The “It takes a village” adage is truly exemplified with our Changing Lives Forever (CLF) program. When a parish decides to host a CLF program, they need more than a few facilitators to be successful. While the facilitators are the most visible, they are supported by many layers of volunteers. Indeed, for the CLF program to really thrive, it needs the Body of Christ to surround it and provide assistance in multiple ways.
One of the most beautiful examples we have of that is at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
A few years back (and after many years of serving SVdP in different capacities), Diane and Bill Powers wanted to bring the CLF program to their home parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. The parish conference set up a core group with three trained facilitators. As it got underway, they added various arms of support that have sustained and helped the program grow.
Diane says there are six essential ways a parish should support CLF to help it become the transformational tool it is meant to be:
- Pastoral: “Fr. Bob Sims was immediately supportive and began to bring attention to it from the pulpit, in talks with individual parishioners and wherever else he saw an opportunity. That support trickled throughout the church,” Diane says.
- Financial: Immaculate Heart of Mary has fully funded the last three sessions of CLF. While many parishes receive SVdP grants, Diane says the parish decided it wanted to provide the funding. It has used fifth Sunday donations and support from the social outreach budget to financially support the program.
- Facilitators: Groups should have three facilitators to guide the discussions and encourage participation. The program’s success along with the parish support has encouraged more to be trained as facilitators, ensuring the longevity of the program.
- Meals: When sessions were in-person (pre-COVID), homecooked meals were provided each time. “Breaking bread” together helped build up connections in the group. And our cooks were able to see who they were helping.
- Marketing: Diane says marketing has two focus areas: recruiting investigators (what we call participants) and encouraging support through financial gifts, meals and volunteers.
- Mentors: Throughout and after investigators graduate, it’s critical that they have access to a support system to offer guidance on how to reach their goals. Mentors with different backgrounds are a great resource. For example, Bill, who started as a facilitator, now serves as a mentor, providing financial counseling to the graduates as needed.
Over the past few years, about 25-30 parishioners have been involved supporting the program.
“It just shows you how united we are in our support of Changing Lives Forever,” Diane says. “We believe in its ability to truly change lives.”
The CLF Ripple Effect
Some of those lives include those who are serving CLF.
“One of the blessings of having CLF here at Immaculate Heart is that it’s been really transformational for us as a church body,” she shares. “It’s reengaged our parish community. We’ve tripled the number of people who attend our SVdP conference meetings and, as a church, we’ve sought to be more involved with the MLK Center, where we hold the CLF meetings. We’re asking ourselves, ‘What else can we do to support those trying to create a different life for themselves?’”
Mother Teresa once said that, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” CLF has that positive ripple effect. Every life we change in the program then ripples out positively to countless others—it’s simply amazing.