Collaboration News

A wonderful video, very helpful and full of hope in periods of transition.  This video is courtesy of The Amazing Parish, an organization committed to supporting pastors and their leadership teams in parishes as they strive to live Christ’s great commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” 

December 16, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

I have heard a number of comments, pro and con, regarding the Christmas Mass Schedule. A few weeks ago, I wrote about an incredible joint Parish Council meeting that we had to set the Christmas schedule. It was a very positive and upbeat meeting which gave all of us hope for the future of the Reading Collaborative. The discussion centered around what was needed to accommodate the number of people who attend Christmas Mass and so we looked at the historical attendance records as well as the seating capacity of St. Agnes and St. Athanasius, including the RMHS Field House. A big factor in the discussion was the parking problem, which is more difficult, this year, at St. Agnes with the loss of parking in the Lower School lot. Another factor was the dreaded “s” word, SNOW! Last year we had a snow storm on Christmas Day which always makes parking at St. Agnes very challenging. The Christmas Eve Masses are always the best attended and so we decided to go with the 4pm Mass at the Field House followed by a 5:30 and 10pm Mass at St. Athanasius with a Christmas Prelude before the 10pm Mass. Christmas morning there will be a 9am at St. Athanasius and an 11am Mass at St. Agnes. I know that these changes are difficult for all of us but if we all open our hearts to the love of God, He will help us through this time of transition.

May God bless you during this Advent Season,
Fr. Steve Rock

November 25, 2018

Both parishes have had a lot of meetings the last few weeks amongst ourselves. One area of discussion is around the Mass schedules. A second area of discussion pertains to the qualities needed for the appointment of the Collaborative Pastor: this information will be passed on to the Archdiocese in order for Cardinal Sean to make his decision.

As I was going to be celebrating all the Masses last weekend at St. Athanasius I asked their Parish Pastoral Council, PPC, for thoughts on what the Parishioners need and want to hear from me. I tried to address some of their thoughts but the best reply that I would like to share with all of you concerned our joint meeting to set the Christmas Schedule.

First a little background. A couple of months ago I asked the Parish Councils to form a subcommittee to study the Mass schedules with the understanding that we no longer have all the priests that Reading used to have. I asked the Councils to come up with some suggestions as to what the Christmas, Sunday and Holy Week schedules might look like. We had a meeting last week with both PPCs, to discuss the Christmas Masses, which - I am thankful - turned out in a very positive way.

The following is an email that I received. It puts everything in perspective and gives much needed hope in how the Collaborative will work out:

Thank you so much for your email! I believe our meeting (with the Archdiocese) on Tuesday night went very well and we shared how great the unity of our Monday night meeting was.

I think it would be really great to share with all the collective parishioners the unity that occurred at the Monday night Christmas Mass planning meeting. I know I left that meeting feeling truly inspired and proud of everyone in the room. We all came together and were able to make educated, considerate, and positive decisions with the priority of servicing the entire Reading Catholic Community.

I believe that this meeting was a huge benchmark that the leaders of our parishes hit by coming together and taking the collaboration in stride to a positive level. I honestly felt like cheering Go Team Reading Catholic! We can do this, because we did it, and we did it together.

God Bless and let’s keep praying for each other,
   Fr. Steve Rock

November 11, 2018

Recently St. Agnes and St. Athanasius Parish Councils, Finance Councils and Parish Staffs met with the Office of Clergy Personnel as part of the collaborative process. The session was very well attended with a lot of good information given to the Archdiocesan representative. The information that was gathered will be given to the Personnel Board for their deliberation. The announcement of new pastors for Phase VII Collaboratives should be sometime after the New Year. In planning for the future our parish staffs are busy not only taking care of the day to day parish business but also looking to the Collaborative. I have asked the office staffs to visit each other’s work spaces and to talk about the best way of providing great service to both parishes. Issues they will discuss: location, how to utilize the great personnel we have, cost savings through elimination in the duplication of office equipment, etc. I have asked our Religious Education Staffs to do the same thing and to come up with a plan to make our program second to none in evangelizing our children and their families. I have asked all of them to “think outside the box,” as we plan for the future. When their plans and ideas are solidified, they will be presented to the Parish Pastoral Councils for deliberation. None of these plans will be acted upon until a new pastor has been appointed and decides how he wants to proceed.

