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Holy Family Cathedral » Rector » In Service to One Another: Voluntary Subordination

In Service to One Another: Voluntary Subordination

by V. Rev. Jovita Okonkwo, Rector of the Cathedral


Last month, I enumerated concrete behaviors suited for the manner of discipleship that we are called to embrace in order to become intentional Catholics. First among the six behaviors mentioned is voluntary subordination. (Others to be further discussed include authentic self, covenantal relationship, responsible morality, transcendental spirituality, and transforming influence). Voluntary Subordination is key to attaining intentional Catholicism. To become intentional Catholics, we must leave no stone unturned in our endeavor to outdo each other in charity, remembering the words of the apostle Paul that we should “be subordinate to each other out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). In his other letters he used similar expression like “serve one another through love,” literally meaning, “be slaves to one another” (Gal 5:13), and “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3).
I have no doubt in my mind that the idea of subordinating ourselves to others is not only subversive to the culture in vogue, which promotes self-esteem over Christ-esteem, but also offensive to many. Every fiber of our muscle, every fissure of our brain and every cell of our blood scream against the idea that we should subordinate ourselves to others. Yet, voluntary subordination is a spiritual gift and an act of love moving us to willingly abandon ourselves to the service of others. Our Lord and Master Jesus practiced voluntary subordination: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash each other’s feet” (John 13:14). By abandoning himself completely to the will of the father for our sake, he calls us, his followers to learn that discipleship entails submitting to love and service of our brethren. The motive for our mutual subordination is clearly stated in the passage of Ephesians – “out of reverence for Christ.” Is it possible for two people to meaningfully place themselves under each other? Yes – when they do so “out of reverence for Christ.” Can we serve one another in our parish and transform Holy Family into a Stewardship Parish? Certainly we can, and only “out of reverence for Christ” who lives in our sisters and brothers. Armed with this mindset we can move forward with great optimism.

The prevailing attitude is to place regular parish activities on hold during the summer vacation period. With Labor Day we kick-start the Religious Education classes, RCIA and regular adult formation classes. While several of us were on vacation, the different councils of the parish were busy working out a future plan for our parish. For over six months the Strategic Planning Committee set up by the parish council has worked on long and short term plans for our parish. While discussions are ongoing with regard to the goals and specific ways to achieve them, I’ll like to use this medium to brief us on the key issues discussed and generally adopted by the councilors.

The task of advising the rector of the cathedral on crucial pastoral and financial issues has for years rested on the parish council. Though the cathedral parish has its unique characteristics which differentiate it from other parishes, we thought that we can create room for greater participation of the faithful in the day-to-day running of the parish by forming a finance council, according to the provisions of canon law that “in every parish a finance council should be formed to advice the pastor on the care of the temporal goods of the Church” (Canon 537). Our decision to form a finance council was also informed by the need for the parish council to focus primarily on the pastoral life of the parish and not mingle those with financial issues that often overshadow other relevant concerns. Both anecdotal evidence and experiential data indicate that parish councils that handle financial issues end up focusing mostly on the financial. In such parishes, pastoral concerns are mostly not given priority attention. Hence, the following parishioners were nominated and approved as members of the finance committee: Phil Reedy (Chair), Cherie Hughes, Bob Healey, Veronica Felzke, and John Smithson. On your behalf, I wish to thank them for accepting to serve our parish.
While still on that theme of finance, I wish to thank all the contributing members of Holy Family parish. Your contributions enable us to keep the cathedral and other facilities we have at Holy Family running. It has to be stated that the task of day-to-day running of the cathedral and our school rests solely on parishioners of Holy Family, not on the chancery or any other office of the diocese. And for a building more than a hundred years old, the cost is expected to be high. I wish to also make you aware of the fact that our income is rarely sufficient to cover our overhead. The finance committee will issue quarterly financial report and analysis of the parish financial health, to be published both in the bulletin and the Newsletter. While I am not pressing the panic button, I pray you to increase your giving, if you can. I am aware of the state of the economy and would not want to burden you with monetary requests. I know that you love your parish and would do what is best for its upkeep.

You probably have heard it as a rumor, but I wish to officially inform everyone that late parishioner, Mark Nelson (God rest him) willed his entire estate, appraised at about half a million dollars, to Holy Family Cathedral. We are in the process of liquidating the assets and placing Mark’s house for sale. We collected materials such as furniture and tools from Mark’s house that were deemed useful for the rectory and the maintenance service of our parish. The rest of the items in the house will be either sold in an estate-sale, auctioned off or sold in a garage sale. Mark entrusted his estate to the management of the Trust Company of Oklahoma with whom we are working to recoup the true value of the estate. We, however, welcome any advice on the best ways to handle the sale of the estate.

