When Gary Tester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, was in need of furniture for newly arrived refugee families arriving in Orlando, he turned to Trace Trylko, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society who told Gary about their voucher program that helps families in need obtain basic essentials for their home at no cost. Thus a partnership was born.
This is just one example of the type of harmonization of ministries that Bishop John Noonan is hoping to see developed across the Diocese of Orlando. In fact, “Harmonizing Ministries to the Mission of the Church” is one of three priorities the bishop established after consulting with diocesan leadership in 2013.
Harmonizing Ministries was also the theme of an event organized by the Diocese of Orlando Office of Advocacy and Justice on April 14 at Holy Family Parish in Orlando. More than 66 representatives from 14 parishes in the Central Deanery South gathered to learn new ways to collaborate.
“Our goal is to be collaborators and share resources, not work in silos but work cooperatively and collectively across our ministries, parishes and diocese,” said Deborah Stafford Shearer, director of the Office of Advocacy and Justice.
Tester was one of the speakers at the event. He spoke of the new direction that Catholic Charities is taking to be more involved with the ministry efforts of our parishes.
“Catholic Charities is truly looking to come alongside your ministries. When I have had conversations with pastors, parishes and other organizations, it’s really about what can we do to come alongside your ministry. That’s the message I want you to walk away with today,” said Tester. “We are on a mission to get out to the communities where our services are most needed to partner with parishes to meet those needs.”
He also shared how Catholic Charities is harmonizing ministries by collaborating with other dioceses to provide adoption services in Central Florida. He also spoke of the significant impact that Catholic Charities is having on the homeless community in the area.
“One of every five homeless people in Orange, Osceola Seminole counties is served by Catholic Charities,” said Tester.
Trylko spoke of his group’s partnership with the Office of Advocacy and Justice to participate in Catholic Days at the Capital, a lobbying initiative to promote Catholic values to lawmakers.
“We focus on meeting with our lawmakers because that’s where real systemic change occurs. Yes, we do works of mercy but changing laws and polices often happens in our state capital,” said Trylko.
Cathy Petroff, president of the Orlando Diocesan Council of Catholic Women spoke of a collaborative project that proved most successful between her group, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Knights of Columbus. The project was a bottle cap collection drive and bins were set up at St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores to collect plastic bottle caps which raised money for wheelchairs for children in need. All the groups came together to sort the caps.
“This collaborative effort was possible because there was an opportunity for leaders to speak. That’s what we are looking for you to do. Make a forum in your parish that gives you opportunities to work together,” said Petroff.
Mark Wayne Lynn, Regional and Orlando Diocese Knights of Columbus Membership Coordinator said unfortunately ego can many times stand in the way of harmonizing ministries.
“Ego is the downfall of ministries. Ego means edging God out. What stops us from harmonizing is edging God out.”
He spoke about the Mass and how we as Catholics receive the Eucharist, a Sacrament of unity and communion. He urged the ministry leaders to put ego aside to live that fully.