Moving Forward

Last summer when I first arrived, I set a vision for our organizational structure. All the items on that list of where we need to be are complete or in process. These tasks were essential for us to move forward to the next phase of parish renewal. The first phase of renewal was mostly an internal structural reorganization that was needed in order for two or more parishes to work together with one pastor. I envisioned that we needed an organizational structure that:

  • Has a centralized office and shared employees
  • Has a centralized workflow for funerals, weddings, and baptisms
  • Has one name under which all communications flow
  • Has a centralized database with CRM capabilities (customer relationship management software)

And so, it is time to move forward with the next phase of the vision that is a bit more churchy and fun (at least for me). Again, last summer when I arrived, I wrote another list of items of where I would like us to be in the near future. I’ve shared that vision with a small number of people and now it’s time to share it with a larger audience. I envision a church that:

  • Has one mission that drives everything we do
  • Has a clear path for discipleship growth
  • Helps people take next steps along that path
  • Equips people for the work of mission and ministry
  • Is more interested in raising givers than raising funds
  • Emphasizes and organizes outreach as one church
  • Creates community and faith maturity through small groups and steps
  • Offers prayerful, transcendent, and meaningful liturgies
  • Raises up leaders for mission to be sent to other parts of the city and world

I’m excited for this next phase. With the help of the Parish Councils and a church consultant group we will formalize our mission, vision, and strategic plan this coming year.

In Christ
Fr. Lorig – Pastor

Fr. Greg’s Retirement

Some of you are already aware that Fr. Greg Benkowski, former Pastor and now Senior Associate at St. Joan of Arc, officially retired in January. At the end of July, he will be moving to Wisconsin to be closer to family. His last Mass will be on July 24th at 5pm. If you know him at all, he doesn’t like to have a lot of attention directed towards him, which is why we haven’t made any early announcements, but in this final month he’ll have to put up with our saying goodbye and thanking him for his faithful service to our parish and archdiocese.

St. Joan of Arc Parish would like to set aside some time after the 5pm Mass on Saturday, July 17th to say goodbye and wish him all the best. After the Mass, we will have a reception with pizza and drinks in the gym. If you are not able to be present at the reception, please consider sending him a card, which can be mailed to the St. Joan of Arc address – 7430 Hascall St. Omaha, NE 68124.  

Communication Priorities

We continue to evaluate our communication strategies for Midtown Catholic. I recently stumbled upon this statement from a church communications blog.

Don’t prioritize communicating anything outside of your vision and discipleship plan.
Communication without purpose is just noise. As you define the journey that your church will guide people through, resist the urge to communicate anything that doesn’t fit within that process. Let your vision and discipleship path be the filter that all communication runs through. If it doesn’t make the cut, toss it out.

To be honest, this has given me some pause and a bit of heartache. It’s not the first time I’ve read something similar and while I would like to get us there someday, we are not in a position to communicate in this way for variety of reasons.

  1. We are going through transition and communicating the changes happening are absolutely necessary for those of you who are stakeholders in our family of parishes.
  2. We don’t really have a locked in “Vision and Discipleship Plan”. I have an idea of what those are, and we are discussing them internally, but I would like to go through a more formal process with our parish councils in the near future.
  3. Defining a journey that our church will guide people through is “not the way we’ve always (or ever) done it”. Internally, we call it a “clear path” and yes, we are discussing it as well. If the mission of the Church is to make disciples, then a parish ought to have a clear process with defined steps for a person to grow into a mature faith. Every church that is seeing growth whether it be Catholic or Protestant has committed to a “clear path” for its members.
  4. Finally, even with a fuzzy vision and mission, we generally know that our parishes exist to reach the lost and make disciples. That said, I feel guilty that we don’t currently offer anything extra outside Mass and some sacramental prep to help people mature in the faith. Be assured that this will not always be the case.

In Christ,
Fr. Jeff Lorig – Pastor

An Early Summer Update

The highlights below are far from an exhaustive list of the things happening in our parishes. While the schedule is different when school is not in session, things haven’t slowed down as there are many projects in motion.

Midtown Catholic

The name Midtown Catholic is beginning to appear a little more frequently in our bulletin articles and online. On the first weekend of July, our websites will direct viewers to, and we will have one bulletin for both parishes. As a reminder, the names of our parishes are not going away. The Midtown Catholic name merely refers to those things which our parishes do together.

Eric Keisling, our new Director of Finance and Operation, continues to immerse himself in the workings of both parishes. Essentially, he the business manager for both parishes. As part of the Pastor’s Senior Leadership Team, Eric handles the operational and administrative aspects of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More parishes to align with each parish’s overall mission and vision. He is responsible for the finance, administration, human resources, and general operations of both parishes. The position exists so that the Pastor may focus on the overall leadership of the two parishes.

