This Vineyard Needs Room to Grow

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Over 80 years ago, God planted a vineyard in Waynesboro VA. With a bequest from Mrs. Margaret Burns of Staunton, those who tended this vineyard sought initially to meet the needs of a Catholic community in the Shenandoah valley between Staunton and Charlottesville. And for the first 80 years of this parish’s existence, that was most likely a realistic and manageable goal. But as chief caretaker of this vineyard now for the last 8 years, I can tell we have far exceeded the expectations of our forebears. My partners in the care of this vineyard, after some rough patches, have come to delight in their work—of binding, trimming, even fertilizing. They have achieved some measure of success, especially in identifying and equipping other workers in common vision and mission. And our vines are robust, well-suited for all manner of challenge, full of life and promise. We have contended with weeds, thorns and rocks, slugs, and other critters hungry for sustenance. The marketplace has also seen some volatility, but our excellent financial stewardship has kept us stable in difficult times. Our fortunes have attracted some notice as well. Caretakers of other vineyards have acknowledged our resilience. And as we have heard recently, the vineyard isn’t really a vineyard, and I’m not really a caretaker of vines. And in God’s eyes, our salvation is indeed a most significant priority.

As chief caretaker of this particular vineyard of the Lord, which is not really a vineyard, a number of areas shine, where along with the talents and enthusiasm of my partners in ministry, I strongly believe the vine spreads farther and grows stronger, continuing to yield good fruit—Adult Faith Formation, Ministry to Children and Families, Ministry to Recent Immigrants, Service Outreach to our Local Community, our Music Ministry, to name a few. We explore ways to provide parishioners with effective tools to live their Christian discipleship with greater authenticity. And on many occasions, they have stepped up in roles of leadership, discerning their gifts for the spread of the kingdom, and discovering new and creative ways to serve God’s people.

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These past 3 or 4 years I have invited both ministry partners and members of our parish to listen for the Spirit’s voice, exdplore their giftedness, and dream a bright future, extending even beyond our turn at stewardship. We possess amazing talent, energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to venture farther afield for the Kingdom of God. We have adjusted schedules, repurposed physical spaces, and attempted new endeavors in response to our people’s needs to nourish our faith and life together. And I believe the time has come for our dream to come to fulfillment.

I am always eager for the Holy Spirit to ignite a renewed vision and zeal for mission among our people here at St. John the Evangelist Church. Whenever I have invited parishioners to listen to God speak what the church needs, I have received the most enthusiastic response from those parishioners already immersed in the life-giving ministries of our church. We cannot be content to rest on our laurels. We cannot fear that the work of renewal belongs to yet another generation. Neither can we leave the vineyard at the end of our tenancy much as we found it. Instead, we can seize a most exciting opportunity to begin our second century with renewed hope and energy. Our little Catholic community in the Shenandoah valley can become a center for Christian renewal in body and spirit, not only for our own people, but for others in our portion of the Diocese of Richmond, and for our local civic community.

Through these years of slow but steady growth, I have brought my own fears and concerns, and my hopes and dreams to prayer. I have listened patiently for the voice of the Holy Spirit. I was hesitant at first, not knowing whether others have heard the Holy Spirit speak as well, and if there would be support from everyone else in the vineyard to forge ahead. I was afraid my vision was of my own making. But powerful forces beckon me over the edge. I have never attempted anything like this before. But a group of influential, generous, and willing parishioners have encouraged me to make a case for expansion. They are confident we can achieve something truly wonderful. Opportunity knocks. And they are convinced we might never get another chance.

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My sisters and brothers, the Lord’s vineyard in Waynesboro needs room to grow. We need adequate room to celebrate the church’s liturgy with proper care and honor. We need adequate room to raise our young people to know and love God through education and service toward their neighbor. We need adequate room to gather and celebrate fellowship with one another. We need adequate room to plan and execute our outreach in service to the larger community beyond our walls. We need adequate parking space so all who desire can participate in the life and mission of our parish. And we need adequate facilities to accommodate those with physical challenges. Furthermore if we so choose, we can expand our mission toward other Catholics, other Christian believers, and other people of good will by providing a place of prayer, study, fellowship, and renewal.

As on many other occasions, I am going to need your help. I will need a team of 6 to 8 parishioners to flesh out the specifics of a plan to bring before you, and eventually, the Diocesan Building & Renovation Commission by the spring of next year. In time I will authorize the use of parish resources to hire professionals to assist in this work. That is the only decision I have made in this endeavor thus far. If you share my hope and excitement for a bright future, and if you think you have talents to put to use for this project, I invite you to step forward. On Monday morning, our parish office will send all registered households an invitation to be part of this venture. I invite anyone interested to volunteer in whatever capacity you are able—to form part of the planning team, to gather necessary information, to make a financial commitment, to stuff envelopes and make phone calls, to communicate important information to our people, and to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help. There will be a response form in the mailing asking your name, email, and phone number, how you want to help, and if you want to receive email updates. I hope to announce the planning team in two weeks.

I will want to provide our people with current and relevant information every step of the way. So if you give me the best possible team, we will accomplish every task in a timely manner. We invoke the favor and intercession of Blessed Mary our Mother, and St. John the Evangelist our patron. We place ourselves wholeheartedly at the service of the Lord in his vineyard, and with God’s help, we will reap a bountiful harvest.

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Rolo B Castillo © 2014