New parish planning committee driven by lay leadership

| August 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

A new committee for parish planning formed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is being driven by lay leadership and a desire to provide flexible and timely assistance to parishes.

“We are designed to help parishes examine and analyze their current situation relative to finances, demographics, sacramental ministry,” and other factors, said Marilou Eldred, committee chairman and a retired president of the Catholic Community Foundation and St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

The 20-member, Archdiocesan Parish Planning Committee includes three committee teams of four to five people each, organized by geographical regions in the archdiocese known as vicariates.

The teams are designed to respond efficiently to needs and requests, come together with the executive committee and make recommendations to Archbishop Bernard Hebda, said Eldred, a member of Assumption in St. Paul.

Assignments could include following up on previous archdiocesan planning efforts or responding to requests for assistance from parishes or questions raised by senior leadership in the archdiocese, she said.

The archbishop sent a letter to priests June 3 about the initiative. The committee has been meeting once a month since April and team visits to parishes seeking assistance began this month.

The first steps of any parish visit will include studying demographic, financial or other appropriate information and holding a listening session with the leadership of a parish, including the pastor, members of the parish and finance councils, trustees, the business administrator and when applicable, the school principal, Eldred said.

That allows direct and immediate involvement of those closest to whatever challenge or opportunity is being discussed, she said. The goal is to have parishes lead whatever changes are recommended, she said.

People on the committee teams have expertise in business, finance or other fields, experience in parish leadership or bring other gifts to the table.

Eldred has been involved in and helped lead parish planning efforts in the archdiocese since at least 2010.

“We learned that listening must be a major part” of the approach, she said.

Russ Nolan, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Delano, is new to archdiocesan planning efforts. But he has been a parish business manager, parish council member and trustee, and St. Maximilian Kolbe was formed about five years ago from the merger of St. Joseph and St. Peter parishes in Delano. That experience made clear to him the need for good communication when parish changes are discussed, Nolan said.

The planning committee also is determined to “be an active agent of change for the parish” that can offer suggestions and guidance, he said.

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