A Faith Community

Second Homily

Dear Parish Family of St. Thomas of Villanova,

This week I was at a day long meeting with Archbishop Blase J. Cupich and other Archdiocesan priests regarding a new Archdiocesan-wide Parish Planning Process. The study looked at trends such as pastor availability, mission vitality, operating viability and capital needs. Many changes have occurred since the parish system was created decades ago. Factors such as population patterns, ethnicity shifts, Catholicity shifts, as well as decline in Mass attendance have affected many of the parishes in the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is now beginning to assess the implications of these changes and will embark on a long-range highly inclusive planning process with the dual goals of serving the pastoral needs of the faithful and strengthening parish vitality.  

I share with you Archbishop Blase Cupich’s letter concerning this new important endeavor:  

These are exciting days for the Church in America with Pope Francis inspiring Catholics and non- Catholics alike during his visit to the United States . From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has continually called us to missionary discipleship.  

In his homily in Philadelphia, he challenged all of us to explore new ways so that our Church can be more equipped to carry on the mission of Christ: “One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to c hanged situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit open s up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”  

In my year in Chicago, I have been inspired by many of you and have great hope for our future. The joy of the Gospel is alive in Chicago. I have also been learning of many realities that challenge us to evaluate how we work as parishes to share the joy of the Gospel into the future. The Holy Father is right, we should be attentive to the reality before us. We know that the landscape of the Church in Chicago has changed since many of our parishes were founded, with demographics shifting greatly over time. Some of our parishes have aging facilities that cost more to re pair than we have. We also have fewer priests available to pastor our parishes. We are sometimes challenged to fully live out the mission because we are spreading resources too thin. Pope Francis reminds us that we have the creativity to take on these challenges with joy if we are open to the possibilities the Spirit opens up to us.  

Earlier this week I met with all priests in the Archdiocese to begin the discussion of how to address these challenges in the coming years. This is just the beginning of a long process to determine how to serve the pastoral needs of the Archdiocese and strengthen parish vitality for the long-term future. As the process moves forward, I am committed to a process that involves discipline, wide consultation and community involvement. We want to ensure that our plans for the future best meet the needs of the people of God, respond to the Church’s call to mission, and offer long-term sustainability. From time to time you will be hearing more about this effort, but I wanted to le t you know of this development, because I need and want your prayers for its success. You are in mine.

Your Pastor,


Rev. Thomas R. Rzepiela 




Pastor Fr. Tom

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