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Deacon Mark Machuga

Deacon Mark Machuga

This article is the fourth in a series covering each of the six foundational principles of Beacons of Light, the pastoral planning process of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19)

With these words, Jesus entrusted the leadership of the Church directly to Peter and his successors. In the years that followed, the hierarchy was established, and authority was passed on through the popes to bishops and pastors for the care and feeding of the flock in dioceses and parishes. It is important to recognize that the origins of authority within the Church can be traced back directly to Jesus himself. 

It should be no surprise, then, that leadership is one of the six principles upon which Beacons of Light is built. Archbishop Schnurr approved those principles as the foundation for the plans each Family of Parishes will develop. 

The Leadership principle states:

“Pastors, in collaboration with parochial vicars, deacons and lay ministers, according to their proper roles and charisms, share responsibility for pastoral leadership. The spiritual, physical and mental health and ongoing support of ordained and lay leaders is vital for Families of Parishes.”

This principle recognizes and celebrates the contributions of the many leaders within a parish community. While the ultimate authority and final decisions rest with the pastor, the gifts of many others contribute to the success and vitality of the parish. As the vision of cooperative leadership unfolds within our Family of Parishes, it will be good to explore the many dimensions which will bring this about effectively.

  • Our Pastor is Our Shepherd: The Family of Parishes is led by a single pastor who is appointed by the archbishop. He is ultimately entrusted with the care of souls and therefore is responsible for the leadership of the parish.
  • We Are Unified Under Our Pastor: The goal of Beacons of Light is the unification of parishes into one Family. Each Family of Parishes is moving toward becoming one parish led by one pastor.
  • Deacons Will Assist the Pastor and Parochial Vicars: Deacons are part of the diocesan clergy and are appointed by the archbishop to serve the Family of Parishes. Where before deacons were assigned primarily to their individual parish, all deacons will now serve the Family of Parishes, just as the pastor and parochial vicars will do.
  • We Show Concern for the Health and Well-being of Our Leaders: All members of the Family of Parishes support and foster the health and well-being of all leaders. Through these acts of fraternal charity and concern, we ensure the well-being of the Church and those to whom its success is entrusted.
  • Co-responsibility Is Essential for Success: Pastors, staffs, and parishioners share responsibility for bringing all relevant perspectives to the process of discernment, according to their proper roles and gifts. In this way, the contributions of all members of the Family are recognized, respected, and included.
  • We Plan for Tomorrow’s Leadership: Pastors actively cultivate skill in leadership and draw others into leadership with them. Planning and formation of future of leaders will sustain the Family for generations to come. 
  • Leaders Embrace Personal Development: Clergy members participate in and are accountable for their spiritual and theological formation as well as leadership development. Clergy and laity are well-formed spiritually, theologically, and for leadership in support of their respective roles.

The leadership of our Family of Parishes includes many people and teams who have a common desire to bring the Gospel to life within the community. Clergy, pastoral council, finance council, competent and qualified staff, and numerous ministries, commissions, and associations share in this vision and participate as members of the Body of Christ. As we embark upon this journey, let our prayer be that each of us, endowed with special and unique gifts from God, contribute to the vitality and success of our Family. In this way, we can cooperate in the leadership conferred upon St. Peter by Jesus himself at the dawning of the Church.

This article is the third in a series covering each of the six foundational principles of Beacons of Light, the pastoral planning process of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

What does it mean to be a member of a church? The answer lies in how we define the word “church.”

In its most basic sense, “church” can simply refer to the building in which we celebrate the Mass and other sacraments. At a slightly higher level, it can be another form of the word “parish.” For example, “What church do you go to?” “I’m a member of Our Lady of Victory.”

We must remember, however, that our baptism makes us members of a very special “Church”—the Catholic Church. This is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, formed by the Apostles and handed on to every successive generation for 2,000 years. Our local church does not exist independently, but is in union with the Universal Church under the authority of our archbishop and the leadership of the holy father.

In the context of Beacons of Light, each of these aspects of “church” has a special role: Church as a sacred space, Church as a local parish, Church as Christ’s universal body. The core principle for Church, as set forth by the Beacons of Light, incorporates all these elements:

“Each of us is called to actively participate as a member of a parish, the Universal Church and our local Church, led by our archbishop. Parishes continually deepen the bonds of communion with other parishes.”

Our Families of Parishes will rely upon each other for success, recognizing the heritage of our past and embracing a common future. Several goals will make this possible.

  • The Local Church is Organized into Deaneries: Our archdiocesan church operates effectively by dividing into regional deaneries. Our new canonical parishes (i.e., “Families of Parishes”) will continue to follow that organizational model and benefit through the interdependency of each parish with the other.
  • Archdiocesan Communion with the Universal Church: In communion with the holy father, the archbishop exercises leadership in the local Church.
  • Embracing Subsidiarity: One of the Church’s foundational social teachings is subsidiarity, which states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority, and higher authorities should provide assistance to the lower authorities when appropriate. This enables decisions to be made at the local level wherever possible. Deaneries enhance regional subsidiarity, operating on a local level, which empowers Families of Parishes to cooperate with each other in all forms of ministry.
  • Respecting Culture and History: In one Family of Parishes, the culture and history of our individual parishes are acknowledged, honored and, where possible, preserved. Efforts seek to blend cultural and historical differences with compassion and compromise.
  • Recognizing Local and Universal Membership: The People of God understand that the parish comprises the people within a given territory, and therefore, they grow in understanding themselves as members of Christ’s Body, the Church.

We should not lose sight of the fact that our churches were brought together into Families of Parishes. This is an intentional designation. Families pray together, share their lives with each other, encourage each other and celebrate together. Just as we nourish and sustain our own families, we should strive to do likewise for our new parish family. Pray for the success of our priests, our parishes’ staffs and our brother and sister parishioners. Share in each other’s joys, sorrows, struggles and dreams. Encourage one another in our personal and spiritual growth. Celebrate our parishes’ similarities and differences, brought together in our common Catholic faith.

Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, tells us “The universal Church is seen to be ‘a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’” As Church, we are the Body of Christ. As members of that Body we are on the journey of faith together – as one body, united in the Holy Trinity, for the good of our local church and the Universal Church. Our confidence rests in God that our parishes will truly come together as one family, one Church.