Planning will affect every parish, task force member says

| April 7, 2010 | 1 Comment

This interview is the fifth story in a series on the seven planning principles guiding the parish and school planning process, which were first outlined by Archbishop John Nienstedt in March 2009. The fifth principle states that every parish will be involved in the planning process. A task force has been gathering information from area schools and parishes, and it will present its recommendations to Archbishop Nienstedt in July. Task force member and Parish Services Team director Jim Lundholm-Eades spoke with The Catholic Spirit about the role of parishes in the planning process.

Q Why should Catholics care about the Strategic Planning Process for Parishes and Schools when they don’t think their parish will be impacted?

A The fact is, all parishes will be impacted. The whole purpose of the planning is so the church in this area — including all the parishes, all the schools, all of our operations, efforts and ministry — will be revitalized and focused so that the church of Christ can grow.

To say that your parish won’t be impacted is to say, “I’m not going to revitalize, grow my church.” [This] isn’t consistent with the mission of the church. If the archdiocese thrives, it thrives because every parish is thriving.

The idea is to grow a stronger, more vital church through this process. Every parish, we hope and pray, will be stronger and more viable, more vital and more effective in its ministry,  in its mission [and] in fulfilling the mission of the church.

Some will be impacted more than others. But the communities of each of the parishes, we hope, will be more vital and more alive because of this planning process.

Q Why might a financially stable parish have to help parishes that are struggling to make ends meet?

A The local church is the archdiocese, and it’s not about “my parish and myself alone.” Our mission as church derives from community, and we have solidarity with all people who are orientated toward spreading the Gospel of Christ.

If my parish is financially stable, I have solidarity with those who have less. That’s not new. That goes back to the Acts of the Apostles, to the very earliest church, of one community helping another. So it’s a Catholic tradition and practice from the earliest times for one community to help another. We gather around Christ, not just around a building, not just around my immediate community. If there’s one part of the Body of Christ that needs my help, I have an obligation to help another part of the Body of Christ. My obligation to spread the Gospel is not just within my community; it goes far beyond that.

Q Why might a really large parish need to collaborate with others?

A Because [parishes] have gifts to share. There’s no magic size for a parish. In this archdiocese we happen to have a broad range of sizes of parishes, and the reason they exist is because people have preferences. Some prefer the way a large parish operates, some prefer to be in a much smaller community. Through the planning process we have to maintain both. It’s not about making the parishes all one size, or that one size is better than the other. We need communities with the diversity not just of sizes, but of gifts, with a diversity of ethnicities, with socio-economic diversities. We need all sorts of parishes in order to meet people’s needs.

Q How might the planning process affect a parish’s unique tradition or identity?

A We heard [in the consultation process] that people love the uniqueness of their communities, and each community does have its uniqueness. What people told us is absolutely true. Each community does have unique characteristics.

What’s also true is that part of the consultation process, whether it’s with parishioners or parish leaders, is that people loved talking to other parishes and found that they were surprised and delighted in those meetings to find how much they had in common, so both are true. We are gathered around the message of Christ. . . .

We know that, realistically, [parishes] will have to be changed in some cases. “Business as usual” is not an option. So there will be changes. But, as far as we can, we want to preserve the unique character of communities that exist.

Q If my parish doesn’t have a school, why should I?be concerned about Catholic schools?

A One of Archbishop [John] Nienstedt’s guidelines is that Catholic schools will be part of the future of this archdiocese. Catholic schools are one method of faith formation, of forming our kids. It’s immersion of our young people into a Catholic culture; it’s not just about teaching religion in a particular period of the day. . . . Since it’s an effective way of evangelizing and catechizing our young people, we all have responsibility toward that.

Q How much of a voice does a parish have in this process?

A The consultation process is what this whole year has been about, and all of that information, in detail, has come to the [planning] task force [appointed by Archbishop Nienstedt]. . . . When people have e-mailed us through the Web site with their suggestions, with their ideas, that’s been read, and given to the task force. When people left us voice mails on the dedicated voice mail line, that was listened to.

I couldn’t tell you the hours that the parish services team spent listening to voice mails and putting that on paper, catching the spirit of what was said and getting that to the archdiocese. . . . At the end of the day, what people have had to say has gotten to the task force, and anybody who wanted to have input has had multiple opportunities to have input, whether they be from the smallest rural parishes to the suburbs to the core of the inner-city.

Q When this planning process is finished, and a plan is implemented, how will it benefit the archdiocese?

A First of all, there are different levels to how it’s going to benefit the archdiocese. No. 1, the process has been designed around building on strengths, that the archdiocese as a whole will be aligned, focusing its strengths on the mission of the church, of bringing the message of Christ with whatever resources are available .

. . to the people within the archdiocese, Catholic or non-Catholic, rich and poor. I believe that we will be more focused on that than ever because we will be more alive by this process.

This process will also make the church sustainable into the future. We will be more able to pass on the faith to the generations to come in all areas of the archdiocese.

There will be a more complete and viable fabric upon which to build the communion of saints here on earth.

Thirdly, pastors and other parish leaders will have a more singular focus on the message of Christ throughout the archdiocese. By aligning our strengths across the archdiocese, and not operating as individual, disconnected units, we’ll be far more able, more effective in our mission. . . .

Remember, the implementation of this will happen over time, not all at once. People will be engaged in conversation about how to implement this, and that will be supported by resources from other parishes and by the archdiocese in making changes that might be difficult.

Q Any final comments?

A This is not new. . . . In the founding of the archdiocese [and] around the early part of the 20th century [and] after World War II —?each of those were times of growth of an immigrant church. Here we are [today], and our growth is being fueled almost exclusively by an immigrant church again. We’re undergoing change again. This has always been part of church, and in this archdiocese, it’s been about a 50-year cycle. . . .

What we haven’t done before is this level of consultation. Between the late 1960s and now, there have been four attempts to do this kind of planning, but none of them involved the comprehensive consultation of the people like it has now. In none of them were there opportunities for people to participate as they have been offered this time. . .

Our archbishop is a visionary archbishop in putting this together in such a consultative way. Many archdioceses have done this. What we learned from them is how to do this in a consultative way, and our archbishop was insistent on it being so consultative.

. . . If you look at the guidelines he’s set out, he obviously wants people to have a truly Catholic experience in our parishes and schools.

Category: Archdiocese Planning Process

  • Robin Sabia

    Why would they close a parish such as St. Bernards in Buffalo. The people are very active and have many ministries plus bingos? The diocese makes no sense. We are NOT losing money. Is church all about money? Those people will be destroyed and I'm not exaggerating. Sister Regina do you have a heart? Jesus always told people Do what your heart says not your mind. Aren't we supposed to model the life of our risen savior? Or was that all nonsense? Is the catholic faith the closest to Jesus like I was brought up to believe? The people running the diocese today are changing the way catholics think and its wrong!!