Rachel Bielstein, our Coordinator of Religious Education, continues to work out the details of the new version of our Religious Education program, which will be geared more towards family formation. I believe this will become one of the more attractive assets of our parishes and not merely a consolation for those families who don’t attend our Catholic schools.

We’ve begun to implement a new database for our parishes called One Church Software. We’ll use this platform for all of our communications, volunteer scheduling, event registration, record keeping, and a whole lot more for both parishes. We’ll begin transferring the data for St. Thomas More this summer and St. Joan of Arc at a later date. We’ll continue to keep our old database active until January 2022.

St. Joan of Arc

We’ve been busy getting rooms ready to welcome the Dual Language Academy to our school building. The DLA should be all moved in by the end of this month. Merging our schools over the next few years will bring financial stability to our parish. If we do this right, it will also allow us to welcome new families into our parish who are looking for a home parish.

The Parish Council has been working on creating a new set of bylaws. At the end of this month, the council will ratify the new guidelines. These directives mean taking a new approach to how the council is run and mean we’ll need about 3 or 4 new members to the group. Details to come.

The trees around the campus have been cleaned up. Some of them were carrying disease and some were just dead.

St. Thomas More

We’ve been working with Leo Daly Architects since last fall to study our options for a new Parish Center. I haven’t spoken much about it because we were looking at needs and options. Initially, I wasn’t convinced a Parish Center was a priority, but after being here for a year, I see there is clearly a need for office and meeting space. We have made no firm plans, but we did send some sketches to the city planning office to
see what options we might have. We will be reviewing the city’s response this week.

The big tree green tree in front of the St. Thomas More rectory will be removed this week. Normally, I wouldn’t be in favor of cutting down trees, but this one is getting slightly out of hand.

-Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor

Re-envisioning Religious Ed

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rachel Bielstein. I joined St. Thomas More last year as the Coordinator of Religious Education. Beginning this summer, I will be overseeing the RE program for St. Joan of Arc as well. I am so excited to continue meeting all the incredible people in our family of parishes, Midtown Catholic!

Rachel Bielstein

A little bit about myself: I graduated from Creighton University with degrees in Musical Theatre and Theology. I love anything to do with music: I sing, play violin and piano, and enjoy cantoring at St. Thomas More, my home parish St. Mary’s Bellevue, and St. John’s at Creighton University. I also love to dance, and I teach part-time at Omaha Academy of Ballet. In my free time, I enjoy visiting with my friends and family, hiking, snow skiing, reading, trying all the sushi restaurants in Omaha, and playing with my cats.

A major project I am working on currently is one some of you already know about – re-envisioning the Religious Education program for both parishes. We are implementing a model of family formation that will encourage parents to grow in faith alongside their children. Parents are the most important teachers for their children, especially when it comes to teaching faith. Family Formation will equip parents with resources and community support to help them do this.

In Midtown Catholic’s Family Formation program, parents and children will gather twice a month to participate in activities and classes. During the first night, parents and children will attend separate workshops. The second night will see families staying together to participate in group activities with other families. Since this program represents both SJA and STM, each parish will host Family Formation nights, and we will alternate which location we are at every month. I hope that this program
will help families from our parishes become friends because community is essential!

Another dream I have for Midtown Catholic is to bring more performing arts and music ministry opportunities to our parishioners. Throughout my life, I have seen the arts bring people together as well as contribute to community and personal prayer life. Fr. Lorig recently gave me permission to start a youth choir for our parishes, and you will hear more about this later in the summer. I also hope to bring some seasonal music and performance ministry events to our community.

I believe these new programs and ministries will be very positive for our community. I look forward to sharing them with you!

Coordinator of Religious Education
Rachel Bielstein


Meet Eric Keisling

Hello! My name is Eric Keisling, and I am excited to be joining Midtown Catholic as your Director of Finance and Operations. Prior to joining Midtown Catholic, I served as a campaign manager for one of the candidates running for Mayor of Omaha this past Spring. Before joining the campaign, I worked at TD Ameritrade for four years as a Senior Resource Desk Specialist, helping our associates and clients with complex financial questions and problems.

Eric and Kylie Keisling

I attended Benedictine College for my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and I am currently studying at night to earn my Master of Science in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. While at Benedictine, I competed on the Track and Cross-Country teams and continue to love running to this day.

After college, I volunteered for several years at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s Overflow Youth Group, the same youth group that I attended throughout high school. It was a wonderful experience to give back to the same youth group that helped me grow to love Jesus and the Sacraments during my formative years.

Outside of work and school, I enjoy traveling and going out to eat with my lovely wife, Kylie, and playing fetch with our rambunctious Australian Shepherd dog, Ruby. Kylie can attest that I am a big history and literature buff. For instance, we most recently visited Hannibal, Missouri, to see the childhood home of Mark Twain.

