Initiative aims to help parishes ‘grow’ in mission, ministry effectiveness

| December 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Leaders from five parishes gathered Nov. 27 at St. Michael in Farmington for the first meeting of a new archdiocesan-supported initiative designed to help them strengthen parish life and operations through a six-month strategic pastoral planning process.

The initiative, called GROW, builds on the parish visitation process and flows from the archdiocese’s 2010 strategic plan, which sets criteria for long-term parish viability and calls for more efficient use of resources within and among parishes and schools.

Participating parishes work in conjunction with the Office of Parish Services, TeamWorks International and Catholic Finance Corporation to develop a three-year plan for sustainability and efficient resource management.

“Very few parishes now are doing strategic planning,” said Mark Dittman, director of the Office of Parish Services. “The archdiocese wants to reinforce and support the viability of parishes, and the best way to do that is to promote pastoral planning.”

The goals for parishes participating in GROW, he said, are that they will “grow in clarity of their strengths, that they will grow in intentionality and focus, particularly around their mission, and that their operating choices — pastoral and administrative — will be intentional and reflect their mission” as well as best practices.

Examining the data

Parishes meeting Nov. 27 were St. Michael in Farmington, St. Joseph in Rosemount, St. Dominic in Northfield, St. John the Baptist in Jordan and Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul.

Participants — which included pastors, trustees, parish business administrators and other parish and parish school staff members — received a detailed GROW toolkit outlining the process.

They also received and reviewed demographic information, including population, economic and sacramental data, from TeamWorks specific to their parish. And, they reviewed financial data about their parishes collected by Catholic Finance Corporation.

Father Paul Jarvis, pastor of St. Joseph in Rosemount, said the data packaged and presented by the two organizations gave him insight into some of the pastoral needs of his parish community.

“St. Joseph’s resides in a community that has rapidly changed from small town to a suburb with many young families,” he said. “We have sensed, and the GROW data validates, that our parishioners are more diverse than ever — in age, language, income and degrees of participation in parish life.

“I also found it fascinating that, as a parish in the path of huge suburban housing development, we cannot take for granted that the approximately 25 to 30 percent of the incoming Catholic families will automatically worship at St. Joseph’s,” Father Jarvis added. “I found it interesting that because Catholic parishes rarely reach out to newcomers to a community, they are vulnerable to other denominations’ outreach, and that one-third of Catholic newcomers will end up in other denominations’ congregations. This is sobering and an impetus to embrace the archdiocese’s new evangelization effort.”

The GROW process will help the parish as it sets a course for the future, he said.

“We were just embarking on a strategic planning process under the sponsorship of our pastoral council when GROW was announced,” Father Jarvis said. “The timing is perfect in terms of dovetailing our efforts with GROW, using the tools provided and jump starting our efforts.”

The five parishes who attended the meeting are members of the southern Region 2 vicariate — one of three regions in the archdiocese established by the archdiocesan strategic plan.

Each region has a priest appointed by the archbishop who serves as a vicar to assist him in the governance and administration of the archdiocese. Parish visitations are part of the vicars’ responsibilities. To participate in GROW, which is offered at no cost to parishes, parishes must have had a parish visitation or have one scheduled in the near future.

What’s next?

The meeting in Farmington was the first of three in which the five parishes will participate. Before the next meeting in April, leadership from each parish will review the demographic and financial data they received and discuss the results of parish surveys of pastoral needs that will be conducted in each parish. At a full day meeting in July, each parish will develop a pastoral plan, action steps for the first year, and identify next steps for communicating and implementing the plan.

Another round of three GROW meetings begins in January for parishes in the northwest (Region 3) vicariate and in April for the northeast (Region 1) vicariate.

Parishes that don’t participate in the initial round of meetings will have an opportunity to join the process when a new cycle of meetings begins, as space allows.

“As a trustee, I think this is a very good idea,” said Jeri Jolley of St. Michael in Farmington. “We’re all trying to get to the same place.”

“Maybe because we’re all thinking about this now, we can help each other because we do have a connection with our neighbors,” she said, and “can help each other learn best practices — what works, what doesn’t work.”

Such sharing also is one of the goals of GROW — by planning in a group, parishes in a region have the opportunity to share insights with other parishes as they plan. And, the archdiocese will be better equipped to identify planning challenges and allocate resources to meet the needs of parishes and schools.

As a result of the GROW planning process, the person in the pew “should see more and better information about the parish — about its ministries, about its operations,” Dittman said. “Ideally, the person in the pew will be exposed to more of the value of the parish. . . . They will see an increase in intentionality about a parish’s operations and ministry.”

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News