Not to sound like a broken record, but each time I think our Parish Family has traversed the most difficult road possible with grace and tenacity, the next year hits us all together and we are faced with even more challenges to overcome. From the transition of a Pastor to the temporary loss of our church to the international abuse scandal, we have faced some significant situations in 2018. However,just as occurred every other year, the Parish Family has not only stood tall,it has actively run towards the challenges and beaten every single one with the love, healing and joyous moments of encounter that are the hallmark of the Catholic Faith. In trying to sum up the year in a quotation, a simple one stood out to me, it is anonymous:
“It’s funny because we ask God to change our situation, not knowing he puts us in the situation to change us.”Anonymous
Adjuster Arrives to View Water Damage in Ceiling
The situation we found ourselves in at the outset of 2018 was difficult to say the least. Hurricane Irma’s full destructive impact on our campus was finally encapsulated in a single number: $4.2million. That was the insurance adjuster’s assessment once we were able to get him up to the beautiful wood ceiling in our church. Tough decisions had to be made about how we would respond to this damage, especially in the midst of the ending of our Capital Campaign and the construction already begun on the Pulte Family Life Center.
We have traveled through these past months together, and sometimes we have had our heads down, plowing ahead to do the best possible job we can to provide the essential liturgical and pastoral environment we all crave as Catholics along with the programs for our church and continuing our service to the community. But, when we pick our head up here at the end of the year, I hope you can all see the tremendous success we have had as a Parish Family. There are some highlights I would like to point out:
Campus Transformation: Who would have thought that in a single year,nearly every blade of grass and square inch of our 14-acre campus of Saint John the Evangelist would be transformed. We have completed our brand-new Pulte Family Life Center and are repairing and renewing the other three buildings. All without missing a beat for our mission essential efforts to provide Masses,Services, Pastoral Support, Faith Formation, and our Catholic Youth Organization and Catholic Adult Organization Programs. This is an incredibly complicated effort and it has taken individuals from across our Parish Family to plan and then execute the flexible environment we have established. You may not be aware of the breadth and depth of transformation we have accomplished in 2018,so here is a small list of the construction projects we have been working on(in no particular order):
- Pulte Family Life Center Completion
- New Exterior Lighting System for Entire Campus
- Renovation of the Ballroom within the Parish Activity Center
- Repairs of Rome due to hurricane damage
- Digital Signage Implementation to Assist with Finding Activities on Campus
- New Roof on Church
- Renovation of the Entire Claussen Family Center
- Transition of Altar to Prayer Garden for New Outside Chapel
- Power Loop Installation for Campus to remove cascading Single Transformer Malfunction
- Creation of new Library for Study, Tutoring, and Small Discussions
- New Irrigation System to Remove Sewer Water Utility Charges
- Creation of new Counseling Office for onsite Catholic Charities Mental Health Services
- New Air Conditioning system for Claussen Family Center
- New Back Parking Lot
- Replacement of All Exterior Doors on Campus with Access Control and Management
- New Interior Liturgical and Structural Design for Church
Of course, the “when is the church going to be done?” question will follow us through into 2019, but the sheer volume and comprehensiveness of the efforts to repair, renovate, and rejuvenate our campus have been extraordinary.
First Communion for Nearly100 Students: Saint John is blessed to be able to serve such a wide array of age groups in our Parish Family, from the youngest to our experienced individuals. Nothing showcases the focus of our church on youth and the families of the area as our constantly increasing First Communion classes. We have been increasing steadily over the past several years under the wonderful leadership of Natalie Campbell, our Director of Religious Education. We marked a tremendous milestone in 2018, the First Communion ceremony, nearly 100 Communicants! We should thank our amazing Catechists as well, whose dedication to continuing our faith through their instruction and engagement of the children plants the seeds for the future of our church.
