Shall we drive over to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Plymouth, Michigan, parish where Catholic radio luminary Rev. John Riccardo is pastor? Fr. Riccardo, his pastoral team and their creative energy have made OLGC something of a destination parish, located not far from Ann Arbor and sharing in the Detroit archdiocese’s zeal for evangelization.
But the outreach work flourishing at OLGC reduces the need for physical transportation in order to tap many of the insights shared among the parish’s missionary disciples. Resources can be found online and on the air—at places like the parish website, Ave Maria Radio and its archive of “Christ is the Answer” programs, as well as Fr. Riccardo’s podcast site.
The digital menu of initiatives serving the approximately 12,000 parishioners in Plymouth includes RCIA and marriage preparation, as well as widespread adoption of the “Alpha” program that introduces participants to the everyday importance of faith in Jesus.
Many tools of the new evangelization seem to be available with smartphone simplicity, but there’s often a compelling need to show up, seek information and understanding, respond with trust and commit to a sometimes-mysterious roadmap.
One of OLGC’s latest projects, soon to be receiving more publicity, is based on a transportation metaphor, and its message might be summed up this way: Welcome to our parish community and our worship, but get ready to be on the road again, where your relationship with Jesus Christ will drive you forward and sustain your sense of direction.
The new program with this message is called “Rerouting”—a reference to the word a GPS system might speak while fine-tuning your path to your destination. You’ll find access to this program’s video and written resources at a robust part of the OLGC website. It came together last year over many weeks after planning which began in mid-2016.
Now, a “Rerouting” book is due to be published within months to help more parishes spread this instruction for encountering Christ more deeply in the Mass, especially in the Liturgy of the Word. Dioceses and parishes may want to order this book.
“If I were to talk to pastors, I’d ask them if they think most people in their parish understand what’s going on when the lectionary is being proclaimed,” said Fr. Riccardo in comments recently furnished to SPES in an online interview. “If the answer is no, I’d ask them if it would be helpful to find a way to explain it to them in a condensed fashion so that they can get more out of the first part of the Mass, which is a real encounter with Jesus and His Word.”
“Rerouting” helps Catholics understand the “narrative arc” of the Bible so they can get more out of the Mass readings and homily, said Mary Guilfolyle, coordinator of evangelization and discipleship at OLGC. When the presider sends them forth, congregations have a better grasp of how the readings were related to each other and to their daily lives, contributing to the parish’s goal of life-changing encounters with Jesus for every parishioner.
The implementation of “Rerouting” in early 2017 was expected to bear fruit within the parish and beyond, as people brought their deeper spiritual relationships to others, and the fruit is indeed growing, Guilfoyle told SPES this month. Implementation involved homilies and accompanying notes during Sunday Masses for 14 weeks, plus “deeper dive” sessions with conversations and Q&A on Wednesday evenings.
“We’ve seen some new parish initiatives be brought to birth as a result of Alpha and Rerouting,” she reported. “We’re not sure if we know all of the fruit just yet, but we would say that in light of our recent parish mission, given by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, where he presented on ‘What Happens at Mass,’ we have a strong sense people were able to receive his teaching because of the soil that was tilled by way of Rerouting. People are in a new place in just one year.”
The process included inviting parishioners to sign a commitment card. It stated in part that the individual had decided “to surrender the ownership of my life to the Good Father.” Each signatory asked, “Please use me so that I may bring one more to you.” As Fr. Riccardo put it in one of his videos, each bold statement of trust in God promised “to take my hand off the wheel, slide over into the passenger seat and say, okay, you drive.”
More than 4,100 parishioners submitted commitment cards, said Guilfolyle. She has seen signs that people are more engaged in Sunday Mass, welcoming more in-depth homilies and taking notes during them.
The resources from the 14 weeks, archived online, are grouped according to themes with travel and roadway metaphors, such as “Bridge Out,” “Fog Area,” “Road Work Ahead” and “Emergency Vehicle Entrance.”
Where will “Rerouting” lead? Fr. Riccardo made it clear that the life-changing encounters being sought through God’s Word and the Mass must keep people in motion toward the Church and the world. He said the overall goal is for a parish to move from “maintenance mode” to “mission mode.” Openness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in real time precludes an accurate prediction of how that shift will be accomplished.
Fr. Riccardo said in one of the videos he hopes parishioners, who are asking “what’s next?” after their participation in Rerouting, will bring an attractive beauty of faithful love to the world. This witness extends to marriage and families, where spouses must make God tangible to each other.
We’re commanded to engage and interact with a world whose views are often contrary to our own, the pastor said. No road rage on this journey of evangelization. We must engage, but “always and only with charity—never rudely, never brashly.”