In a nutshell, the parish has a few projects that we are planning to embark on once we finish creating a priority list, chief among which are improving the façade of the cathedral, redoing the parking lot across from the school, sanding and tuck-pointing to repair cracks, settlements and movements of mortar, window protection for firming our invaluable stained-glass windows, installing an elevator for freer access to the basement and the auditorium, entirely redoing and expanding the auditorium to create more space for weddings and corporate events, improving the brides room, the bathrooms and nursery, and creating a youth room. We have to be on notice that the two boilers that serve the cathedral and the rectory are primeval. While we are glad to have such artifacts, they probably no longer belong to the 21st century. We cannot wait until they die on us before we start thinking about changing them. Moreover, they astronomically drive up our utility costs and are painful to maintain. We must start making plans to replace them before their eventual collapse.
To tackle these projects, the finance council is working on both short and long term fundraising efforts that would involve solicitations to parishioners and the entire faithful of the Tulsa diocese. We should be able to provide you with numbers by next month. For now, we plead for your support and request that you donate your time if you are called upon to join the planning effort, or your resources, if you have been blessed with an increase.

Now, we turn to issues of pastoral concerns. In order to attain our goal of bringing the gospel to all parishioners so that they may become true disciples of Christ and intentional Catholics, the Strategic Planning Committee made the following recommendations, which I have approved and given the go-ahead to work out the details:

Holy Family Cathedral parish shall, from Advent of this year (2015), embark on Wednesday night catechesis for all ages. Wednesday nights shall be our official Church School Night when parishioners of all ages will have the opportunity to learn about their faith. Religious Education for our children will take place at the same time. Parents may no longer only drop off their kids for RE. Parents will join other adults in the parish for adult faith formation. Candidates for RCIA and those Christians of other traditions wishing to enter into full communion of the Catholic Church would have separate classes to learn materials appropriate to their needs. Youth Group meetings shall also be held at the same time. Each school night will end with a large group prayer or song in the cathedral. Adjustments shall be made with regard to groups and sodalities that usually meet on Wednesday nights.

In order to enhance our participation in the liturgy, we have approved a new Mass, Hymn and Prayer Book that contains the Lectionary Readings and Antiphons, Sung Order of Mass, Full Kyriale in English and Latin, Simple Proper and Seasonal Chants, and Devotional Prayers. This prayer book will replace the Missalettes that we have been using and throwing away seasonally. Not only are the Missalettes inadequate for proper liturgical worship, they give the impression that we can use and throw away God’s inspired words and sacred hymns written in them. Moreover, the new prayer book will be permanent and cut costs in the long run.

Out of our Wednesday night catechesis, we hope to see a growth in the need for prayer groups or small faith sharing groups that may meet in the Church or private homes to internalize the fruits of catechesis and practice intentional discipleship. This will enable parishioners to connect with one another and share relevant concerns, joys and communion as well as pray for particular needs of the parish community, for example, vocation to the priesthood and the religious life. A pilot exercise is currently underway.

The parish shall embark on annual parish mission outside Tulsa and/or in neighboring countries where we can share the fruits of our faith and experience the faith and struggles of other Christians who live in different situations. A mission trip and retreat to Guatemala, Haiti, Guyana etc., shall be     planned for the year 2016, and subsequent years.

There will be a Lenten retreat to usher in the penitential season of Lent 2016 and prepare parishioners for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. The parish shall invite a retreat moderator who will facilitate this exercise for the faithful. In addition, a committee shall be set up in the next few weeks to organize an ACTS retreat for the parish.

The parish shall create a Welcoming Committee charged with the responsibility of fostering and welcoming visitors and new members to our parish. Likewise, the parish shall institute a bi-annual new members’ dinner to be catered or provided by the sodalities of the parish, where new members will have the opportunity to meet the clergy and staff of the cathedral.

There will be an open house once a year for interested parishioners to visit and tour the rectory and other facilities around the cathedral. Parishioners will have the opportunity to meet the clergy in an informal forum that will include a Q&A session about issues of interests and/or concerns. We will invite the Bishop, who is the pastor of the parish, to participate in this event.

Plans are underway to organize and produce a parish directory to help us know each other and be able to place names on some of the faces we so often see to whom we still remain unfamiliar.

We encourage openness to these ideas and welcome suggestions and criticisms. May our Mother Mary who submitted to the will of God and became a disciple and servant of her son, teach us such reverence for Christ that we may see him and serve him in our brothers and sisters!

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One Response to "In Service to One Another: Voluntary Subordination"

  1. Brooke and Gary Eastburn says:

    What a blessing to have these goals and it speaks to an exciting future for Holy Family Cathedral. We especially look forward to Wednesday nights and to become more intentional Catholics.

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