Frequently Asked Questions to the SJFCUP Parish Council

The Parish Council is attempting to obtain answers to many of your questions. Below is information which may help us to understand the future at St. John Fisher Chapel University Parish. We ask that you please pray to our Good Shepherd Jesus that he blesses Fr. Mike, Fr. Dan & Fr. Drew as they guide us through this transition process on 7/1/20.  

Please check this page periodically because it will be updated as new questions are received. The latest information will be posted at the top. To ask questions, please email: parishcouncil@sjfcup.com


An open letter to the parish from the Parish Council:

Saint John Fisher has long been known as a welcoming, spirit-filled, inclusive, worship community where all are welcome. Long before the Archdiocese adopted the slogan ‘Unleash the Gospel’, SJFC welcomed people who were searching for a faith home where they would be nourished by the word and at the table before going out through the servant’s entrance to love and serve the Lord. 

Therefore, we are truly saddened by the recent actions of the Bishop to fire our long-standing Music Director, Terry Gonda.

Terry found a faith home at SJFC where for many years she has shared her musical gifts, not only with the congregation but also extending to our youth & college students. Her music and her Christian role modeling brought a number of people to the faith during her nearly 40 years of membership. 

As a Parish Council, we understand that many of you are upset by Terry’s dismissal. Collectively, we are all working through the unexpected and uncertain transition to a new Pastoral leadership team – all of this happening during a pandemic that has left many parishioners isolated, confused, and searching for answers. This action surely adds further anxiety about the future of SFJC as an inclusive community, and the direction of our church regarding social justice.

It is the remarkable reaction of Terry during this situation that provides us the most important lesson.  In these uncertain times we should focus on supporting each other and Finding a Better Way.  We have seen these days how mutual support and love help us through the uncertainty, and how much difference it makes on our spirit to know we are not alone.  

We want to reassure you that the Parish Council is listening to your concerns, working hard to support all of you during these challenging times. Our goal is to be receptive to your questions and to provide answers as clearly and as honestly as we are able. We are working to Find the Better Way. Fr. Dan Jones has already started to attend recent Parish Council meetings, and we continue to build a relationship with our new Pastor. Fr. Dan and Fr. Drew will be in attendance (via Zoom) at the next scheduled Parish Council meeting in July, and we will continue to share your thoughts, questions, and concerns with them as part of those meetings. 

As details emerge about the new Pastoral leadership, the creation of the Oratory, and all other matters related to the ongoing future of SJFC, we will continue to communicate through the channels available to us – the bulletin, the website, and the weekly e-blast.

In the meantime, if any of you have any questions please reach out to us at the following email address, parishcouncil@sjfcup.com, or feel free to reach out to any one of the Parish Council members if you have questions or need support.

Yours,

Geoff Ellis, Karen MacEachern, Hedley Williams, John Cloutier, Brian Clark, Elizabeth Kelly, Gilberto Ortiz, Mariana Luna Ortiz, Freya Detiva, & Jennifer Detiva

(June 29, 2020)


The Parish Council met with Fr. Dan Jones,

Since Fr. Mike announced his transfer to St. Owen, we have been eager to meet his replacement, Fr. Dan Jones. The Parish Council including Ann Chinn, John Cloutier, Karen MacEachern, Geoff Ellis, Elizabeth Kelly, Hedley Williams, Brian Clark and Finance Committee Chairperson, Tom Czarnecki met via Zoom with Fr. Dan.  We shared a little of our parish’s history and openly discussing concerns about the forthcoming transition. In return, Fr. Dan shared some of his own history and faith journey that has brought him to Saint John Fisher Chapel. Fr. Dan is excited to join such a vibrant and active community, with our many ministries. He is eager to learn more about us and the wonderful things we do. 

Fr. Dan understands how the word Oratory may cause confusion or even anxiety, especially when used by many people in different contexts.  Fr. Dan grew up in the metro Detroit area, but as part of his theological training he spent many years abroad including more than 10 years in Europe; in England and Italy. This period was foundational to the formation of his faith and his approach to priesthood. It was during these years that he learned about the concept of an Oratory. In his view, an Oratory is simply a priestly communal residence. It is quite common for Priests to become lonely or isolated and, since Priests inherently understand each other, it is helpful and supportive for them to live together as a family. The Oratory idea is ‘life together as brothers’.

We discussed concerns about the planning and communication of the change. Fr. Dan said that it is normal for the Archbishop to make a change without prior consultation with the parish.  Perhaps SJFC has a unique history in that Fr. Jerry engaged the parish quite extensively as he prepared for his retirement and the transition to Fr. Mike. In any case, the goal of the current change is to put a renewed focus on outreach and evangelization with the students at Oakland University along with the current parish. 

Fr. Dan would like to calm some of the concerns that have been expressed about changes to the liturgy. He described himself as a ‘Vatican II kid’ and dismissed the idea of him returning the church to a tridentine mass. In fact, he is interested in hearing about what we do at SJFC and why we feel it is so special. We encouraged Fr. Dan to reach out to both Fr. Mike and Fr. Jerry to discuss our approach to the liturgy and understand the context that shaped these elements. 

Saint John Fisher’s cost will include the Associate Pastor’s salary (less than a Pastor), food & housing but only housing for Fr. Dan. The Pastor’s salary (and food) will be supported by Sacred Heart Major Seminary where he is a full time Associate Professor of Theology. The parish will not purchase any residence. Fr. Dan is looking for a modest house to rent. A third priest will be joining the group residence for one year, but he is 100% financially supported by the Diocese of Savannah, GA, where he serves. 

