« A Great Example | Main | 'till Monday »

April 15, 2004

Voice of the Faithful

Here's some more revealing information about Voice of the Faithful. Thanks to JohnH for pointing this out.

I have been pondering ways to meet people and to hear ideas about the future direction of the parish. I become Pastor again on August 1, 2004.

I was thinking of having a variety of town hall meetings over several months. I do not plan on making any immediate changes to the parish beside just the change of Pastor. My main question is going to be "How did you do it last year?" Obviously Fr. Finley and I are two different people, but he is much loved by the people and has done a great job over the past 14 years there.

I was thinking of having meetings with the Staff, and with the Pastoral Council just to hear their experience and ideas. Then I thought I would have town hall meetings, first with the elders in the parish, then with Young Families (child care provided) and then with the Youth, simply to hear their questions, their needs, and to get their ideas.

In order to have a voice, I also have to be able to listen. Listening is not something that VOTF seems to be doing. There has to be a better way than VOTF.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at April 15, 2004 1:05 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I think all your ideas sound like good ones. Particularly in a place that has had the same pastor for 14 years, people have probably gotten used to doing things in certain ways. It will be important to understand where they are coming from.

With regard to VOTF, I'm not sure that Crisis is the most evenhanded source of information on them. I also don't see any sign that VOTF is any more resistant to "listening" than any other group or individual or the Church. While not necessarily endorsing every jot and title of their agenda (as I understand it), I think that it's inadvisable for Church leadership to adopt a confrontational stance toward them.

I would say that VOTF is less likely to gain adherents in places where authority is exercised in a pastoral way, where there is a certain transparency in decisionmaking, and where laypeople feel that there are meaningful structures that allow them input into parish and diocesean decisionmaking. It seems to me that the Diocese of Oakland has done a reasonably good job in this regard.

Posted by: Peter Nixon at April 15, 2004 3:01 PM

From what little research I've done on VOTF, it seems as though their leadership has the same agenda (and largely consists of the same people) as Call to Action and other dissenting groups. The difference with VOTF is that their emphasis on the scandal has brought in people who don't agree with the parts of their agenda that don't come out in the press so much.

Posted by: Mike Roesch at April 15, 2004 3:56 PM

Dear Father Jeff,

I hope that you would add praying with the people to your pastoral plan...emphasis on the with, more than just leading their liturgical prayer as presider.

But I'd cut yourself some slack to ask for a few changes or additions at pastoral discretion.

It seems to me that people can tolerate additions like the Easter Sequence or tranferring Saint Gaspar and the feast of the Precious Blood to Sunday more easily than moving major items around or demoting objects that are the source of popular devotion.

One of the comments that has come up several times in our series of transitions at your former parish is "But Father Jeff, he added things!"

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at April 15, 2004 4:41 PM

Peace, Fr Jeff.

Good thoughts, and I liked Peter's contribution. For the record, I feel no need for VOTF because og being on the "professional" side and while striving to hear others, I have an ear on clergy some other lay people might not benefit from.

VOTF seems non-existent around KC. I know people are still steaming, and some clergy want to believe "it's time to move on," but I think a continued stance of listening will be good. I expect individuals in VOTF listen as well as individuals do or can. Probably somewhat better than most bishops. If Maureen's related comment is an indication, I'm sure your pastorate will be rich for all involved.

Posted by: Todd at April 15, 2004 7:55 PM

Hi, Father Jeff,

I now find it richly amusing that in your first thoughts about listening, you left out a whole generation. Your generation!

People in their 40s and 50s won't think of themselves as elders--elders are our parents! Nor will they think of themselves as young families.

With their families raised, this generation has time and talent to offer in the service of others, as well as hunger for deeper spiritual connections. Yes, this is the generation that often makes its voice heard in the parish without special invitation, but they undoubtedly would appreciate being included in your listening.

Also, as you prepare to move, I suggest you take advantage of the 'dont sell, don't share my name' options on your subscriptions. Cuts down on the unwanted mail, which of course I hope you recycle rather than just discarding in the landfill.

For the record, the pastor Father Jeff is succeeding, also a Father Jeff (!), has served at the parish for many years, but has been pastor since 1998.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at April 16, 2004 8:59 AM

I think you miss the point about Voice of the People.

Their issue is that the BISHOPS and many priests don't listen. To flip the criticism is a red herring.

Posted by: RP Burke at April 19, 2004 11:23 AM

The point is well taken that not all bishops and priests are good listeners. However, zealous activists are not always good listeners either.

A good leader (and a fortiori a good pastor) listens, but that does not necessarily mean obeying the loudest or best-organized voices (or even the majority). There will also be rare instances where the need for quick action will be paramount.

The "How did you do it last year?" mantra and the get-acquainted meetings with parishioners sound like good ideas for your first year, Father Jeff. If your parishioners are listening too, they will appreciate more and more the gifts that you yourself bring as an individual, as a member of your congregation, and as a pastor tied to the Diocese and the Universal Church.

Posted by: Humilis Penitens at April 20, 2004 3:26 PM