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

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 http://www.midtowncatholic.church, 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
rjbielstein@midtowncatholic.church

402-556-1456

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
ejkeisling@midtowncatholic.church
402-556-1456

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
not.

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.

A Midtown Catholic Parish Puzzle

When I began writing this article last week, it was the same week Fr. Frank was on vacation. While the workload was not much different than other weeks and Fr. Greg at St. Joan of Arc is a big help, it did get me thinking. How are we going to do daily Masses, school Masses, and funeral Masses when we have three parishes and only two priests?

It’s not like I didn’t know this situation was coming, but the blunt reality of it hit me pretty hard this week for some reason. So, being the problem solver that I am, I started considering some different scenarios. Answers were not coming easily. The puzzle really distracted me even during my quiet prayer time in the morning. I wish I could say God gave me an answer and I solved the puzzle, but He didn’t. Rather, I was beginning to envision all the conversations about who gets what Mass, when, and where. I became very discouraged. I began to envision all the difficult and possibly
heated discussions with parishioners about what is fair for each parish. I even began to imagine a strange competition among neighboring parishes for retired or resident priests to live at their rectories so that a parish would not have to change its Mass schedule. I began to envision a very siloed church made up of financially competing parishes, competing for parishioners and money. It’s a scene that would make Jesus roll over in his tomb if He hadn’t already risen from
the dead, of course.

Every pastor faces this dilemma. When you change your Mass schedule, you risk making parishioners mad and losing them. When you lose parishioners, you lose revenue; and when you lose revenue, you risk losing programs, ministries, and extra capitol for building improvements. At the heart of it for most pastors though, is that we risk being a failure, or at least looking like one to others. Yes, because we are human and sometimes not very holy, we pastors often find comfort in our self-importance and false sense of success.

So maybe God did give me an answer. Turns out, the puzzle I was trying to solve was how to make everyone happy, which is impossible. And it turns out, that’s not my task as pastor. My task is to ensure that the word of God is proclaimed in a compelling and effective manner, that the sacraments are reasonably available to all those within our parish boundaries, and that our parishioners join in the mission of reaching more people for Jesus Christ so that more people know that Jesus Christ is within reach. Whatever decisions are made, whether it be about Mass schedules, personnel, or programs, they have to be based on what is best for the whole and not just what is “fair” for a particular parish. We are in this together as a family of parishes. Every parish will have a part to play, but not every parish will have the same part to play.

The real puzzle to solve here at our Midtown Catholic parishes has nothing to do with Mass schedules but has everything to do with how to achieve our ultimate mission to “go and make disciples.” This is what success looks like.

-Fr. Lorig

Job Opportunity

Director of Finance and Operations

Description

Department: Finance and Operations
Reports to: The Pastor

As part of the Pastor’s Senior Leadership Team, the Director of Finance and Operations handles the operational and administrative aspects of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More parishes to align with the parishes’ overall mission and vision. He/she is responsible for the finance, administration, human resources, and overall operations of both parishes. The position exists so that the Pastor may focus on the overall leadership of the two parishes.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities

– Attends Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings and collaborates with SLT members to execute the parish vision.
– Carries and communicates parish vision to key constituents and groups within the parishes and schools.
– Is an ex officio member of the parish Finance Councils and committees.
– Provides leadership and support to the financial, maintenance, and clerical personnel.
– Develops and maintains accurate and timely financial/demographic information.
– Establishes and oversee parishes’ internal controls and financial due diligence.
– Budgets and facilitates plans for short-term/long-term financial requirements of the parishes.
– Has oversight of employee payroll, benefits, and training.
– Develops and maintains employee policies.
– Oversees maintenance/building improvement projects with maintenance team and committees to ensure they are completed in a timely fashion and within budget.

Requirements

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
– Active, practicing Roman Catholic in full communion with the Catholic Church, with a demonstrated commitment to prayer and continued formation.
– Sound understanding of generally accepted accounting principles
– Comprehensive knowledge of payroll/related tax issues and accounts payable.
– Ability to adapt and apply knowledge and skills to a variety of parish situations that may occur.
– Demonstrated organizational skills, capable of overseeing multiple projects simultaneously, and prioritizing activity.
– Strong communication skills and effective use of Microsoft Office suite.
– Ability to work and lead from within a team.
– Demonstrated ability to maintain confidentiality in dealing with sensitive information.
– Availability on evenings, weekends, and occasional extended periods as needed.

