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Good Shepherd Catholic in Menomonee Falls embraces new model in light of priest shortage

Parish director implemented to minister to local church community

Jan. 13, 2013

Menomonee Falls - With fewer men heeding a call to priesthood, the Catholic Church has been experiencing a shortage in priests over the years, prompting some parishes to try something new.

In response to the shortage, a handful of parishes are testing a new model to ensure parishioners are receiving the same liturgy and not losing any pastoral care. Good Shepherd Church in Menomonee Falls has not only taken on the Parish Director model, but embraced it.

Having a parish director means the Archdiocese will appoint a director who oversees all pastoral care and leadership of a particular congregation, instead of a priest, as has been tradition.

Deacon Sanford "Sandy" Sites, who was ordained in 2005 and has been a solid member of the congregation, was appointed as Good Shepherd's parish director in October. A parish director is primarily responsible for providing spiritual leadership and "outreach to the faithful," according to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Parish directors can also be women, such as Brenda Kline, who acts as director of a parish in Grafton.

A positive response

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for leadership on the part of the parishioners, so we see it as a positive thing," parishioner Gail Sweet said. "Sandy is wonderful. He is just great."

There are about 1,500 people who belong to Good Shepherd in Menomonee Falls and call upon Sites with questions about the faith.

Though a priest is no longer overseeing the parish throughout the week, the liturgy experience remains the same, as an "assisting priest" and "help out priest" take turns celebrating Mass at Good Shepherd and other congregations in the area, Sites said.

"Parish life is bigger than just the liturgy, but the experience of the liturgy is identical," he said.

In addition, Sites takes on administrative duties by working in conjunction with the director of administrative services at Good Shepherd. Those wishing to schedule marriages, funerals or baptisms would work directly with Sites.

He also collaborates with the director of liturgy, acting as a conduit between Good Shepherd and the archdiocese.

Questions about the transition

Sites said Good Shepherd has embraced the new model; however, that was not always true.

Leading up to the transition to the parish director model, parishioners had doubts of whether or not Good Shepherd even had a future, said parishioner Jeff Bloedern, who served as the parish council president for four years.

"I think, generally speaking, while the parish loved what we had - it was a perfect model for us - you go through the pews now and we are generally excited in the parish and excited about the future of the parish because we were really concerned about the future and if we even had one," he said. "We now know we have a very strong future."

He attributes the positive changes to Sites, who parishioners were not only familiar with, but who played "an exceptional leadership role."

"It comes down to Sandy being our parish director," Bloedern said. "It's not only been easy, but enjoyable."

For more information on Good Shepherd Catholic Church, visit mygoodshepherd.org.

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