This is the second in a series of articles introducing the 17 members of the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC). In addition to this group, all of whom were appointed by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and which meets quarterly, the commission includes four ex-officio members: the archbishop; Randy Nohl, archdiocesan director of synod implementation; Barbara Anne Cusack, archdiocesan chancellor; and Rich Harter, director of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization.
One comes from Poland, the other is a native of Milwaukee’s South Side. One’s service to the church is through health care; the other has served primarily in parishes and schools. Their experiences, and the vision of church shaped by those experiences, are what they bring to ASIC.
Even though she has “very little experience with parish life,” Sr. Andrea Andrzejewska, a Dominican Sister of the Immaculate Conception Province and administrator of St. Ann Rest Home in Milwaukee since 2006, hopes the link between what is happening in parishes and the issues related to Catholic health care is strengthened.
“What I would like to see is a connection – because it is really connected – between parish life and health care,” she said. “I’m really focusing on that because of the mission of St. Ann’s, especially end-of-life guidelines and ethical religious directives.”
She continued, “There is an enormous need to explain to parishioners about end-of-life issues, their decisions about choosing the right health care documents, advanced directives, so they are comfortable that it is according to church teaching.”
Quoting Nohl, Sr. Andrea noted that the members of ASIC “have eyes and ears to know what is going on in the parishes.”
“When I go to other parishes, I can hear what parish nurses are saying, or what family members of our residents here might say, ‘This is happening at our parish,’” she said.
Sr. Andrea, who worked in human resources at a bank in Poland before “God called,” as she put it, said she is learning about parish life by asking questions of other ASIC members.
“I can hear what parish life looks like and I can ask questions about their work,” she said.
A common theme that surfaced during the synod and the district gatherings following the synod was the need to identify and share best practices in parishes.
“There are some parishes that attract a lot of parishioners and, as we discussed during our meetings, it’s good to look at the best practices,” Sr. Andrea said. “What’s really happening at this particular parish that really attracts other people? Maybe we can research that more; we can introduce that at other parishes that want to attract more and more members.”
Given she spent the first 19 years of her ministerial life as a primary grade and kindergarten teacher, Sr. Marianne Kempa, a School Sister of Notre Dame, expected teaching to be her life’s calling.
“I thought I’d be teaching until I died,” she said with a laugh.
However, after receiving her graduate degree in pastoral studies from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in 1996, she served for 14 years at parishes in human concerns, stewardship, evangelization, and as a minister to the sick and homebound.
Sr. Marianne, a facilitator at the June 7-8, 2014, Archdiocesan Synod, said she comes to ASIC “with hopes and dreams” for the church.
“I had positive experiences in parishes,” she said. “The focus at (St. Gregory the Great, Milwaukee) was to bring out gifts in the parish community. It was the same at Brookfield (St. John Vianney) and West Bend (St. Frances Cabrini).”
Noting how the synod was “positive and hopeful,” Sr. Marianne said those charged with implementing the work of the synod want to keep that alive in parishes.
“We need to model the importance of being committed to Jesus Christ, taking the Gospel seriously, and living the Gospel in our daily lives,” she said.
For Sr. Marianne and Sr. Andrea, emphasis on the Mass is at the heart of how the work of the synod could impact the entire faith community.
“I hope we could do more to understand the meaning of Mass, what’s really happening during the Mass,” Sr. Andrea said. “If we better understand what is happening during Mass, it will bring a connection to Jesus. We can realize that we are really connected to Jesus, especially during Mass.”
Noting that with Mass and evangelization, “one supports the other,” Sr. Marianne said, “Mass is the main way the church reaches people. It is wonderful to go to Mass where the church is full.”
Sr. Marianne, who, since 2013, serves as minister of pastoral care for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Elm Grove, added, “My hope is that we can help parishes become alive, vibrant communities of faith that instill the love of God, church and community, and that we support people in their journey by helping give them a positive experience of church and faith community.”