Small Church Communities (1988 – present)
Where two or three meet together in my name, I shall be there with them. (Mt.18:20)
Small Church Communities at Good Shepherd are small groups of ordinary people connecting life and faith on a regular basis.
It all started in 1988 when Monsignor Peter Chiara, Pastor of St. Mary’s in East Islip, invited Father Art Baranowski to our Diocese to present his model for creating Small Church Communities. Father Baranowski had written several books including, Creating Small Church Communities: A Plan for Restructuring the Parish and Renewing Catholic Life. This was the NAPRC (National Alliance of Parishes Restructuring Church) model. Monsignor Chiara discussed this with Father Tom.
Father Tom and a few parishioners attended a multi-parish meeting at St. Ursula’s in Blue Point about this NAPRC model. The guest speaker was Father Art Baranowski who introduced the process of restructuring and renewing parishes with Small Church Communities.
Sister Lillian had already brought a plan, a “skeleton” for developing community to Good Shepherd. The staff met every sixth Monday for prayer and reflection and arrived at decisions by consensus and not majority rule. They felt the first step in restructuring the parish would be for themselves to model community for the parish at large.
The staff decided that a program was needed that would educate parishioners who would then experience leadership roles in the parish. This program was Genesis II. The first time the Genesis II Program took place at Good Shepherd in 1983, it offered an opportunity for people to pray together in small groups, connecting life and faith. Sister Lillian said, “We could not expect a building to create a community. We needed to develop a group of unified people, before we could fill the building.”
In the beginning of the development of Small Church Communities, parishioners had a second opportunity to experience the Genesis II Program. From October 16, 1990, to March 26, 1991, Good Shepherd used Genesis II as a beginner program on a path to creating Small Church Communities.
During Genesis II, on March 6, 1991, the CORE TEAM for Small Church Communities met for the first time. CORE met regularly to work through all of the programs, prior to introducing them to parishioners, so as to “midwife” the process. First they used a program named Called to Be Church from March 21, 1991, to April 17, 1991. Praying Alone & Together followed Called to Be Church. It began on September 24, 1991, and ended on November 26, 1991, with a closing service on December 11, 1991. The CORE Team consisted of Father Thomas Spadaro, Sister Lillian deLorme, Peggy Nelson, Eileen Schlee, Terry Sexton, and Kathy Weissman. In subsequent years Brian DeMurley, Sandy Gomes, Ed Hartmann, Debbie Henderson, Ann Hernandez, Mary Lazzaro and Patty Morello were a part of CORE.
On October 17, 1991, letters went out inviting the future Pastoral Facilitators to attend training sessions which would start right after the New Year. From Monday, January 13 to Wednesday, January 15, 1992, some of the CORE for Small Church Communities attended a two-day workshop with Father Art Baranowski at the Huntington Seminary to learn more about Small Church Communities.
Training for the first 12 Pastoral Facilitators took place from January 8, 1992, to February 12, 1992, and after the training they attended a Pastoral Facilitators’ retreat at the Siena Spirituality Center in Watermill on February 28 and 29, 1992. They were Marisa Bacani, Pat Belz, Pat Bondi, Tony Chiarella, Elyse Hodson, Marietta Mastropolo, Terry Sexton, Sue and Bill Swift, Kathy Travis, Alice Tyrie and Lorraine Yovino. On Saturday May 2, 1992, the Pastoral Facilitators attended an all-day facilitator’s workshop at St. Joseph’s in Babylon.
On April 30, 1992, Fathers Elsworth R. Walden and Ralph R. Sommer of St. Thomas More Parish in Hauppauge hosted a meeting of several parishes on Long Island that were restructuring with Small Church Communities. The Good Shepherd CORE Members attended. Father Thomas L. Spadaro of Good Shepherd, Father Gerard A. Ringenback of St. Peter the Apostle in Islip Terrace, and Father Elsworth R. Walden of St. Thomas More Parish, alternately hosted monthly meetings. These three parishes formed an Alliance of Parishes Restructuring with Small Church Communities.
The first Pastoral Facilitator meeting took place on May 11, 1992, and continues on the second Monday of the month to the present day.
The first Small Church Community Information Session occurred at the State of the Parish meeting on May 22, 1992. Members of CORE made presentations to the parishioners.
The second group of Pastoral Facilitators received their training from April 29, 1992 to June 3, 1992, and after the training they attended a Pastoral Facilitators’ retreat at the Siena Spirituality Center in Watermill June 12-13, 1992. They were Anne Allen, Mary Lou Curran, Bea Curry, Elaine DeLuca, Terry and Lido Ghezzi, Marge and Peter Henaghan, Gene Jamison, Ed McGay, and Karen Olsen.
The second Small Church Community Information Session happened on June 2, 1992. There was a picnic on July 18, 1992, and a covered dish supper on January 30, 1993. The first Small Churches were then created on June 8, 1993, from groups that had experienced the Genesis II program, the Praying Alone and Together program, and the Creating Small Church Communities program, all facilitated by a trained Pastoral Facilitator.
Every Small Church is involved in the following activities:
- Mutual support and faith sharing
- Prayer and ritual
- On-going formation in Scripture and Tradition that enables tangible connections between faith and life
- Outreach beyond the Small Church
In the relationships that form by sharing faith and life, Small Church members deepen their personal commitment to loving and supporting one another. The Small Churches at Good Shepherd wrote letters of affirmation to Confirmation Candidates. They host the Mardi Gras every year, donate school supplies in the Fall, and donate gift Baskets for the Chinese Auction in November, as well as other outreach that each Small Church may have adopted.
In 2014, 15 Pastoral Facilitators and 11 Small Church Communities continue to meet with Father John Rufus as Staff liaison, since Sister Lillian deLorme’s retirement in July 2012 and Father Tom’s retirement in 2013.
There are currently 77 members of the parish in Small Church Communities.
In 2018, due to the death of two of our Pastor Facilitators, Elaine DeLuca and Richard Griffin and the relocation of Pat Belz, we have 11 Pastoral Facilitators with two more in training.
Thank you to the History Committee for their extensive work putting together the beautiful story of our parish
a special thank you to Terry Sexton the committee chair who gave so much of her time to the endeavor.