The directive of the recent Diocesan Synod to create more vibrant parishes and increase efforts to evangelize and communicate has brought the parishes of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington and St. John the Baptist in North Bennington closer as they work under one pastor to establish priorities, goals and action plans.

The pastor, Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, is working with St. John the Baptist Parish Council Chairperson Kathy Murphy, who also serves as director of faith formation at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church and a technology teacher at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales. She is chairing the synod committee for the two parishes.

“This [synod] has brought the two parishes together planning projects and in the conversation about vibrant parishes,” Father Wiseman said.

Added Murphy, “It has given us a wider view of what it means to be Catholic in a wider [Catholic] community and learn about other opportunities to try to enhance our faith.”

She “has worked really hard on that, and I appreciate that,” Father Wiseman commented.

In January members of the synod committee of 17 met to discuss priorities and to look at what has been planned and what has been accomplished. Plans include forming various committees (prayer/mentoring and multigenerational, for example), creating more programming to engage families and offering a Light of the World Retreat in March for members of both parishes.

Since the latter part of last year a Soup and Bread Advent program to address discipleship and evangelization and a project to make Advent wreaths and the hosting of movie nights to engage youth and families have taken place.

The committee’s work is ongoing, but as Murphy said, “This isn’t just the committee’s job, it’s everyone’s.”

The focus will be on a few projects at a time — like the Light of the World Retreat — “and doing them well,” she added.

Murphy is grateful for the leadership of Father Wiseman and Holy Cross Father Hugh Cleary, parochial vicar, who emphasize inclusiveness and empowering parishioners. “When you have leadership that allows people to participate in decisions and making changes, it’s more successful,” she said.

“This is not a one-man show. We’re a team project,” Father Wiseman said.

—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.