Home»Features»Leading Together

Leading Together

Pinterest WhatsApp

by Lisa Fletcher

It takes a village to raise a Family—of Parishes. The head of that village is the pastor, who, through the Beacons of Light transition, was given the responsibility of care and leadership of his parishes. As Father Martin Fox, pastor of St. John Paul II Family of Parishes in south Dayton can attest, it really does take an entire team to make the Beacons’ transition successful.

This transition started well before Father Fox’s July 2021 arrival at the St. John Paul II Family of Parishes—consisting of Our Lady of Good Hope, St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Henry. As soon as his appointment was publicly announced, he contacted the parishes’ two pastors to coordinate a mailing to all parishioners in which Father Fox would introduce himself and share a general idea of what to expect.

He also met with the Family’s three finance committees together. “From day one there would be complicated questions of sharing costs, and I needed them to begin thinking about ways to make that fair, as they could agree on,” he said.

With plans in motion, Father Fox began meeting with the Family’s four other priests. “They were a deep fount of experience and wisdom, especially the three who were rooted in these parishes: Father Jim Manning, Father Jerome Bishop and retired priest Father Tom Shearer,” Father Fox explained. “They helped tremendously in identifying key things to focus on from day one.”

As Father Fox soon realized, building a strong foundation was key for what followed. He needed to build relationships with each parish’s finance and pastoral council leadership teams. From the beginning, the councils held joint meetings, with members supporting the change and digging into the challenge.

The next step was getting acquainted with his employees, which included 75 staff members and teachers from the three parishes and Bishop Leibold Elementary School. “I realized quickly that I’d do a very poor job supporting them without a different structure,” he said.

Thus, a transition committee was created with leaders from all three parishes; its main purpose was to plan for new leadership positions because the three staffs were coming together. For the next 11 months, the committee helped Father Fox craft job descriptions and conduct interviews to ensure the right team was in place.

“A lot had to be explained to all of our parishioners, staff and volunteers, and even then, there was some confusion and anxiety about change; but by the end of that first year, we had a leadership team that was going to play a huge role in helping us accomplish our goals,” Father Fox explained.

These goals included:

  • Ensuring things weren’t missed because the pastor was too
  • Giving personal attention to the several hundred volunteers, from those who help at Mass to the Knights of Columbus to those serving the poor in so many ways.
  • Developing the numerous plans needed as the three parishes came together.

“Everything didn’t go perfectly—some added explanations and apologies were needed along the way—but overall things have gone really well,” Father Fox shared. “It was a lot of work, but there was a great deal of help and good will to go around.”

And what was the key aspect in the success of this transition? According to Father Fox it was communication. “The people of our three parishes were well informed of our overall challenge and goals, and they were willing to pitch in. This made all the difference. It couldn’t be just the pastor or the priests.”

Since building his leadership team, Father Fox has witnessed impressive growth in his Family of Parishes. For one, the Family’s newly organized lay leadership is doing amazing work, such as identifying ways to involve parishioners even more, providing help to people in need and generating more ways to help parishioners grow in faith. Additional Family changes are more confession opportunities each week and both Mass attendance and tithing increased.

“I think parishioners are seeing things unfold as they hoped, and that builds confidence,” Father Fox said. “They are witnessing the changes; it’s not just talk. They are notably understanding of the challenges and seem ready to help. This has made all the difference.”

This article appeared in the June 2024 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here

Previous post

Men’s group at Ave Maria University aims to form selfless husbands and loving fathers

Next post

The Body and Life According to the Spirit