View from the Pew
Catholic leaders hope a "road map" of goals will fire up the faithful and get the church set for the future
Pentecost is almost upon us, the last chapter of the biblical Easter story. According to the Gospel account, Christ's disciples were infused with spiritual zeal, not to mention an astounding gift for preaching, when the Holy Spirit descended on them like tongues of fire. It fired them up to carry the ministry of Jesus out into the world, and the rest is history.
$8 million building planned FOR EWA
The Catholic diocese of Honolulu plans to build an $8 million multipurpose building (see oval at lower left on design map) on 23 acres at the junction of Fort Weaver Road and Old Fort Weaver Road in Ewa.
The air-conditioned structure of plastic membrane over metal framework will have a 2,500-seat capacity. It will be used for church services and community events.
Plans call for 500 parking spaces and the eventual construction of a permanent church and education building at the site, which was purchased last year for $6 million.
The artist's rendering was prepared by Belt Collins, planning consultants for the project.
The annual liturgical feast comes at a time when Hawaii Catholic Bishop Larry Silva hopes to infuse his flock with new energy to continue in the spirit of the early Christians.
Silva launched an initiative that he calls a "road map" for the 66 parishes in the state and all the schools, organizations and individuals in the diocese. There are about 230,000 people in Hawaii who identify themselves as Catholic. About 60,000 attend services on any given weekend, according to parish head counts.
The goals might be the same as those of the first disciples setting out with their new faith message, but "faith life has become more complicated, the expectations are higher, the problems are more complicated and sophisticated," said the Rev. Marc Alexander, who as diocesan vicar general is the bishop's right-hand man.
"The situation of the modern world has shifted, so we need to make adjustments so we can more effectively proclaim the gospel and touch people's hearts. To a great extent, our laity has become more educated, more active. ... People want to be better equipped to understand their faith, explain it and defend it, engage in contemporary topics."
Faith formation is a key facet of the project, with the aim of stimulating people to witness to their faith in their busy lives as workers, students, relatives, friends, citizens, volunteers -- not just as once-a-week worshippers.
Other facets of the "road map" deal with practical, functional plans that can be seen as revving up the engine of an institution that sometimes seems to be chugging along on inertia. Alexander said the goals are to:
» Develop leadership qualities by making educational, training and mentoring opportunities available for lay people as well as priests, thus stimulating widespread participation and lively parishes.
» Increase youth and young-adult involvement in the church by offering a variety of programs and hiring staff, beginning with creation of a new diocesan office for youth resources.
» Help parishes and schools meet the never-ending need to repair and maintain facilities by providing standards and resources for their planning, budgeting and fundraising efforts.
» Build new facilities to meet the demand for churches and schools in areas where the population is burgeoning, such as West Oahu, and manage the land assets of the diocese, which currently involves 294 parcels totaling about 3,360 acres.
» Provide for the poor and homeless by partnering with community and government to develop access to shelter, food, clothing and work opportunities.
How do you do that? So far, it's all been about talking.
Hundreds of island Catholics talked about "what I think the church needs to be doing" at scoping meetings for the past two years. Alexander and Tom Papandrew, diocesan planning director, listened to parishioners and held sessions with inactive Catholics, the gay and lesbian community, and ethnic groups with particular concerns.
Last Saturday was the kickoff of Phase 2, still pretty much in the talking stage. Silva's appointees to an implementation commission met for the first time. He named Colleen Sathre, former University of Hawaii vice president of planning and policy, as its chairwoman.
The majority of commission members work for the Catholic Church either as paid professionals and staff or veteran volunteers. Six of them will head task forces charged with turning the six areas of focus from just talk into the perfect reality: a church where empowered leaders, and the inspired youth who will carry on after them, gather in churches and schools where the roof doesn't leak and there's enough room for new members as well as old regulars, all of whom will gladly contribute time and money to keep the whole faith machine going and growing and fulfilling Jesus' mandate to the apostles to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.
"It's exciting," said Alexander, a man who is not daunted by committee meetings or by the culture of a centuries-old institution where change isn't readily embraced.
How much easier it is to organize a new church, where every program and goal and member is a fresh start; no expectations to live up to, nothing to live down.
"I speak with confidence, we are an alive and growing church in Hawaii," Alexander said. "The people don't go to church as often, but there still are a heck of a lot of people who do go to church.
"The church is all of us," he added. "We all have different roles and functions. We all need to be pulling together. There's no such thing as some of us just cruising anymore."
And when Pentecost is celebrated May 11, don't doubt for a minute that Silva and Alexander and all their committees and task forces will be praying to experience a flicker of those tongues of flame from the Holy Spirit.