Easter Egg Hunt Tradition Continues:With all the concerns of the state of the campus during Lent this past year,there were some question as to if it was appropriate to let 250 children loose looking for Easter Eggs. However, the leadership of the Parish Family came together and found a way to safely ensure the family-friendly activity could continue. Our Knights of Columbus Council placed thousands of eggs across our Front Lot and the Front of the Church, ensuring the traffic stayed clear of the children as they scampered about, the gleam of candy-filled eggs in their baskets that were blessed by Father Bob. This activity showcased the Parish Family’s ingenuity in ensuring our Mission continues no matter the circumstances.
New Veranda Seating for Fish Fries and Activities at Saint John: The same could be said about our Fish Fry events during Lent. With the Ballroom out of commission, there was a question of where to serve the delicious Knights of Columbus dinners to our patrons. Again, everyone put their heads together and our “Veranda” was born! The area in front of the Ballroom entrance was filled with tables and dinner was served alfresco style. It is one of the beauties of living here in Southwest Florida that the weather cooperated so well. We had one of the most successful Lenten Fish Fry Programs ever!
CYO Sports and Music Kick into Gear: It still surprises me that Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) was defunct in Florida for over 37 years. We have ended that drought this past year by instituting CYO Sports, Arts, and Music programs for our Parish Family and the larger youth community of Naples. It has exploded already, with summer camps, group piano lessons, and our amazing CYO Soccer Program hosted with the Optimist Soccer League. This Fall Season, several of the CYO Teams(including my favorite U9 Girls Team) not only came out on top of the Tournament, they spearheaded a toy drive for the children of Immokalee. Hundreds of toys were gathered and donated to Guadalupe Social Services. Thanks again to the Tedrow Family, the Dina Family, the Greening Family, and our CYO leadership for showcasing our Mission through Sports!
Celebrating Father Bob’s 25 Years of Ordination:We all knew he did not want the attention. Father Bob is such a humble individual, he asked that we simply let his anniversary of ordination pass by. There is no way we could do that for a priest that has dedicated his life to our Parish Family and spread the joy of our faith in such a tangible way. Instead, Father Bob knocked our socks off with his Homily and then we all piled into the Pulte Family Life Center for the first ever event within its walls. We hope to have Fr. Bob for many more years!
Welcoming a New Pastor – Father Tom:One word fits our new Pastor, Father Tom: Genuine. He genuinely cares for our Parish Family. He actively involves himself in our mission and our programs. He does what he says he is going to do and always puts others first above himself. We are a tremendously blessed Parish to have Father Tom leading us into this new future.
Thanksgiving in the Park Serves Almost 2000:No one really knew what to expect. Immokalee is one of the poorest communities in the United States, with avast majority of its population dedicated to migrant farm and packing work. Would the wonderful people of Immokalee come to the Airport Park on Thanksgiving Day, with all the concerns swirling about their “status”? We did not waver in our commitment to serving anyone and everyone who would appear that day. The entire Parish Family and nearly every Ministry was represented as we took our Turkey’s to Church the weekend before Thanksgiving and then shredded over 250 of the birds the day before. We arrived at the Park and were greeted with almost 2000 people, individuals and families, all with a smile and gratitude in their hearts. What a beautiful expression of our faith lived out in Good Works. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers that made it possible to serve so many in need.
Increased Opportunities for Mass Include 10 Weekend Masses: Back at the home front of Saint John, we had been noticing the swell of our Parish Family from the back of the Ballroom. We had been anticipating the need for increasing the opportunities for Mass participation ever since we moved out of our church and as several Masses began to become “standing room only” we instituted our new plan. The increase to 10 weekend Masses is not an easy one. The sheer logistics across our Liturgical Environment is extensive, and while it may be mostly behind the scenes, it takes an army to serve our Parish Family at Mass. Our clergy are stretched already, and so we are relying on additional support. Our amazing Liturgical Ministries (EM’s, Lectors, Ushers, Altar Servers,Sacristans, and Choir, thank you!) have kept up as we evaluate the processes and procedures normally reserved for an actual church building, but now operating in a dispersed environment.
God Bless every single one of you, our Parish Family is strong and ready to make2019 the best year ever for our church. I am so blessed to be part of this future with you!