Education and Experience
– Minimally, 3-5 years of progressive and relevant accounting/financial/business experience and applicable college course work/degree.

Application Instructions

Send a cover letter stating your interest and qualifications for the position, a current resume, and 2 or 3 references including names and contact information to Father Jeff Lorig at jplorig@archomaha.org or to 4804 Grover Street, Omaha, NE 68016.

Fr. Frank Has Class

Many of you have had the chance to be a part of the Alpha program. It is a great way to work on developing faith. The next opportunity for Alpha won’t be until next fall. Between now and then, I would like to offer you a different kind of opportunity. A little over three years ago I wrote a book. It is printed but not published. It is not a finished product. I have been presenting the material in several different ways. This May, I will be presenting it at STM on Sunday mornings from 9:00-10:15am in the school cafeteria. The book is designed to be discussed and not just read. For this reason each session will involve discussion time to look at key issues that are affecting our faith experience.

The first class will be on May 2nd. The name of the book is: “Kingdom, the Word We No Longer See.” It looks at how we have lost some of the understanding of our faith because we no longer live in kingdom cultures as Jews and Christians did until the past couple centuries. Each person will either receive a printed copy or an electronic copy of the manuscript. The class will be finished by the end of the month of May. This summer, I will do the same class at SJA.

I can pretty much guarantee that you will learn many things in this class. It will help you tie aspects of your faith together and may even help you explain your faith to others in a way that most people find easy to understand. That is what I hope you get out of the class. What I hope to get from the participants in the class are ways to improve on how the book is written. As I mentioned, I have printed copies of the book, but it is not published. You can help me in spotting weaknesses in how it is written. This is the process that I have been working on for the last three years.

A few of the questions that I will be dealing with are as follows:

  • If God loves me, like we always hear, then why is life so hard?
  • If God’s love is unconditional, then how can there be a hell?
  • If there is a hell, how bad can it be?
  • And, along with many others; how does Jesus, the King of kings, fit into this?

I hope you can join me for this class. Hopefully, you know my preaching style well enough by now, to trust me that it will not be dull.

Fr. Frank

A New Season

A New Name

With this new season of Easter upon us, it is time to announce some changes that are in the works for both St. Thomas More and St. Joan of Arc. I’m not going to mention all the changes here in this one bulletin article, so be sure to check back from time to time. I’ll try to overcommunicate some of these items as they are important and will take some getting used to.

As most of you are aware, we do not have enough priests in the Archdiocese of Omaha to serve as pastors of every individual parish. The scarcity of priests will only increase in the near future as we look at the priest retirements coming up and number of seminarians currently preparing for ordination. Rather than close parishes, medium to small size parishes that have seen a significant decline in Sunday Mass attendance and other sacraments (pre-covid) are likely to be grouped together with other nearby parishes. Parishes are not merging, which implies a closing of parishes, rather, they are grouped together as a network or family of parishes sharing a pastor, a Mass schedule, and other resources like staff, ministries, meeting and office space.

To help pastors keep their sanity and for all the parishes to run efficiently, operations from bookkeeping, maintenance and scheduling to funeral, marriage, and baptism prep, will be centralized from one office staff. To operate as one, it will be helpful to use one name in reference to our family of parishes.
After much brainstorming, suggestions, and discussion, both Parish Councils have approved a shared name. Starting July 1, 2021, the name Midtown Catholic will go live.

Practically, what will this mean for us?

  • One Midtown Catholic bulletin will be published. Separate pages will give specific information for each parish when needed.
  • Our current parish websites will be redirected to one Midtown Catholic website.
  • You will see the Midtown Catholic in emails sent from the parish.
  • One phone number will used to receive the most common parish inquiries and you will hear the name Midtown Catholic used when answering.

This is a new season for the Church in the United States. Almost every diocese in the country is either in the midst of these changes or 10 years behind in planning for the changes. Because some of our pastors here in the archdiocese have been delaying retirement, we’ve been able to buy a few more years, but time is running out. Our approach here in the Archdiocese of Omaha, rather than close parishes, is for parishes to truly work together to combine their efforts in the mission of making disciples.

My goal as pastor is to get Midtown Catholic, that is, our family of parishes in the heart of Omaha, ready for this challenge, ready to for this new season, ready to focus on our mission. A name will not magically make that happen, but it is a first and very necessary step in working as one church.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Jeff Lorig