Is working as a minister of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of San Bernardino just another job?
To many, the answer to this question would be an obvious ‘no.’
At the same time, a need has been identified to help employees of parishes, Catholic schools and the Diocesan Pastoral Center keep focused on the mission of the Diocese as they go about their daily work. Beginning this ministerial year, a new Diocesan Office of Mission Integration will be charged with setting this focus.
Sister Linda Nicholson, CSJ, a longtime minister in Catholic education in the Diocese, has been named the Office’s first director. Though she admits her new position takes her “out of her comfort zone,” Sr. Linda said there is a connection to her past ministry as a Catholic school teacher, principal and associate superintendent.
“It was always about Catholic identity,” she said, “how we can be sure it is being built up in our schools.”
Now, Sr. Linda will provide proactive support and training to parishes and ministries in building up Catholic identity in their workplaces. The idea for this new ministry began to take root in February of 2016 when Bishop Gerald Barnes devoted much of his talk at the Annual Combined Vicariate Meeting to the need for employees to improve their customer service skills when people come to the church in difficult circumstances.
“They come to us looking for a place to find hope, God’s Mercy. Do they find it?” Bishop Barnes said during his talk. “….or do they find someone who’s impatient, because they don’t want to be bothered? Who won’t listen to their unique story because they’ve heard it already? Are they greeted with rules that never bend and that are set in a way that belittles and demeans?”
Receiving those in crisis with grace and mercy is prerequisite to Catholic ministry, Bishop Barnes urged. “I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is our calling, it is our mission, it is why we exist.”
The Mission Integration Office will encourage employees to keep in mind these core ideas:
• Promote a culture of hospitality, respect and inclusion
• Treat your ministry as sacred – come to work with joy and passion
• It is through the quality of our PRESENCE that MISSION gets done
• Does this place live and breathe the Diocesan Mission and Core Values?
With the busyness of daily ministry, multi-tasking and the sheer volume of demands, the spirit of mission can get lost. This was a clear message that emerged from meetings that Sr. Nicholson has had with Diocesan office directors, parish pastors and pastoral coordinators and ministry leaders.
“There are situations out there that are toxic,” she said. “That’s why this thing of customer service and being the first responder is so important.”
Sr. Nicholson is the sole employee of the new Mission Integration Office but she is assembling a Resource Team of active ministers from each of the six vicariates of the Diocese to assist her. The team’s activities will include holding mini-retreats, facilitating Mission-focused staff meetings, offering hospitality training and coaching priests and parish staffs in collaborative team-building.
One symbolic strategy put forth by the Mission Integration Office will be to have short passages from scripture, and the Diocesan Impact Statement and Core Values printed on the check stubs given to Diocesan, parish and school employees. Some passages will include “The people had one mind to work.” (Neh. 4:6) and “First be reconciled.” (Matt. 5:23).