock, you do need to shift that list so that you think of yourself first when it comes to spiritual self-care.
Let’s face it — it’s been a tough year. Whether your role was an occasional usher, the parish administrator (and if we’re honest, the gatekeeper of all things parish-related!) or the parish priest of a cluster of churches, you’ve had a difficult year. As we begin to prepare our communities for the upcoming Lenten season, it’s time to admit something difficult for most, but truthful none the less: we can’t fill our parishioners’ spiritual buckets if ours are running on empty. Following are some ways you can step back and renew your faith.
Go Back to the Basics
You don’t need expensive online courses, reflective spiritual books, or three-day conferences to renew your faith. In fact, one might say that all you need is a few minutes a day in front of the Eucharist, and your trusty rosary that, let’s face it, may not always make an appearance in between staff meetings and socially distanced church events.
Make a commitment to come back to Christ by making the time to visit with him. If your parish offers Eucharistic adoration, stop by to talk to the Lord as often as you can. Tell Him your fears, your worries, your apprehensions. And then do some reflecting. You came into ministry for a reason — is that reason still there? So often, we become fixated on the “doing” part of serving God, rather than focusing on actually being in communion with Him. When we work so hard to do works in His name, yet forget Him who deserves all praise, we’re kind of missing the point.
Block off time within your calendar to spend time with Christ, whether that be by journaling and praying in the morning with your cup of coffee, spending your lunch hour in Eucharistic adoration, or a reflective rosary near bedtime. Like most repetitive tasks, you’ll soon discover that good habits will quickly take hold.
Find Someone to Talk to
They say if you want to go somewhere fast, walk alone. But if you want to go somewhere far, walk together. And what a journey it can be to work in a parish setting!
When 2020 began, the whole year stretched out with unlimited possibilities. While those opportunities for spiritual growth may not have disappeared, there has been a major shift in how to bring Christ to others when our churches are partially shuttered. It’s a major shock to experience — have you talked it through?
Do you find that sharing your feelings can help you gain perspective and process feelings you didn’t even know you had? Find a friend or trusted colleague to meet a few times and go over how you’re feeling. If your parish team is small, this could even be a good “mini” retreat to attend before the Lenten season is officially underway.
Whether you just have a few meetings with a colleague or two over coffee, or schedule a counseling session with a spiritual counselor, it’s essential to get all your thoughts and feelings out there. Let it out, share what you want (or need!) to share, and then begin anew.
Form a Team to Tackle Big (or little!) Projects
As your parish emerges from crisis mode, there’s bound to be some big projects to tackle — don’t do it alone! If you have multiple tasks to complete, ask fellow staff members and volunteers to help take on some of them. Not only will it allow you more freedom to focus on the bigger picture, but it will also help you keep in mind the “why” for what we do — bringing followers to Christ!
Think of all the usual things that happen during Lent — Ashes, Stations of the Cross, preparing for Holy Week, fasting and abstaining, offering more prayer opportunities to parishioners. The list goes on and on! Now think of how you’re going to accomplish this during a pandemic. It’s time to crowdsource some ideas.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Connect with your diocese for ideas on how Lent should be handled this year. Take note of any restrictions and guidelines, and then see what other parishes are doing to make Lent happen as much as possible. Remember, you don’t need to do this alone!