St. Mary Parishioners Imagine the Possibilities for Themselves and Their Church

CROWN POINT – A parish can only be the best version of itself to the extent that the people of the church are the best versions of themselves. That was the message delivered to the congregation of St. Mary Catholic Church on Aug. 21 during a Parish Dream Event. 

Facilitated by Executive Coach and Certified Dream Manager Tony Ferraro, participants had the chance to discover dreams for their life, their family and their parish, with the goal of leading them to the best versions of themselves. 

Ferraro has more than 25 years of leadership experience in both the parish, educational and business arenas. His experience includes an 11-year tenure as the Executive Director of a private, Catholic academy which, under his leadership, experienced unprecedented growth and moved to a new multi-million-dollar campus. He uses his professional experiences as well as the humor that comes from being the father of seven children to work with individuals and organizations that want to dream big. 

Ferraro started off by stating that if everyone could eliminate two words from their vocabulary, it would be a great start to the parish becoming the best version of itself. One of those words is “unprecedented” and the other is “normal.” Normalcy, he believes, is essentially a myth. Quoting a line from the movie “Tombstone” he said, “There is no such thing as a normal life. There’s only life, so get on with it.”

After sharing that advice, Ferraro talked about the importance of connecting and being with others. 

“It’s really good for us to be together,” he said. “You know that it's good to be together with people you know, love and trust. It’s good for us emotionally to be together. We also know it’s good for us to come together spiritually. What you might not know is that it’s actually good for you to be together with people you know, love and respect physically.”

Ferraro explained that various research has shown that those who participate in group activities such as sports and even choir seem to receive certain benefits. They often have a higher pain tolerance; their blood pressure is lower and their immune system improves when compared to others who do the same tasks alone.

With the help of smartphones and tablets, Ferraro then asked those gathered in the church’s Hammes Hall to respond to some questions anonymously. Responses were collected electronically and then displayed on a screen in front of the room. The first questions he proposed were simple, asking those present to text one word that described their day.

“Whether it’s Sunday or another time this is what’s happening – everybody walks through the doors of the church having a different day,” he said.

Ferraro continued by asking the group to consider “What’s your best memory as a Catholic?” “What is your most significant moment as a member of this parish?” “How would you like your parish to be perceived by the greater community?” and “How would you like your parish to serve your family?”

“Everyone in this room can dream as long as you’re human,” he said. “Dreaming is a uniquely human gift given to us by God. And when you know someone else's dreams, you start to know them in a uniquely human way.”  

Moving from keypads to pen and paper, Ferraro next instructed everyone to start their own “dream book” using a complimentary booklet they received. Page by page, parishioners took a few minutes to begin creating a list of their dreams using 12 categories that included physiological, intellectual, professional, creative and financial. As he concluded his talk, Ferraro challenged them to go home and see if they could make a list totaling 100 dreams. 

Tom Ruiz, principal of St. Mary Catholic Community School, felt taking a moment to pause and imagine what the parish could become was important.  

“It's a healthy part of the development of any organization,” said Ruiz. “We have an amazing parish community. The sky's the limit for St. Mary's, Crown Point!" 

Sister Joanne Marie Schutz, SSCM, the parish’s pastoral associate, said she learned that many parishioners have the same or similar dreams for the church. “That is encouraging to me,” she said.

Sister Joanne Marie felt the most important aspect of the exercise was starting off simple – getting some of the parishioners to slowly dream before asking them to dream in categories like material dreams or physical dreams.  

“I hope this will set the stage for the possibility of what they can do in the future,” she said. “Each person simply has to change their mind to make things happen.”

Father Kevin Huber, pastor of St. Mary and chancellor for the Diocese of Gary, was the driving force behind the afternoon’s event. Passionate about leadership, preaching and empowerment, Father Huber is also a certified dream manager, having completed the Dream Manager Program offered by Floyd Consulting, Inc., a company started by internationally acclaimed speaker and author Matthew Kelly. 

“In my experience, people don’t have a chance to dream, or they need permission to identify and articulate dreams,” said Father Huber. “Even more fulfilling dreams lead to greater satisfaction in life and translate to deeper happiness in every part of their life.”

Father Huber hopes that the Parish Dream Event will empower people to find deeper satisfaction in their life.  

“I also hope that as they learn to dream for their life, members of the parish will begin to imagine dreams for their parish,” he added.