Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Earlier this month, Tricia Henry (Coordinator of Community Life), Trey Morris (Volunteer leader of our strategic initiative on engagement), and I had the opportunity to travel to the wonderful Franciscan Retreat Center in Malibu named after the California apostle, Friar Juniper Serra.  We were invited by Parish Catalyst which brings together pastors and leadership teams who are growing vibrant Catholic parishes. It was a great experience joining with 11 other pastors from parishes around the country that are vibrant and faith- filled; a time to share best practices and learn new ways of being church. One of the speakers was Rick Warren, who talked about what he has learned from the Catholic Church about evangelization and encouraged us to be evangelizers, especially of those who have not met Christ. He spoke from his experience that the larger the church, the more important it is to be small through small groups. That can take on many different forms.

In the year ahead, we’ll be looking at how we can help St. Francis “be small” with small groups. Our parish can be overwhelming to a new parishioner or even to us. A great way to feel the sense of belonging is through small groups, whether they be small Christian communities, ministry groups, or athletic teams; each is a small group where you can feel a sense of belonging and being together in community. On Saturday, February 8, we will be offering The Power of Small Groups. This workshop will focus on the skills needed to facilitate or participate more fully in small groups.  Anyone can HOST a small group. It just takes the skills to be Hospitable, Open your home, Serve a beverage, and Turn on the DVD. Come learn and help build our community of small groups. Information is available from Gladys Whitehouse.

Today begins Catholic Schools Week with an open house this (Sunday) afternoon beginning at 12:45 pm. We have the great blessing of two academically excellent educational institutions that have as their priority forming disciples of Christ: St. Francis Preschool and Franciscan School. I cannot speak highly enough of the families, students, staff, and faculty who make our schools what they are today. Our schools are wonderful ministries of our parish and have a lasting tradition of excellence.  I encourage you to consider them for your family in the coming school year.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark