Our input is essential as planning process proceeds

| March 31, 2009 | 0 Comments

CompassArchbishop John Nienstedt’s announcement last week of the formation of a Strategic Task Force for Parish and School Planning is an important step in helping the archdiocese take stock of its resources and respond to the new pastoral realities we face in light of changing demographics and ongoing financial challenges.

The task force is expected to take between 12 and 18 months to complete its work and present recommendations to the archbishop, but not before clergy, lay leaders and parishioners have an opportunity to offer their views and opinions. This kind of input is crucial for the planning process to be successful and to build consensus around it.

Cultivating understanding

So it is vital, as input is invited, to participate in the process — whether it is at a regional meeting, through letters and e-mails to the archdiocese, or through letters published in The Catholic Spirit, which will be featuring regular updates about the process.

But that participation requires a few things from all of us.

• First, it is important to become informed, to learn more about the changes happening around us. Each of us can start by learning more about the history and changes happening in our own parish and how those changes may be having an impact on ministry now and into the future.

• We also need, however, to understand the challenges our fellow Catholics face in their parishes in other parts of our archdiocese. Stories in The Catholic Spirit in the coming months will be one of the ways to learn about those challenges.

• We have to be willing to speak up and share our views, but we must also be patient, listen respectfully to others and try to understand their views as well. We shouldn’t second-guess the intentions of others; rather, we should assume they have the same good intentions we do.

• When we offer our opinions — whether in person, by letter or e-mail — we should do it in a civil manner. The goal is to help others understand our views and further the dialogue around issues important to the planning process — in other words, to be constructive and not let the conversation devolve into the kind we’re accustomed to hearing on some talk radio programs. Others deserve the same respect that we expect to receive from them.

Seeing the big picture

• Lastly, we must remember that all of us in the archdiocese are in this together. Ultimately, the resulting pastoral plan must be based on the needs of the entire local church, not just my parish.

In some cases, that may involve pain and sacrifice as parishes and ministries are realigned in ways to which we’re not accustomed. But it may also mean that parishes and schools will be able to collaborate in ways that allow them to do important things never possible before.

Good stewardship requires us to look at the big picture in the context of the basic principles Archbishop Nienstedt has outlined for the process.

This planning process is still in its earliest stages. As opportunities for input become available, The Catholic Spirit will let you know about them. In the meantime, we should all pray for wisdom for the task force members and all of us who will have a hand in helping determine the future of our archdiocese.

Category: Archdiocese Planning Process, Editorials