The parish leadership team (PLT) at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Hendersonville, TN had a hunger to make their parish excellent leading up to the Amazing Parish Summit in Phoenix, AZ. During their three days in the desert, the team realized that unceasing prayer is the foundation they need to drive their hunger for greatness in the right direction.
Fr. Austin Gilstrap explained, “The emphasis on prayer is one that I am still trying to integrate into my leadership and our whole PLT is doing the same. We love it! But it is still uncomfortable for most of us right now because we are still practicing,” He continued, “If anything, Summit helped us to center ourselves on building a culture (of unceasing prayer).”
Though the team is still becoming comfortable praying together, several members of the PLT noticed that Summit had an immediate impact on their culture and behaviors. Upon returning from Phoenix, the team has begun to pray the Angelus and the Divine Mercy Chaplet together. Rhonda Wigger, PLT member and Senior Director of Ministries said, “I feel more comfortable going deeper into sharing her faith with the PLT. Summit also challenged me to be more vulnerable and also heightened my belief in the power of the culture of prayer. It was very inspiring and helpful to see examples of parishes who have grown in this prayer-centered culture.”
The work the team has been doing around implementing a culture of unceasing prayer is already having a noticeable impact on the whole parish. Father Gilstrap was excited to share that at least a dozen parishioners have told him they feel something is different. “We love each other more, and parishioners are noticing,” he said. Father Gilstrap received a personal boost of zeal from the culture change, and exclaimed that he has had “more energy in the past three months than in the last two years combined.”
The growth in the culture of unceasing prayer has also made an impact on the day-to-day work of the PLT. Father Gilstrap has noticed how he enters into meetings with a sense of calm and can engage in healthy conflict with more peace. Team members said that meetings are now more focused and productive.
At their recent offsite, the PLT determined that continuing to build the culture of prayer is their number one priority for the foreseeable future. The team is convinced that every other effort in the parish will bear more fruit if the culture of unceasing prayer is evident on the PLT. The team’s willingness to incorporate prayer into their work and relationships with one another will open them up to receiving more of God’s graces. The PLT’s hunger for excellence, united with the will of God, is a powerful combination that primes Our Lady of the Lake for deep transformation.
Fr. Austin Gilstrap, Pastor
Our Lady of the Lake I Hendersonville, TN