Sunday, 01 August 2010 08:32

Frequently asked questions about pastoral planning process

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Marlene Mulford, chancellor and director of pastoral planning, answers some frequently asked questions about the 2010 Parish Pastoral Plan.

What is the goal of the 2010 Parish Pastoral Plan?

The goal of this planning process is to create a diocesan parish pastoral plan that can be used to guide future parish collaboration and pastoral assignments that uphold the mission of Jesus Christ and the church as we face the challenges of the decreasing numbers of priests and geographical fluctuations.

Much time and work went into several diocesan planning processes in the past and the plans were never implemented. Why not?

Our past bishops had their reasons for not implementing all or part of a planning process. Some parish modifications have occurred over the years. In 1995 there were 165 parishes in the diocese. We now have 131 parishes. In addition, many pastoral units and parish clusters have formed over the past several years. It is essential in pastoral planning to re-examine the plan every five years in order to stay current with the changes in the number of priests and demographics. Based on the success of the 2010 Parish Pastoral Plan, we will most likely be undergoing a planning process every five years.

When will the parish pastoral plan be implemented?

The planning results from the 2010 Parish Pastoral Plan will not be implemented all at once. The final parish plans of this process will be used as a guide for the bishop and the priests’ personnel board in the assignment of priests, parish life coordinators and deacons in the months and years to come. How much of the plan will be implemented? Experience tells us approximately 85 percent.

Will my parish be closed?

The diocese does not desire to suppress or close parishes, but parishes will not close by a decision alone from the diocese. The diocese, as well as our parishes, has challenges to face, including the critical priest shortage, geographical fluctuations and sustaining the viability of our parishes.

The answer depends on the support and leadership of our laypeople to help keep our parishes viable.

What is a viable parish?

It’s not just about the weekend Mass schedule!

Mass fulfills the Sunday obligation, but there is so much more to parish life. A vision for each parish is to continue the mission of Jesus Christ through the building up of a faith-filled, vibrant Catholic community of word, worship and service.

A viable parish should include:

  • Evangelization efforts to bring back those who have left the church as well as conversion of those who are searching;

  • Catechesis to provide formation for children, youth and adults;

  • A stewardship process that teaches the spirituality of time, talent and treasure;

  • Liturgy that engages people, is prayerful, and has good music and preaching;

  • Pastoral ministries and services that meet the needs of the parish community and enable the members to share their own gifts and talents;

  • A caring community where parishioners support one another and reach out to the poor;

  • Welcoming that reaches out to new and prospective parish members;

  • A parish mission and vision that allow the parish to listen to parishioners and provides a clear sense of its mission and purpose;

  • Close collaboration, with  staff working together and closely with lay leadership;

  • Pastoral leadership that recruits quality staff members who are enthusiastic and energized, and participate in on-going formation and training;

  • Prayer and spirituality that is heartfelt and sincere, where parishioners are prepared to live the Gospel and are nurtured by a variety of opportunities for prayer; and

  • Fiscal health so that the parish not only meets expenses, it gives generously to needs beyond the parish through special collections and other means.

Why is the diocese divided into 12 planning regions instead of the already existing seven deaneries?

Currently many priests who pastor multiple parishes cross deanery lines. In order to make sure all of a pastor’s multiple parishes were in one planning group, the planning regions were developed for the 2010 Parish Pastoral Plan. The deanery boundaries still exist, but may undergo some future reconfiguration.

Isn’t the real problem vocations? What is the diocese doing about vocations?

Father Christopher House is director of the diocesan Office for Vocations. Father House is also in residence at the Cathedral. He will be traveling with the bishop on his pastoral visits throughout the diocese and working with the bishop on vocations awareness. One of the ways he pursues vocations is by recommendation. Father House asks priests of the diocese to seek out candidates and invite them to scheduled informational gatherings.

Please continue to pray for vocations and remind your pastors to keep the subject and prayers in the forefront of your parish prayer intentions. Father House is available to speak to parish groups. Contact Father Chris House at (217) 698-8500, ext. 182.