When looking around this beautiful church or working out in our Boneyard in the Pulte Family Life Center, or seeing the smiling faces at LifeFest, playing bocce, or watching our youth in Children’s Theater, my heart is full of gratitude for every single member of our Parish Family. It is extraordinary to think back on this past year. It is only through all of our dedication and devotion to our Mission: To Know, To Love, and To Serve God in His Church and Our Community, that we have achieved such amazing accomplishments in such a short timeframe. We started in a fractured environment, duplicating Masses and Services. Programs and Ministries were limited due to space and facilities constraints. Our patience and flexibility were tested to their limit. However, as it would seem every single year, our Parish Family rose to the occasion yet again. God Bless You All!
There are so many examples of our actions showcasing our faith and our community, but here are few highlights that stuck out in a year of exceptional moments:
While 2018 focused on the demolition and planning of the renewal of our church building due to the damage incurred during Hurricane Irma, 2019 saw the Eagle soar with the completion and re-dedication of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church on Saturday, June 29. From the blessing of the new Sanctuary by Bishop Dewane, to the tours of the awestruck Parish Family who were witnessing the vision of an open, warm, comforting, and faith-enlivening environment come to life, years of effort were realized. We hope this inviting space, with significantly more seating and more special needs access, will serve our Parish Family for another 30 years!
One challenge that we have undertaken this year due to the renewal of the church is an additional financial responsibility. Instead of simply repairing the hurricane damage, we took this opportunity to completely renovate the church. From plumbing to security measures to sound systems, every facet of the church has been transformed. The Diocese has assisted us with this process, and we will be focusing on how to complete this loan as quickly as possible. More information will be provided in future bulletin about how you can assist us to Finish the Church.
Finish the Church Goal: $1.8 Million
Gifts from 12/15/19: $55,888.90
Total Gifts as of 12/15/19: $ 608,502.78
Percentage of Goal Achieved Already: 33.8%
Supporting Easter in 5 Locations
Before we had these over 1700 seats in our new church, we were blessed across our campus to have enough seats for our regular seasonal population by duplicating Masses in both our Ballroom and in our Life Center Gym. I joked that we were the only church in the area that literally had Jesus (the name of one of our wonderful Facilities Team Staff) tearing down the temple and raising it again in 3 days every single week. We would use the Gym for basketball on Friday evenings, and then we would set it with 500 chairs for Saturday 3 PM Mass.
This was nothing compared to the technological and logistical feat that was pulled off for Easter. As you know, there is roughly triple the amount of visitors to our campus to joyously proclaim the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday. In order to accommodate this influx, we were able to simultaneously simulcast the Ballroom Mass to our Rome Room and the Courtyard, at the exact same time simulcasting the Gym Mass to the entirety of the Life Center, the 5 Saints Café, the Nazareth Room, and the Bocce Courts. Everyone was able to find a seat and enjoy the Mass, with a spectacular distribution of Eucharist from Ministers and support from a massive set of Ushers and Greeters. God Bless all those involved in this special day!
Reboot: Moment of Alive Faith
We are so blessed to have been able to provide this unique opportunity for the Naples Community to see internationally recognized speaker Chris Stefanick and his Real Life Catholic program, REBOOT. Dozens of volunteers and staff members of Saint John devoted a tremendous amount of energy to ensure one of the largest crowds (over 700 participants) in our new Pulte Family Life Center had a great time!
Theater at Saint John: Passion Play and Annie Jr.
When we first developed the concept of the Life Center, we wanted it to become a center of the arts for North Naples as well as for sports and wellness activities. The stage was specifically designed to be multipurpose, with a production dance floor, sound system for concerts, and a projection system that can be seen throughout the Gym. One way to utilize all of these functions is with a theatrical production, and we started with 2 this year.
Nothing engages all the senses like Theater, an artistic expression for the eyes, ears, and heart. Our first production was a unique take on the Lord’s Passion. Simply structured and performed with music and relatable accompaniment, it was tremendously well received. People left with tears in their eyes. Our second production was the first CYO Children’s Theater event: Annie Jr. The entire Parish Family came to see the musical and were overjoyed at the singing, dancing, and acting of our young thespians. With these successes as a starting point, the sky is the limit for theater at Saint John!
Catholic Adult Organization Starts New Programs
One of the newest concepts we developed over the past years is our Catholic Adult Organization. The CAO is a set of persistent activities and programs for all ages of adults, from 18 to 118. We have sports and wellness activities, like pick-up basketball, boot camps, bocce, and Golden Fitness. The Arts are alive for adults with our music concert series and classes, including painting, guitar, and vocal lessons. And we want to provide fun, social activities as well, like our Friday Happy Hour, Open Mic Night, and Bingo. All of these activities have begun in the Life Center and will continue to bring adults of our church and the larger community to our campus, including a new indoor Pickleball program beginning in 2020.
CYO Shapes Youth’s Lives
In 2019, Our Catholic Youth Organization has finally had the opportunity to stretch its legs and grow in the Life Center. Summer Camps of Futsol and Flag Football have grown to include volleyball, fencing and basketball programs for youth sports. The artistic program has expanded as well, with the Children’s Theater and Youth Choir. Social activities like game nights, hang-out times, and open gym allow the youth of the area to have a safe, welcoming environment that they can be themselves. The youth are the future of our Parish Family and our larger community, so these programs will help form them for years to come.
Thanksgiving Fills Hearts and Tummies
We had a record-breaking Thanksgiving Service program in 2019. Not only did we serve over 2200 people in Immokalee for Thanksgiving in the Park, our Parish Family single-handedly filled the entire Saint Vincent DePaul Naples Food Pantry with our food donations. From the brown bags of groceries to the over 200 turkeys brought to Mass for Take Your Turkey to Church Weekend, the generosity of our Parish Family was on full display. We then had hundreds of volunteers support the preparations and service of the meals at the Park, an army of love that included games for the children of Immokalee, enlivening Thanksgiving Day for those in need.
Building the Future of the Church: Christus Vivit
With the release of his most recent Exhortation, “Christus Vivit”, we have been given the direction from Our Holy Father that mirrors our programs and efforts exactly. From the Renewal of our Parish Mission through to the engagement of the various age groups with each other, to the specific emphasis on programs that integrate our faith into our daily lives, the message from the Pope is clear: the Parish Family of Saint John is focused on the future of the Church:
[W]e must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship.
If we journey together, young and old, we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future. To revisit the past in order to learn from history and heal old wounds that at times still trouble us. To look to the future in order to nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies and enable hope to blossom. Together, we can learn from one another, warm hearts, inspire minds with the light of the Gospel, and lend new strength to our hands.
Along these lines, our institutions should provide young people with places they can make their own, where they can come and go freely, feel welcome and readily meet other young people, whether at times of difficulty and frustration, or of joy and celebration. Some of this is already happening in oratories and other youth centres, which in many cases offer a friendly and relaxed setting where friendships can grow, where young men and women can meet one another, where they can share music, games, sports, but also reflection and prayer. In such places, much can be offered, without great expenditure of funds. Then too, the person-to-person contact indispensable for passing on the message can happen, something whose place cannot be taken by any pastoral resource or strategy.Pope Francis, Christus Vivit
2019 saw the formation of the Saint John Strategic Plan, our roadmap of who we want to be and how we will get there together as a Parish Family, led by Pope Francis’ message of the future of the Catholic Church. 2020 will see its implementation, and I am so blessed to be able to share in this journey with all of you. God Bless You and All You Love!