I am very excited to be joining the team here at Midtown Catholic. St. Joan of Arc and St Thomas More are both wonderful parishes, and it will be a fun challenge to bring them together. As Director of Finance and Operations, I plan to integrate prayer and strong, healthy financial practices to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible for you, the parishioners. Going forward we hope to make Midtown Catholic a model for other combined parishes to follow.

In the coming weeks and months, I ask that you pray for Fr. Lorig, the staff of Midtown Catholic, and myself as we continue these transitions. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Eric Keisling
Director of Finance and Operations

Adoration for Vocations

Dear Parishioners of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More,

In the not-too-distant future you will be seeing an article in the Catholic Voice concerning some needed prayers.  The Archbishop is asking for prayers for vocations.  He has obviously been asking for these all along, but this is different.  Most of you started hearing about the problems of a priest shortage from me two years ago.  Fr. Lorig has been sharing some of the statistics.  Two years ago it was projected that we would probably have at least twenty less priests ten years from then.  By my calculations, the first year of that countdown, we had a net loss of eleven priests.  This year I estimate a net loss of four.  We have no ordinations to the priesthood this year.  Next year we will hopefully have two ordinations, one will be Minh Tran who spent a year and St. Thomas More.  In two years we were hoping for three ordinations.  Right now it looks like that is down to one.  The Archbishop is realizing that the number of twenty could end up double that amount, so he is asking for our help.

On the day we would have had an ordination, Saturday, Jun 5th, he is going to have an hour of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration at the Cathedral in place of the ordination Mass.  He is also asking others to have the same kind of adoration time in their parishes.  He is also asking for a week of prayer leading up to that date.  Parishes are encouraged to pick one day to during that week from Sunday, 5/30 to Saturday, 6/5 and dedicate it to prayers for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament.

I am hoping you will join me in doing our part in this project.  We need the Holy Spirit to be working hard in our archdiocese or we will need to come up with an even more drastic plan for how priests will be working in years to come.  After working with the STM Vocation Committee, here is the plan we have come up with. 

St. Joan of Arc, which is one of the very few parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha that has Eucharistic Exposition everyday, will have the fewest changes but the most opportunities for extra prayer.  Throughout the whole week we ask people to come and pray to SJA and spend as much time before the Blessed Sacrament as possible, praying for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. 

At St. Thomas More Church there will be one day of focused prayer, Tuesday, Jun 1st.  It will start with Exposition after the 7:00am Mass and end with Benediction and a special prayer service that I will lead from 9-10pm.  On Saturday, June 5th, there will be a similar hour of prayer with Benediction at St. Joan of Arc from 10-11am, that I will also lead.

This time of prayer is for everyone.  I really encourage families to participate.  If the next generations do not understand that God might be calling them to serve Him, it becomes a roadblock to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Please watch for more information in the Catholic Voice on the situation, and the hopes and prayers of the Archbishop.

God bless you all,
Fr. Frank, Senior Associate

Saint Thomas More will host a DAY OF PRAYER for Vocations on Tuesday, June 1st with Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration starting at 7:30am and continuing all day until the Benediction, which will run from 9:00pm – 10:00pm.

Sign up for an hour or more of adoration. 

The General Dispensation is Ending!

The Archbishop is ending the general dispensation from the obligation to participate in Sunday Mass effective the weekend of Pentecost, May 22-23.

We will continue to sanitize the pews, reserve some sections for social distancing, refrain from the sign of peace, and hold off on receiving from the chalice. Slowly we will resume having altar servers and bringing up the gifts. Mask wearing will be enforced as long as the city mandates it and will be highly encouraged when it does

Those who are prevented from attending Mass due to advanced age, sickness, disability, or some other serious reason are excused. For those who are unable to attend, we will continue to provide Mass via livestream.

SJA Garage Sale

You can help with the success of the Garage Sale by displaying a sign in your year. Signs are available in the Gathering Area for you to pick up to advertise our parish garage sale June 3-5. Please take one or more signs and spread them around town…at your home, work or business. Just make sure you ask first. Signs must be placed off the city right-of-way (between the sidewalk and street) then picked up and returned to church after the sale.

Got some items you want to donate? Garage sale drop off and pricing is May 27-June 2 (no drop off on Memorial Day May 31) and the sale is June 3-5.

We need lots of help. The volunteer sign-up sheet is in the Gathering Area. We need both adult and student volunteers. This is a great way to get volunteer hours for school. In order for this sale to be successful, we need everyone’s help to get the word out.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase books and supplies for St. Joan of Arc school. Thank you in advance for your help and support.