September 30, 2021

In this issue

An Update from Parishes
By Philip Paxton, CP
I have been asked to let the Passionist Family know about visioning in the Passionist parishes in Alabama: Holy Family Parish in the Ensley section of Birmingham, and St. Mary’s, four miles away in Fairfield.
I would say that, like many of our ministry sites and communities across the Province, visioning has been demonstrated in two areas: social media and new partnerships.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when gatherings of more than 10 people indoors were prohibited, Fr. Vimal and I live-streamed our liturgies from our little chapel in our rectory. We not only celebrated Mass, but prayed the Stations of the Cross online. When we went back to limited in-person liturgies, we continued to live-stream our Masses on Facebook. And as people slowly come back to church in person, we continue to live-stream our Masses. This has enabled us to reach more of our shut-ins, and also others in the Province. We are looking forward to enhancing our technology, so that we can do even more online.
Holy Family Academy
participants in the 5 K Run.

Waiting to Distribute Food at St. Mary's Parish.

COVID-19 testing at St. Mary's Parish.

COVID-19 testing at Holy Family Parish.


With regards to new partnerships, both parishes have been working with various agencies to serve our communities. For example, when the schools in Fairfield were closed to in-person instruction, the Fairfield school system reached out to St. Mary’s to distribute food to families with students. As COVID testing became a priority, both parishes became testing sites, in partnership with Alabama Regional Medical Services and the UAB Department of Medicine. Another organization, Black People Run, Bike, and Swim, worked with Holy Family Catholic Academy for their annual 5K Run, which was held in Ensley.
All of these things point us to the future and the building of relationships with various people.

May God continue to bless us as we listen to the Spirit in fulfilling the vision given to us.
The Transformative Community rooted in the intersection of
Shared Leadership and the Learning Community (Part 1)
By Mark Clarke, Community Works, Inc.
In recent articles, I have explored the relationship between a Learning Community and a Transformative Community. “Learning Community” is a term used in both academic and professional organizational contexts to describe the ongoing process of development necessary for growth. Richard DuFour lists the three basic principles of an educational Learning Community as "a commitment to ensuring that students learn, a culture of collaboration, and a focus on results." These principles are used in other circumstances as well.
I have applied these principles to the concept of Transformative Community in the context of religious communities. Transformative Communities co-create with God by providing a safe emotional container for engaging in dialogue, envisioning the future, and creating collective capacity for growth and development. Many contemporary religious communities experience this concept as a transformative process in pursuit of their charism and mission. These entities establish their internal cultures in a Shared Leadership and Learning Community framework and engage in ongoing discernment.

As an active Learning Community, the group explores emerging questions and growth areas that open the window to developing the next steps.
"Shared Leadership in the context of a Learning Community fosters shared purpose, interdependence, and growth.  These traits establish the backbone and fiber of the organizational culture."


The Learning Community and Shared Leadership model allows the community to become co-creators with God in offering its gift to society. Shared Leadership is a structural concept that fosters the members' commitment to achieving a bold vision. The dynamic of group ownership through Shared Leadership unleashes the community's creativity to innovate approaches that benefit society's welfare. This energetic force maximizes both individual and collective contributions. The graphic below depicts the ongoing dynamic tension between Shared Leadership and the Learning Community.

Transformative Communities experience Shared Leadership not as a role or position, but rather as a response to critical concerns. An individual or group recognizes the need for a different or new solution and takes the initiative to uncover a resolution. The current pandemic has been an excellent example of the power of shared leadership. News reports have consistently shared testimony to this reality as nurses, front-line workers, and many others without positional leadership roles saw a challenge and responded. They committed to risking, experimenting, and exploring new innovative remedies or solution within their own areas of influence.

In the gospel of Mark 4:37-39, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the lake. "A violent squall came up, and waves were breaking over the boat so that it was already filling up." The disciples panicked, but Jesus “…rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Hush! Be still!’. "

Our societal boat is experiencing hurricane-force waves that challenge existing mental models, systems, and societal norms. The pandemic has created a laser-focused on longstanding societal afflictions simmering under the surface of the lake.  Like lightning in a violent storm, the pandemic illuminated such issues as societal discrimination, environmental catastrophes, an overwhelming number of migrants, and expanding global economic inequality.

These mounting ailments have led to personal and societal discomfort and periods of social paralysis. This individual and collective tumult has led to communal vulnerability. Yet, society is moving forward because Transformative Communities pushed aside their panic and established new mental frameworks, relationships, and opportunities.

“When praying in spirit, I heard these words from Jesus, “whoever embraces me, embraces thorns.”  He showed me that he, during His Most Holy Life here on earth, was always in the midst of the thorns of sufferings, labors, weariness, anguish, scorn, lies, sorrows, blows, nails, thorns, and the most bitter death on the Cross.  Embracing him, I must lead a life of suffering.  With what joy my poor soul embraces this!”

Holy Cross Province Vision Statement
Guided by the Holy Spirit and the signs of the times,
we create and carry out ministry that reaches
the suffering of today and form community
that spiritually nourishes the
Passionist Family of Holy Cross Province.
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