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Interview with team member of the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative

Parishioners of the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative, Sts. Martha and Mary, Sacred Heart, and St. Rose of Lima, took time for prayer following a late summer barbecue. Sponsored by the collaborative's Why Catholic? group, the photo, with a get well wish sign in front, was sent to a parishioner who was seriously ill. Courtesy photo

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Holly Clark, pastoral associate, director of ministries, and member of the executive team at the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative, loves being a pioneer. That's how she describes life these past 10 months. Parishioners and staff in the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative are pioneers in a new way of parish life. The CCC is a Phase I collaborative that covers three towns and three Catholic communities: Lakeville (Sts. Martha and Mary), Middleborough (Sacred Heart), and Rochester (St. Rose of Lima). Inaugurated June 4, 2013, the goal of the collaborative is to be a vibrant, strong, stable, center of evangelization. This is life-giving work, but it is also hard work. Being pioneers is enormously rewarding, even with unexpected ups and downs.

When speaking with Holly there is little doubt that the Holy Spirit is doing good work in cranberry country; the collaborative is, indeed, a busy center of evangelization. Holly's assessment of the new collaborative is emphatic, "the Holy Spirit permeates!" A major goal of the collaborative is to help the Church grow, and although they have no hard numbers, she is confident that they are growing and says that the staff and parishioners can "feel the energy of the Holy Spirit."

Prior to being in Phase I, Father Paul Aveni was pastor of the parishes and Holly credits him with doing a fine job preparing for the move into a collaborative. The daily Mass schedule was altered and the new schedule brought together members from all three communities, forging a connection in the best possible way -- at Mass. Once a month, the Thursday morning Mass is followed by refreshments. This contributes to the feeling of community and helps build connections.

Not long after arriving, Father John Sheridan, pastor of CCC, realized that the weekend Mass schedule needed adjustment as well. The new schedule allows him to rotate among the churches more often; it helps him get to know the people, and they him, better. Change can be hard but the good people in cranberry country understand the solid reason that prompted this change.

Several new initiatives are now in place, always with the focus on evangelization and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. The new website (www.cranberrycatholic.org) has a form to submit prayer requests online. Requests have been coming in from as far away as the United Kingdom. The collaborative is now recruiting "Prayer Warriors," parishioners who are willing to pray for a particular person or intention on a regular basis. This year, for the first time in many years, a Lenten mission was offered, with services held in all three churches over the three night mission.

In addition to her work as pastoral associate, Holly is also director of ministries, a new role that several collaboratives have instituted. Good work did not begin on June 4 when the collaborative was launched, it was happening already; so among Holly's first tasks is an assessment of what groups, activities, and ministries already exist in the collaborative. Then, in partnership with staff and parishioners, look at where they want to go. Building on the knowledge and experience of the lay staffs and working with Father Sheridan, parochial vicar Father Mark Derrane and Permanent Deacons George Gabriel and Charles Bower, has made teamwork both fertile and, at times, fun.

Change can be difficult and new ventures come with ups and downs -- some serious, some not so serious. Sts. Martha and Mary Church needed a lift to make events in the lower church accessible for all. This is a big expense, but the project has been approved by the Finance Council, recognizing that it is the right thing to do. True evangelization, an all are welcome philosophy, shouldn't be limited by the ability to walk up and down stairs.

On the lighter side, the first attempt at designing a graphic to symbolize their location in the heart of cranberry country was not quite an overwhelming success. Apparently it was not designed by a botanist -- the cranberries and leaves were not in correct proportion. It is now affectionately referred to as the tomato and basil banner! This has been resolved and, all parish communication, and what visitors to the website see, is a botanically correct graphic with berries and leaves in right proportion and, of course, a cross. This isn't just a cranberry collaborative, it is the Cranberry CATHOLIC Collaborative.

If you wonder what collaboratives are all about, check out DisciplesinMission.org, the website of the Pastoral Planning Office. To learn more about what's happening in cranberry country go to cranberrycatholic.org. Along with interesting information about the people and life of the CCC, you will also see and hear Father Sheridan's 60 second video overview of the collaboration process. Coming from a family of nine children, he speaks from experience when he talks about the ways he has seen love, grace, and joy multiplied by collaboration.

Holly attests that at times it seems like they are on roller skates, trying to touch all the bases, and she is realistic enough to know that the road will have some bumps, but she has absolutely no doubt that the Holy Spirit abides in and guides the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative. Oh Pioneers!

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