LAKE ORION — After members of the pastoral staff at St. Joseph the Worker Parish attended the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Amazing Parish Conference in April, they were eager to share what they learned with the rest of the staff. So they put their heads together and organized a condensed version of the conference, and thus, the “Mini Amazing Parish Retreat” was born.

“Back in April we thought, ‘We’re already an amazing parish, we don’t need to go to this,’” said Fr. Mike Verschaeve, pastor of the Lake Orion parish who attended the conference with four from his staff. “But we’re so glad we went. It affirmed and challenged us — affirming the areas we’re already doing well and challenging us to grow even more.

”Mary Ann Mohring, stewardship director at St. Joseph, attended the conference and was one of five people who planned the retreat.

“We came back totally rejuvenated from Amazing Parish, and when we went over the issues and information we discussed there, we realized it would be a good idea for both the parish staff and the school staff to do the retreat together,” Mohring said.

The school staff typically held its own retreat before school began each year.

“In parishes with schools, there can be tension between the two staffs,” said. “This retreat met a need to integrate our parish and school staffs and keep them working together.

”St. Joseph School principal Joe Zmikly welcomed the idea of a joint retreat.

“I was told the conference was all about building trust and working together as a team, and I knew those ideas would apply to the school staff just as much as it would to the parish staff,” Zmikly said. “I also thought it was a good idea for us to show we’re all one parish, all one group as a school and church staff together.

”The St. Joseph Mini Amazing Parish Retreat was held in August. Everyone on the staff was invited, including janitors, teachers and pastoral and administrative staff. About 50 people attended.

Inspired by an urging at the conference in April to reiterate one’s parish vision and goals, the retreat began with a close look at the mission statements of the school and parish. shared how the visions came to be and what they meant.

“We asked those who attended, ‘In your particular ministry, how does your work reflect our vision and mission?’” said. “It reminded participants that their ministry is important to the mission, no matter what their role.

”The planning team condensed the three-day conference into a six-hour retreat by focusing on highlights and key points. At the end of the retreat, each attendee pledged something specific they could do for the parish and school to fulfill the mission.

Zmikly said feedback from the retreat was positive.

“Everyone liked getting together with people in the church they rarely see. They said they want to do more events like this one,” Zmikly said. “It’s like seeing two different sides of the same coin, with everyone working on the same mission.

”Sue Audette is the worship coordinator at St. Joseph; she attended the conference in April and also helped plan the retreat.

“We’re on a course here,” she said. “It’ll take a while to completely unfold everything we learned because there are so many elements to explore, but we’re all really energized and we plan to do more like this.

” says the Amazing Parish Conference helped him realize he still has much to do in his time at the parish.

“I’m four years away from becoming a senior priest, and I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks,” he said. “Instead of fading away, I can work hard to leave a legacy for this parish. The church deserves good leadership.

” Amazing Parish series

This story is the fourth in a series about how parishes have changed their approach to ministry after attending the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Amazing Parish Conference in April. For others in the series, visit www.