This morning I was listening to Catholic Connection over the Internet. One of the guests was Kurt Klement, Director of High School Ministry for St. Ann Parish in Coppell, Texas.
St. Ann is located in the rapidly growing Dallas-Fort Worth area and it is a huge parish. With some 8,400 families and 27,000 individual parishioners, it completely eclipses most of our local parishes. Still, there is a lot to be learned from St. Ann.
Outside of its size, St. Ann seems unremarkable in many ways. Average weekend Mass attendance is around 28%. 54% of the families contribute through envelopes or similar means, with the average family donation running around $9.00 a week.
Two things, though, make St. Ann Parish stand out. The first is Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The parish has a separate adoration chapel where at least one person is present adoring Our Lord 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The chapel was built in response to a call from Pope John Paul II and is dedicated to him "for an increase in vocations from the parish."
The second is the parish's focus on youth. St. Ann does not have a Catholic school. Instead, it relies on religious education programs and youth ministry to form the next generation of Catholics. And it makes that formation a priority: Last year the parish spent 9% of its operating budget on religious education programs and another 13.6% on tween and teen ministry.
A part of the latter is its high school ministry program which is overseen by 3 full-time parish staff members assisted by a large team of trained "core" volunteers. According to the parish's annual report,
St. Ann is a parish that values youth ministry, and this is bearing remarkable fruit as this year the High School Ministry had over 600 teens in grades 9-12 from over 30 different high schools involved. St. Ann High School Ministry continues to try to provide a variety of experiences for the youth of our parish highlighted by youth involvement in the 4:30 p.m. youth Mass followed by weekly youth nights. Also, through Bible studies, retreats, service projects, pro-life outreach, and an annual mission trip we hope to continue to expose the teens to the riches of the Catholic Church and the beauty of living a life of faith.
We continue to be grateful for all that God has done here and the ways He continues to work in the lives of the teens who have been involved with our ministry. Many former participants in the high school ministry are now leaders in their college Newman Centers. This past summer we had our first youth ministry intern—a young man who has grown up in the parish, was involved in the high school ministry, and is studying in college to be a youth minister after graduation. We also continue to see many beautiful vocations to the married life as well as two additional young men from St. Ann entering seminary this year for a total of 11 young men from our parish in formation for the priesthood or religious life. We feel blessed to have had some part in helping to prepare and form these young men and women for a continuing life of faith.
Many of the parish's teens have experienced life changing encounters with Jesus, either at adoration or during retreats, according to Mr. Klement. This is borne out by the fact that 15 young men from the parish have entered the seminary over the last few years and, while four have discerned that this was not their calling, 11 are still there.
To put this number in perspective, 11 seminarians from this parish of 27,000 Catholics would be comparable to 128 seminarians from our diocese of 314,000 Catholics.
DOR, however, currently has 6 seminarians.
All of which leads to two questions for Bishop Clark:
1. What are they doing that we aren't?
2. Why aren't we?