This little website is a landing page for parishioners of St. Edward Catholic Church in Tallulah, La. In September 2017, Fr. Ryan sent out a letter which included a census update form, a religious questionnaire, a parish events schedule and a religious education schedule. Each of those documents can be downloaded here and the text of the letter is reprinted as well.
Sept 8, 2017The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Beloved Parishioners of St. Edward the Confessor, our parish in Tallulah,
I’ve been here at St. Edward for just over a year now. It’s been such a privilege for me to witness and to be part all the great things you’ve accomplished! We’ve replaced the roof of all three of our buildings. We’ve conducted extensive repairs on the exterior and interior brickwork of the Church and the interior ceiling of the Hall. We’ve updated most of our thermostats with new, energy efficient models. We’ve streamlined our spending and our budget and we came out in the black this year in our operating accounts.
Over and above our local accomplishments, we’ve also been blessed in the Diocese of Alexandria with a new bishop and three new priests, including our own beloved Fr. Derek Ducote! (Fr. Derek immediately tried to steal my job, but I managed to talk him down by inviting him to offer our Advent Mission instead. Thanks to generosity of many of you, we were able to offer Fr. Derek two beautiful vestments to honor our Lord and our Lady.)
All in all, it’s been a really great year and I’m thankful to God to be the pastor of such a wonderful little gem of a Church at the edge of our diocese!
As most of you know, we’re also facing challenges here in Tallulah, some new and some old. Our civil community is struggling demographically. Our kids are moving away and our population is aging. Our Catholic Church as a whole has struggled to draw the so-called “Generation X” or the “Millennials” and so we find ourselves with a lot of folks who have been in roles of leadership for many years who are looking to pass the torch. But those middle generations that would be at the right age to take that torch aren’t regular massgoers. Our young families have commitments with school and work and rightly so. Still, we’re going to need a plan to prioritize those things we want to keep and let go those things which we can’t maintain. To all of this, we have to add some unexpected question marks like a newly vacant lot next door to the Church and new leadership in Tallulah Academy’s athletics.
The coming year will require a lot from us. We’re going to have to make some decisions and we’re going to have to think about planning for short- and long-term contingencies. That kind of thoughtfulness can’t come from my mind alone. After all, I’m an outsider. I don’t have “skin in the game” so to speak. I just don’t know the stories and the history that makes Tallulah what it is. So I’m going to need your help, your insight, your prayerful consideration and your practical feedback.
To that end, I’m writing you about three things.
First, the Parish Council. The idea of a parish council of interested lay persons has been around for long, long time - well over 300 years. In the mid-1980s, the law of the Church was formally changed to require every parish to have a standing advisory council which would provide the pastor with representative feedback from the people of the parish as to their religious needs and concerns. The real purpose of that council is to help the priest understand what the people need to grow in holiness. Maybe that’s more educational opportunities. Maybe it’s a different kind of sermon. Maybe the people are distracted by Father’s facial hair… They don’t all have to be deep! Most parish councils began with this goal front and center. But over time, many have devolved into something more akin to a council of trustees or something like a Vestry Board. The Pastoral Council became a Parish Council and Pastors were left to guess at what the people want and need.
That hasn’t happened here at St. Edward. In fact, the pastoral council has been amazing at helping me to ask the right questions and to make some great decisions. Recently, I invited anyone who might be interested to approach me and to join the council. I had hoped that more people would approach me to join the group as a voting member. That didn’t really happen. Still, I’m hopeful that many of you will feel free and welcome to join us at our meetings whether you are officially on the council or not. Of course, St. Edward is small enough that anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up in a group setting is certainly able and welcome to speak to me personally. Either way, I need feedback and I need your advice - we can’t address our challenges without it!
Second, Parish Events. St. Edward is perhaps the most event-driven parish I’ve ever visited, let alone served. Y’all go to town on socials, gatherings and parties. And y’all do it right! I’m concerned, though, that the same folks tend to be in charge of everything. When I’ve spoken with those folks, they don’t necessarily seem to want to be in charge - but they do want the event to happen. I’ve also sensed that there is a risk in volunteering. I get the sense that if you volunteer for one thing, you might be volunteered for ten others. That’s a really dangerous thing! It kills enthusiasm and causes people to play it safe rather than be sorry.
In an effort to address that concern, I’ve created a calendar of events for the coming year. Some of those events are already under the leadership of volunteers. Our Birthday Party for Jesus and our Easter Egg Hunt, for example, are being planned by a few of our parents. Other events like the Burning of the Greens at Epiphany and our May Crowning are in need of leadership. My priority and my hope in doing things this way is to help make certain that volunteering for one event means volunteering for one event, not six. I also hope that this assurance means that we can spread out some of our responsibility and richen the sense of ownership and personal investment in this event-driven Church community.
Third, Religious Education. Thank you!, thank you!, thank you! to Mrs. Louise Magoun who has been the Queen Bee of CCD for a long time. She stepped into a tough job and has done it admirably!!! With Louise’s help, I’ve structured an approach to religious education which is for the whole family, not just the children. I’m hopeful that everyone from the old to the young, will plan to join me in the hall for coffee and donuts most every Sunday after Mass for about half an hour. In that time, I’ll present a short instruction on some aspect of our Faith. These instructions will correlate with age-appropriate Catechism books for little ones, children and adults. I will ask our parents to take the responsibility upon themselves to take what they have learned and teach their children our Faith. The two biggest problems we have in religious education in the Church nowadays are attendance and parental involvement. CCD attendance here at St. Edward swings wildly during the year from 20+ kids to fewer than 5. Teaching a cohesive curriculum is impossible under those circumstances. What’s more, when Mom and Dad don’t know the faith, little Johnny and little Susie are not going to prioritize it either. Under this new model, Mom and Dad take up the responsibility to know and teach our faith and I take the responsibility to help them do that. I provide the tools, our families provide the time and everyone wins. I have asked Mrs. Louise to stick around as our Youth Coordinator and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue some of the fun activities that we’ve come to love. Please find enclosed a schedule of our Sunday Morning Catechism Curriculum. Parents, even if you’re not able to make it to Church with us on Sunday, please make sure you cover the noted material with your little ones.
Finally, I want to lay out a little Catholic Guilt! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE consider signing up for our email bulletin (use Census button on the left), following us on Facebook and filling out the included census and religious questionnaire (see button on the left). We really want to make our faith something that flows from Sunday Mass and into our lives and then back toward Sunday Mass. Faith in Jesus just doesn’t work when it’s only an hour a week - it has to bloom in us and that takes time and reminders and encouragement! Thank you again for your love for Our Lord and for this wonderful little Church of ours! May God Reward You!!!
Fr. Ryan Humphries