An important consideration for multi-parish collaboratives is existing separate telephone systems that cannot function together: such is the current situation with St. Agnes and St. Athanasius. St. Athanasius Parish upgraded it’s system a few years ago and St. Agnes’ system needs a major upgrade. We are in the process of evaluating five proposals for connecting our two systems.

Things are changing in both parishes as we move towards Collaboration and things will continue to change. Change is not easy, but if we are all open to the presence of the Holy Spirit, He will guide us into the future. Please continue to pray for each other.

Fr. Steve Rock

October 28, 2018

Submitted Question: The daily Mass Schedules have changed. Will the weekend Mass Schedules change for St. Athanasius and St. Agnes?
A. With only two full time priests for both St. Agnes and St. Athanasius, it will be necessary to work on the weekend Mass Schedules. There are some other Priests that are able to help out but it is imperative to come up with a schedule that will work with the limits of our clergy. Father Rock has asked two committees; one from the Parish Council of St. Athanasius and one from the Parish Council of St. Agnes to research the statistics of attendance at all weekend Masses to determine what would work best for all concerned. These committees will be reporting back to Father Rock at the next Parish Council meeting with their findings. This is the first step in working out this issue and the Congregation will be informed when any changes are determined.

September 30, 2018

The process for the official creation of the Reading Catholic Collaborative has begun with my resignation as Pastor of St. Agnes Parish and my appointment as Administrator. The next in this process is a Parish Consultation Meeting, within the next two months, with the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils, parish staffs along with members of the Archdiocesan Personnel Board and Disciples in Mission Office. The information gathered at this meeting will help in the selection of a new Pastor, who will be appointed by Cardinal O’Malley in the spring. As I mentioned at the end of June when I spoke at all the Masses, in both parishes, I will probably apply but any priest in the Archdiocese can apply as well. There are a lot of good things happening which will help bring both our faith communities together.

  1. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society has members from both parishes helping the needy in our community.
  2. Last weekend the parishioners at St. Agnes Parish welcomed Ed and Joanne Fitzpatrick as they spoke at all the Masses inviting them to participate at the Christmas Faire.
  3. The Faith and Fellowship (small groups) Team is kicking off this weekend with participants from both parishes. As all of you know this program brings people together to read the Scriptures, pray and socialize and great spiritual fruit comes from it. These small groups have a great history in our parishes and by coming together even greater things will happen.
  4. Tonight our Confirmation Classes and their families will meet at St. Agnes Church for a kickoff with a great motivational speaker from the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship, Michael Lavigne.
  5. Last but not least, next weekend we will launch our new joint bulletin combining individual parish news and common things for both parishes. Kerry Basford, St. Athanasius, and Jackie Steele, St. Agnes have been working hard to develop our new look. I hope you like it !

God Bless,
   Fr. Steve Rock

August 19, 2018

Dear Parishioners,
   I want to apologize for any hurt feelings last week with the schedule of the Holyday Masses. I thought I was going by the schedule from last year and I was wrong. I know that there were a lot of hurt feelings because I heard them. Since I’m addressing Mass schedules I may as well say something about the Daily Mass schedule which will change on Labor Day as from then on there will be one daily Mass in Reading. We have been blessed to have Father Michael here this summer and have been able to keep daily Mass in both parishes, but he is leaving on Labor Day. The last few months I have spoken with parishioners that attend the daily Mass at both parishes and have asked for their input about the schedule and their ideas range from “I understand that we have to change,” to “you can’t change my Mass!” There are valid points to every point of view and I wish things could stay the same, but we have to change the schedule. Before I received my new assignment, we had Fr. Darin, Fr. Patrick, Fr. Ed and me but now it’s just two of us and when you include funerals and days off it becomes very difficult to maintain what we have had. It is going to be the same issue when the Sunday Mass schedule is changed. Right now, the plan is to keep the Sunday schedule the same until January which will give the Parish Pastoral Councils an opportunity to look at the schedules, of both parishes, and come up with recommendations for a new schedule. If you remember I spoke at all the Masses at the end of June and the beginning of July about moving forward and how challenging it would be for all of us. I also said that if we opened our hearts to the Holy Spirit that God would lead us and that the future of the Reading Catholic Community would be bright. I still believe that, and I hope that you do?

May God continue to bless both parishes and let’s keep praying for each other.

