Diocesan Planning: A Next Step in Living the Eucharist
As many of you know, discussions about the future structure and staffing of parishes throughout the Diocese have been ongoing for several years. Earlier this year, Bishop Kettler set in motion a group of 25 to bring energy and focus to this process. The group consists of leaders from throughout the diocese – including Bishop, 16 lay men and women, two sisters, two deacons, and four priests. After drawing input from parish leaders at town halls and deanery meetings, they recently proposed a first draft at the annual clergy conference in Alexandria.
This draft asks our parishes of St. Augustine and St. Mary to work more intentionally with the parishes of Holy Spirit, St. Anthony, St. John Cantius, and the Newman Center. Thus, there will be no immediate change to parish structure or staffing, but we will form an Area Catholic Community (ACC). This more organic process, guided by parish leadership, will identify ways we’re already working together (Faith formation, RCIA, etc.) and look for new opportunities to share our gifts.
Below are a few answers to questions that might be raised. Continue to pray for a true renewal of our apostolic mission and the guidance of the Holy Spirit!
Blessings — Fr. Scott
1. Will any of our parishes in our ACC be closing? Bishop Kettler has asked that all plans avoid closing parishes. It does not mean a change of status is impossible, but the focus of planning is parish collaboration.
2. Is the plan finalized? No. Bishop Kettler has not approved any of the plan. This is simply a first draft.
3. What is the next step? Pastors and Parish Councils are to review the new plan and answer the following question: “Are there any compelling reasons why the proposed configurations of the plan should be changed?” Current clusters are encouraged to hold town hall meetings in order that parishioners have an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments to their pastors and council members.
4. What about the proposed plan implementation date of July 1, 2019? Until Bishop Kettler finalizes a plan, the date is tentative. The plan is still being developed by representatives of clergy and lay people from every deanery, and it is better to have a well-developed plan than to meet a proposed date of implementation. The plan may unfold in phases over time.
5. How many priests will be serving our ACC? Overall, the number of parish priests available to serve our 131 parishes in the diocese will go down over the next ten years, and so we will need to collaborate and cooperate more as ACCs to adjust with this reality. Some ACCs should expect to have fewer priests.
6. Will Mass schedules change? Probably. There are too many variables that need to be sorted out before decisions about Mass times are made, however, most of our parishes in the diocese are seating to 40% or less of their capacity each Mass.
7. What will happen with finances of the parishes and ACC? The finances of each parish will continue to be separate. Each parish will maintain it is own finance council that will continue its present work. Each parish will maintain its own accounts. The finances of the parishes will not be comingled.
8. What do these changes mean for our schools? The success and well-being of our schools is of critical importance. Each school will continue to operate independently and our parishes will continue to support them.