I haven’t shared the story of how I ended up being a full-time staff in my church, and with the main portfolio of being the ‘work plan secretary’ (the SAF term) of implementing the Roadmap vision across the various departments and communities in the parish.
About 10 days ago, my mother saw an advert in the Catholic News that my parish was looking to hire a full-time Youth Worker. This person would mentor the youths in the church and be in charge of helping to plan ways of spiritual growth and formation. Mom thought it sounded right up my alley. But I was already involved with Paul the Musical, Catechism and Alpha. Would I have time to take on a full-time job?
I planned to speak with Keenan, the Director of our Youth & Young Adults Office before deciding whether or not to apply. BUT, on the weekend of the Parish Assembly, I felt God challenging me. He asked me why I felt the need to speak with Keenan before deciding. Was I relying on my own strength and understanding again? Did I not say I will trust Him completely and make myself available? So, on Sunday night, I sent the parish priest my resume.
But Fr. JP was away for the week. And during that week, as I worked more with the various full-time staff in church (Paul the Musical and Catechism has me working with basically all of the main departments of the church), I got the sense that the Youth Worker job was not for me. After speaking with Keenan and meeting with the youths that Zibin and I will be spiritual directors of (we took on the youth media ministry), I became convinced that being Youth Worker was too narrow a platform for what God wants me to do in this church.
Meanwhile, Fr. JP came back and was looking for someone to write an article about our Parish Assembly for Catholic News. Through one of the staff, the task got sent to me. And last weekend, Fr. John Wong (asst. parish priest) through some strange twist of fate asked me to talk about the Parish Assembly Roadmap and the Second Vatican Council to the Mandarin-speaking community during Mandarin Mass.
Then Fr. JP told me that based on my experience and background, he thought I could serve the parish better in helping him to revamp and inject more ‘heart and soul’ into the Catechism Program (which has 1,500 kids). This did feel more ‘right’ than the job of the youth worker so I agreed. This was on Monday.
Yesterday was my first day of work, and Fr. JP had asked me to meet him at 9a.m. He wanted to chat with me and Agatha (the director of the Catechist Office) before we went for the Parish Committee meeting at 10a.m. As it turned out, Agatha only arrived at 9:45a.m. and in that 45 minutes, another amazing change happened.
When I had been offered the job, Fr. JP had been honest and told me the parish cannot afford right now to take on another full-time salaried staff. But he really wanted me to come on board, and asked if I was ok with a $1,500 monthly stipend. No contract, no CPF. I told him I was willing to do it for free because that was the terms of agreement I had made with God – I will go where He asks me, with no conditions on my part.
During those 45 minutes, I began to tell Fr. JP that because the most important thing for me was that I can follow wherever God prompts me to go, I hoped even the portfolio I am taking up in the parish can be flexible to new understanding and knowledge that God gives me. Fr. JP said yes, of course – he is open to letting the Holy Spirit discern for us where I can be best put to work in the parish. And right now he thinks the place that needs me most is the Catechist Office.
To my own surprise, I listened to God’s sudden prompting and boldly told Fr. JP, “I think there is something else you need that I can do for you.” I told him that the Roadmap was a wonderful idea to give the entire parish the general direction to grow in the next 19 months. But the parish is 6,000 strong and made up of diverse communities. Does he have anyone to help him carry through the Roadmap in a integrated way across the various offices?
I told him that after working with the different staff I realized they were all very good, but that there was no real synergy yet between their respective work spheres. If I can be a ‘free-agent’, not belonging to any office, I can help him work with each office to find a consistent and synergistic way of implementing the vision for 2010. I told him that my greatest strength does not lie in administration or planning – my greatest strength is as a catalyst. I can bring people together, improve working relationships and get each person to function at their highest capacity. I am also full of ideas and positive energy – which can help motivate the others into having greater enthusiasm for what they are doing.
It became settled immediately that this was the role the parish needed most, and one that I could fulfill. I am to be in charge of planning and giving pastoral care in whatever way I felt was needed. And I know that the most important role I have now is to minister to the core committee members even as I work with them. And even after just one day of work, I can already see greater energy and joy in the staff I have met to discuss plans with.
In the past I would never have been so bold to tell my boss what I think I can do for him. I would have second-guessed myself and told myself that perhaps it would not be humble to do so. But now it is different. Now I know how God sees me. I know that God made me exactly the way I am for a specific mission and purpose. I know that it would be false humility if I remained silent about the gifts God has given me in order that I may serve others in the best way possible.
What I cannot do, I tell them I cannot do. I admit I am careless when it comes to details and I cannot catch typos and grammatical errors in documents. But I can see the big picture and can generate endless possibilities, and I can work with a great variety of people and in many different capacities. And so it is that in my job now I will be enabling my colleagues, teaching children, leading spiritual direction for youths, writing theological and spiritual articles, and once a month to deliver the Mandarin homily so that the Chinese-speaking community can share in this 19-month journey of reflection with the rest of the parish. I would also be giving pastoral care and carrying out spiritual formation for my colleagues and for the catechists, and helping to review and revamp what is already in place for adult faith formation.
The church is large and my job requires me to meet with different people. This means I don’t have to stay at the desk all the time to work. There are several kitchens and pantries which mean when I want to eat I can always find something and people to have tea with. On top of that, I can come to work in jeans everyday… and wear running shoes!
I can’t imagine another job more perfectly suited to all my strengths, needs and desires. God is truly and completely wonderful!