August 21, 2020

‘Beautiful’ moment drives new director to build up faith, community

Matt Faley, then-director of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry for the archdiocese, leads those attending the archdiocesan Gathering of Disciples in song on Sept. 8, 2018. (File photo by Mike Krokos)

Matt Faley, then-director of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry for the archdiocese, leads those attending the archdiocesan Gathering of Disciples in song on Sept. 8, 2018. (File photo by Mike Krokos)

By John Shaughnessy

Matt Faley calls the moment “beautiful”—a moment when the married father of three small children formed an unexpected bond with a widower in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, Faley and his wife Kara and their children were in the front yard of their Indianapolis home when the man drove by in his restored, vintage car, which led Faley to call out, “Love the car!”

“Two minutes later, he comes back around the block, and he pulls up to the front yard where we’re sitting with the kids,” says Faley, who became director of the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries for the archdiocese earlier this year. “We go to talk with him. He’s this neighbor I had never met before.”

As they talked, Faley asked the neighbor if he rebuilt the car, and the neighbor shared the story of how his wife bought it, how they fixed it up and how she died four years ago. As the neighbor told the story, he choked up.

“He’s got this picture of his wife and him, and he’s got it buckled up in his car,” Faley says. “He’s driving with a picture of his wife in the front seat. It just moved me so much.”

By the time the neighbor drove away, he and the Faleys were connected.

Faley notes, “There are people all around us, in our circle of influence, that God is asking us to be a part of their lives, to be in communion with them and love them like they need to be loved.”

‘Meeting people where they are’

In his interactions with his neighbors, Faley isn’t trying to minister to them. He’s just trying to be a good neighbor. At the same time, he sees that effort to be a good neighbor as the heart of what the archdiocese is trying to do through its pastoral ministries.

He continually shares that message and mission with the people who serve the archdiocese in pastoral ministries. It’s an umbrella group that includes Youth Ministry, Intercultural Ministry, Young Adult and College Campus Ministry, the Office of Human Life and Dignity, and the Office of Marriage and Family Life.

“We talk with our directors that if we’re not living that sense of mission and love and discipleship outside this building, then we don’t have a reference point for being an active follower of Jesus in the world,” Faley says. “So that’s the connection point.

“It’s a continuous, lived thing that we have to come back to, that pushes us out in our ministries. That’s where we need to be as a Church. The Church started as neighborly, as communal. That’s the foundation of our Church.”

Faley’s foundation for becoming director of pastoral ministries are his 10 years of leading the Young Adult and College Campus Ministry in the archdiocese.

“It just felt pretty clear that the Lord was saying it’s time to move on and take the experiences I’ve been able to get in the past 10 years and use them more in an expanded role,” says Faley, who is 37.

Faley is a natural choice to lead pastoral ministries, says Annette “Mickey” Lentz, chancellor of the archdiocese.

“Matt is a young man filled with wisdom and grace,” says Lentz, who was also involved in hiring Faley as the director of young adult ministry. “It has been my pleasure to watch him learn, grow and form himself into the exemplary leader he is today.

“I had no doubt about Matt’s ability to lead the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries. His faith and spirituality permeate every action he takes as a leader, and he leads many diverse groups. He is approachable, thought-provoking and prayerful. He thinks and analyzes every situation to make the best decision he can—not only for his team members, but for the people served in those ministries.”

Faley is drawn to the broader scope of pastoral ministries because he sees the ways it touches so many areas of need in the archdiocese.

“That’s what makes it so powerful. We’re here to serve in so many areas,” he says. “I thought it was very forward-thinking to put them under one umbrella because so much of it is outreached base and meeting people where they are. It’s also helping people who are serving other people in the Church to do the same thing. I think that’s so necessary at this time.”

‘We have to be people of prayer’

Leading an outreach that has many different ministries comes with its challenges, so Faley tries to keep the focus on a few key points of unity.

“With this many ministries, you can only go so far in collaboration, so what’s going to be the thing that unifies us the most is the mission that Jesus gave all of us, which is to go serve, to love one another and to make disciples,” he says. “That’s where we’re uniting.”

Two other points of unity come from his experience in leading the ministry for young adults and college students. For Faley, it always starts with prayer.

“We have to be people of prayer,” he says. “We pray and propose and ask the Lord if this is what he wants us to do. If it’s confirmed in our prayer, then go do it. If we function from that reality, people are always going to bring other people to a closer relationship with the Lord because we’re bringing him into that space.”

Faley also sets his focus on ways to build a sense of community beyond the staffs of the various pastoral ministries.

“Some of our experience in young adult ministry was how we created successful outreach programs—that we were out there in the world and serving people directly, but also how we raised up young adult leaders in our communities to go be the people that met their peers where they were.

“That same sense of creative evangelization is needed in all our ministries, because we are so much about meeting people where they are.”

It all leads back to a conversation that Faley and his wife had following their encounter with the neighbor who shared the story of his restored car and the love of his life.

“In the midst of all this craziness, people just want to talk. They want to have communion,” Faley says. “It’s challenging, but it’s also an opportunity. You just have to be present to those conversations and be open to people.

“That informs our ministries here.” †

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