PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


July 2019

Spur of the Moment

                While leading a one-day mini-retreat at a women’s prison recently, there was some extra time available before Mass.  As a spontaneous invitation I asked the group of seven, “What are three words that touch deep into your heart that would help you become a better person?”  They thought about it for awhile and then wrote their three words on a piece of paper.  I then asked each person to share the words and why these were important to them.  A partial list included understanding, kindness, forgiveness, freedom, patience, see differently, choose life.


Focus On the Positive

            Just as some parishes sum up their mission and purpose in just three or four words, each one loaded with meaning about the essential aspects of the parish, this summing up in just a few words might  be helpful for each member of the community as well.  It takes some thought, reflection and prayer to identify the three words, ones that lead us in a different direction from some of the self-seeking, addictive leanings we all experience at various times.    


A Parish Event

            As a way of helping people get in touch with the words that could lead to greater spirituality and growth, the parish might sponsor an event lasting about two hours that would help each individual identify a few words to live by.  Preceded by creative, inviting publicity, this experience might begin with the participants gathering together for prayer, an explanation of the process and what might be a possible outcome. 

            Next would be two people chosen beforehand to share their own special words.  For the man, it might be kindness, gentleness and patience.  “If I could practice each one of these just once a day, it would be a big step forward for me and I’m sure that all those with whom I might come in contact with would appreciate it as well.”  The woman liked the words he chose, especially being more patient. “But for me, one word is forgiveness.  This is so hard to do when someone puts me down or takes advantage of my generosity.  I sometimes find it hard not to hold onto a grudge or try to get even.  My second is stillness in the midst of my hectic life.  Finding the time just to unplug and be quiet, just for a moment.  I’m a much better wife and mother when I can grab a little peace somewhere in the day.  The third is not judging.  It sneaks up on me all of the time, seeing myself as better than another, or interpreting another’s motivation when I have nothing on which to judge why the person acted that way.”

            Once the group witnessed this interaction, they could be given an numbered index card and during a brief moment of silence be asked to write down three words that could make a difference in their lives.  At a signal from the leader, everyone would then find the other three persons who had the same number on their card as she/he did.  Small tables could be set up around the room ahead of time, each with a prepared group leader who would direct and oversee the conversation.  The foursome would then each share one of their words, along with an indication of why this was important.  If anyone had the same word, then that person would be invited to share, perhaps adding different nuances to its meaning.  The group leader would make sure that everyone had sufficient time to share their words and help all to practice the art of attentive listening.   

            At the conclusion of the sharing, after a few moments of quiet reflection, everyone would regroup to give their impressions of the event, including what surprised them, what gave them hope and insight, what ways could this experience be shared with others.   As people disperse, hopefully they might leave with an awareness of how just a few words could lead to a better life and a new way of acting.