We expect you will hear more from Fr. Dan through a letter in the parish bulletin, or via a video posted to our church website. We encouraged Fr. Dan to directly share some of his perspectives and his background, as well as touching on topics of concern to the parish and ministries. Fr. Dan is also meeting with the finance council this week to understand our financial situation and to provide leadership. 

In closing, our first meeting with Fr. Dan was uplifting and greatly encouraging. We found him to be open and genuine. He listened. He spoke from the heart. He stressed that he is excited and interested to get to know us as a parish, and that he is interested in continuity. In turn, we encourage you all to pray for Fr. Dan and to embrace him as a church community with love and with open arms.

Yours,

SJFC Parish Council (April 28, 2020)

p.s. if you know a parish member that does not have access to a computer, feel free to print this letter and share with them.


St. John Fisher Chapel Parishioners,

We received your emails and share your concerns. We requested answers but regrettably have not received details at this time.

Some of you asked why the Parish Council has not sent out a mass email to all of the Parishioners. Mass emails are sent out through the E-Blast. The Parish Council will convey information via the Bulletin, E-Blast and a new FAQ tab on the SJFC Website. If you unsubscribe to any SJFC email, you will be unsubscribed from all emails. If you are currently not receiving the E-Blast, please contact the church front office to provide your email address. 

We pledge to continue to request information and provide to you as soon as they are received.

The SJFC Parish Council (April 4, 2020)


Q:  It seems that this announcement was made very suddenly, with little prior discussion with the pastoral leadership at the church.  Why weren’t we consulted or informed prior to Archbishop’s decision? 

A:  The local bishop is free to appoint pastors as he chooses, and in many cases decisions are made by the Bishop without consulting with the parish, or even with the incumbent pastoral team. Consultation with the parish is great when it can happen, but sometimes the leadership from the diocese makes plans on their own.

This particular change reflects Archbishop Vigneron’s commitment to generating stronger bonds between the church and the student population at Oakland University. Since SJFCUP was created to serve the needs of the student population, the intent is to find ways to align the church better with the university and increase our engagement with the student body. Father Dan Jones is currently an Associate Professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and will be uniquely suited to carrying out this mission with the assistance of the current pastoral team and our parishioners.

Q:  What is an Oratory and how will an Oratory work in conjunction with Saint John Fisher Chapel University Parish?

A:  An Oratory is a longstanding feature of the Catholic church but is not necessarily widely known in the US. The formation of Oratories in our Detroit Diocese is inspired by work of Cardinal Newman in England in the 1800’s (whose sainthood you may remember we celebrated at the end of last year), where priests live together in community to focus on how best to spread the Gospel in the world today. The primary intent of the Oratory at SJFCUP is to support a community of priests within our existing parish.

For more information refer to the following article:
https://detroitcatholic.com/news/daniel-meloy/archbishop-vigneron-detroit-oratorians-share-strong-personal-devotion-to-st-newman

The creation of an Oratory and the change in leadership at the church will not, by itself, affect or alter the mission of the parish. The purpose of the Oratory is to support a family of priests and brothers striving to live in mutual charity, prayer and service of the word of God according to the spirit of St. Philip Neri and St. Newman.

The Vision Statement from Our Lady of the Rosary Oratory for which the priests focus:

  1. Evangelization and proclamation of the word of God, especially to the young, while forming them in discipleship and leadership in the Church and Society;
  2. The cultivation of the spiritual life through prayer, sacramental service, spiritual direction, beautiful liturgy, and sacred art and music.
  3. Service to the poor, sick and needy, principally in our neighborhoods.

Q: The unique culture and personality of our church is one of the things that attracts me to SJFCUP. I am worried that the content or style of our weekly masses will change?

A:  Masses don’t “change” just because there is a change in leadership. We are all in the church together and while a priest’s personal style may change (Fr Jerry’s style was very different from Fr Mike’s) the liturgy remains the same. Fr Dan will undoubtedly bring his own style and his own preferences to this community but nevertheless will respect the current direction the traditions of this parish

Q: Will we still be able to continue our ministry work with CCRT, Hope Warming Center & SOS? 

A:  We look forward to engaging Fr Dan in the planning and execution of all of these existing ministries. At this time, it is our expectation that all of these ministries will continue to be supported and encouraged.

Q: Why hadn’t the church communicated the change by email, in the bulletin or E-blast since so many parishioners are out of town or unable to come to mass due to illness?

A:  We recognize those of you who did not hear Fr. Mike’s announcement during mass wish an announcement had been emailed to every parishioner. The Pastoral Leadership Team and the Parish Council will continue to share information with the parish community as quickly and as effectively as possible. Over the past 2 weeks, there has been communication via E-Blast and with the parish bulletin. We will continue to use all channels available to us to communicate with our parishioners.

Special group question and answer sessions had been scheduled for the week of March 16-20, but unfortunately these had to be postponed due to social distancing policies instituted across the state in response to the Novel Corona virus outbreak. We aim to reschedule these meetings, if still needed, once the health advisories permit.

Q: When or how can we get answers from Fr. Dan or Archbishop Vigneron?

A:  Fr. Dan’s arrival in July, along with his associate, will allow for a good dialogue between the Pastoral Team, the Council and the new leadership. We encourage all interested parties to discuss their questions and concerns with Fr. Dan at that time.

(April 3, 2020)


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