Posts Tagged ‘Pastoral Planning’

Pastoral Planning Since Pentecost

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The readings from God’s Holy Word in the Bible during this bright Easter season are most enlightening and encouraging.

A facet I enjoy a lot, especially evident in our selections at Mass, and in the Divine Office we clergy and religious daily pray, is the narrative, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and John, about the growth and structuring of the infant Church.

So, the apostles, disciples, and faithful women and men had to pray for guidance, then debate, and finally make tough decisions about such things as preaching the Gospel outside of Jerusalem (Who would go? Where? What language?); taking care of the “widows and orphans” (thus the development of deacons); the flow of the liturgy and other sacraments; attracting new converts and preserving the faith of those already in the fold; how to relate to pressing cultural and social issues, bringing the light of the gospel to the public square; and, how best to spend the offerings of God’s People.

One legitimately asks: hasn’t the Church been into strategic pastoral planning since Jesus ascended to His heavenly Father?

It’s hardly novel.  Our current Making All Things New is only the 2014 chapter of an opus which began to be composed in 33 a.d.

That’s why we’ve stressed from the start of our present round of planning that it’s more than a question about buildings, addresses, closings or merging.  Yes, some of this will be called for, and the sound recommendations from our pastors, clergy, religious, and people are now “on the table,” to be further prayed over, refined, and finalized.

But, driving all of this is the same set of values we sense in our Easter readings: is the invitation of Jesus, and the truth of His message, being extended effectively in our preaching, religious education of the young, faith formation of adults, and our schools? Are the poor and rich being served?  Are the “fallen away” being welcomed back?  Do God’s people have available to them the spiritual sustenance of prayer and the sacraments? Are the offerings of God’s People being spent well, or squandered?

Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.

Baloney!  There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning.  It’s been going on since Pentecost.

Thanks to all of you leading and cooperating in this current phase!  It’s not easy, but it’s sure essential.  And you’re in good company with the apostles and first generation disciples.

“A Culture of Planning”

Friday, June 14th, 2013

This week’s Catholic New York column is a (slightly shortened!) copy of the remarks I made at Saint Joseph’s Seminary last Thursday on the Making All Things New pastoral planning process.  I thought you might want to see it.

Here is an excerpt:

We’ve talked about pastoral planning so long and so often that I’m afraid there has set in a “planning fatigue,” and a skepticism about its seriousness. We’ve been through waves of “planning fever” over the past quarter-century, and, some observe, nothing much has changed.

So, what is pastoral planning? It’s really our assessment of the call of Jesus, and the needs of His Church, and His people right now, “how we are meeting them,” and how we best ought to shepherd our resources to further His Person, message, and invitation to salvation.

In a way, then, we have been doing pastoral planning since Pentecost, as His first disciples prayed and considered His imperative to “Go, teach all nations!”

You can read my whole column here.

Continuing to Move Forward with Making All Things New

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Today is a promising day, because about 300 of our priests, deacons, religious, and our pastoral planning women and men, will be joining me at Saint Joseph’s Seminary to begin the next phase of our pastoral planning process, Making All Things New.

Many of you have already been a part of the beginning stages of our pastoral planning, which began under Bishop Dennis Sullivan – then our Vicar General, now the Bishop of Camden, New Jersey – and very ably carried on now by Father John O’Hara.  The parish surveys that were completed by parishioners in nearly all of our parishes yielded thousand of responses, Bishop Sullivan and his team met with thousands of our people at sites all over the archdiocese, and these responses have been very carefully studied as an initial indicator of the pastoral needs of the Catholic faithful in this archdiocese.

At today’s meeting, we will be introducing The Reid Group, a company that specializes in assisting dioceses in their pastoral planning process.  The Reid Group will be working with the Archdiocese of New York, and, more specifically, with our parishioners, parishes, and regions, as we seek your input and ideas about what should be done in pastoral planning.  Every parish will be involved in this process, and we can only succeed if we are all committed to working together to share our ideas in order that we might renew and strengthen our parishes and parish life.

As we continue with our pastoral planning, I can assure you of two things.  The first is that no decisions have already been reached about what changes will be made at the end of our process.  Those decisions will only be reached after much consultation with our laity, our religious, and our clergy.  We need you and your wisdom to help guide this process. The second thing I can promise is that we will always proceed patiently, prudently, and prayerfully.  And, The Reid Group will help us to do just that.

For now, I ask for your continued prayers that the Holy Spirit will guide Making All Things New, and I invite and look forward to your active participation in your parish as our pastoral planning gets underway in earnest this fall!