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Pastoral planning to promote the New Evangelization

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Below is the prepared text of the remarks Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was expected to deliver at a press conference Nov. 15 announcing his acceptance of Disciples in Mission -- A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us as we announce the beginning of a major new initiative that will strengthen the Church in the Archdiocese of Boston and ensure a bright future for many years to come.

On Aug. 30, 2012 I received the proposal ''Disciples in Mission -- A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston'' from Monsignor William Fay, Deacon Chuck Clough, and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission. Since then, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, Pastoral Council, Finance Council and Cabinet have shared their guidance and advice regarding the proposal, and much time has been given to prayer and reflection. Today, with gratitude for the significant time and effort many have given to this important work, I give my formal acceptance to ''Disciples in Mission'' and commit myself and the resources of the Archdiocese to the implementation of this plan.

''Disciples in Mission'' is centered on the New Evangelization: the work of reaching out to our brothers and sisters and reawakening the faith of Catholics who are not active in the life of the Church. We are at a crossroads in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States and in this Archdiocese. Mass attendance and participation in parish life have declined over the past two generations. Though the challenge of renewing the Church will call for significant effort and a new way of staffing our parishes, we are committed to re-engaging the culture, the current generation of Catholics and providing a strong foundation for those who will follow us.

Our Catholic faith is our most precious gift. The person of Jesus Christ and his life with us in the Sacraments and in the Scriptures is of infinite value, unchanging and handed on to us through time. Having been entrusted with this treasure, we must share it with every person, because God has called all of us to holiness. Jesus is the center, the heart, the reason for our lives. He is the answer to all of our deepest questions and His presence is as important for people of this generation as for all who have gone before us.

Parishes are the heart of the New Evangelization; they must be well staffed and financially sound so as to be effective in this mission. For this purpose, the pastoral plan groups the parishes of the Archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives. Each parish maintains its own identity in a collaborative. Each parish retains its buildings, its canonical rights, its financial assets and obligations. The collaborative, however, will have one Pastor who will work with one Pastoral Team, one Parish Pastoral Council and one Parish Finance Council. Together they will develop a pastoral plan for their local collaborative, focused on serving the needs of their parishes and advancing the mission of the Church. Joined together in a collaborative, our parishes will be better equipped to celebrate the Sacraments, provide religious formation for children and adults, respond to the pastoral needs of the sick and infirm and assist those in need of material assistance, through the lens of Evangelization.

The principal reason for our moving forward with pastoral planning is to promote the New Evangelization. We are fortunate to have received a plan that will allow us to do so while making the best use of the available human resources, including our priests and deacons. The plan to implement a new model of leadership at the collaboratives does not mean that we are leaving behind the model of a priest being assigned as the pastor of one parish. It is my fervent hope, encouraged by a significant increase in seminary enrollment during recent years, that a greater number of ordinations to the priesthood will allow us to again assign priests as pastors of individual parishes.

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