Fr. Steve Rock
Reading Catholic

August 5, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

It is hard to believe that July is history and August has begun. In just a few weeks we will celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation, which I think can be a great help in our sudden move toward Collaboration. In our confusion about our future, our Blessed Mother can show us the way! Churches, East and West, honor her on August 15th because of her response to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, when in her confusion she said, “let it be done to me as you say!” Because of her trust in God, our Savior was born. Mary is the Mother of the Church, we make up the Body of Christ and I believe that there is no way we will fail, if we pray and put our trust in Divine Providence.

Last Wednesday evening both Parish Pastoral Councils came together to meet, get to know each other and to begin planning our way forward. I asked them as I will now ask you to look at On the HOME page click on LOCAL PASTORAL PLANS and look at a two parish collaborative and get some ideas of what they are doing which will help us as we move forward. The Disciples in Mission website is from the Archdiocese of Boston and has a wealth of information regarding the Collaborative process. CHECK IT OUT.

Let’s continue to pray for each other,

Fr. Steve Rock

July 22, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

For me, my new responsibilities seem enormous but I’m encouraged by the number of people who have offered to help. All of us together will make a big difference. And all of us praying will surely make this a success. This past week I had a meeting with the Finance Councils from both parishes along with Glenn Smith from the Archdiocese Office of Parish Financial Support. He will help guide us as we prepare for the Collaborative. It’s important to remember that the finances of both parishes remain separate.

ast week I met with St. Athanasius Parish Pastoral Council to just listen and respond to their questions. The questions covered a wide range of issues from “dusting the church to Religious Education.” One of the issues discussed were the number of questions that many had about the new situation and the possibility of using the bulletin to answer some of them? Here is the first one: “Why is there no priest living in St. Athanasius’ Rectory?” Cardinal Sean wants all the priests in a Collaborative to live in one rectory to help foster community, to support each other as well as the opportunity to pray together. As of today Fr. Steve, Fr. Lambert, Fr. Michael and Fr. Ed Malone (Senior Priest) live in the rectory at St. Agnes. There is no way that they would fit in St. Athanasius Rectory.

God bless,
Fr. Steve Rock

July 1, 2018

When I retired from the Navy and arrived at St. Agnes Parish, 11 years ago, my plan was to retire at about 75 years old. I never dreamed that I would become the Administrator of St. Athanasius Parish as well as Pastor of St. Agnes Parish! There is an old saying, “we make plans and God laughs.” To be honest, I’m still a little overwhelmed with the new responsibilities that I now have for both parishes. If you remember on the Feast of Corpus Christi I put a note in the bulletin and here is an excerpt, “As we just celebrated Pentecost, our way forward is very clear, if we all are open to and walk in accordance with the Holy Spirit, we will be successful. It will be a very interesting summer, lots of prayers, lots of work, patience and understanding will be needed from both parishes of the Reading Catholic community as we navigate the changes before us.

I believe that today’s Gospel tells us all we need to know to make the Collaborative a success, FAITH. As Jesus said to the woman afflicted with hemorrhages, “Daughter your faith has saved you!” The faith shown by the synagogue official in asking Jesus to heal his dying daughter was rewarded by her being healed. If we walk forward in faith, trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will succeed. I firmly believe it. It won’t be easy but it is God’s work, what we do is Holy Work. It is my hope that together we can do great things as we approach Collaboration.

As you must know there are only 2 priests assigned to Reading as opposed to the 3 we have had for the last 20 years or so. There are a couple of priests who will be available but they are not assigned here and not always available. For most of us change is part of our daily lives but what we will be going through is TRANSITION, which is not easy. There will be a lot of grieving over the changes that will effect both parishes but there will be new growth and hope. I would recommend that you check out a wonderful website,, click on RESOURCES, then CONFERENCE VIDEOS; on this page you will find a great video, MANAGING TRANSITION. The video is also posted on our website’s main page. I have found it very helpful and full of hope. Another website that you might find very helpful in finding out more about Collaboratives is: The Office of Disciples in Mission, Archdiocese of Boston, is doing a wonderful job in helping parishes move into collaboration.

Over the next few weeks I will be meeting with the Parish Pastoral Council and the Finance Council to talk about the future and we will also begin having joint meetings with the Councils of both parishes. Sometime in the next few months we will have a Town Meeting for both parishes to talk about the Collaborative. I promise to keep you informed, let’s pray for each other,

In Christ,
   Very Rev. Stephen B. Rock, VF

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