Pastoral planning to promote the New Evangelization

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.

The successful implementation of ''Disciples in Mission'' will call for leadership training for all of our parishes. We are committed to providing that necessary training for Pastors, Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Teams, Parish Councils, and Finance Councils, The training will encompass the theology and practice of the New Evangelization and best practices in leadership and management for collaboration. In order to lead the way in this effort and then assist in the training at our parishes, the staff of the Pastoral Center and the Central Ministries of the Archdiocese will be the first participants in the training programs.

Change always brings both hope and anxiety. We know that this proposal calls for significant changes in the way we allocate our resources and work together. I am committed to proceed in a manner that will responsibly account for our present needs but not be disruptive to our parishes and the faithful. In order to provide the best opportunity for all our parishes to experience the full range of benefits of collaboration, ''Disciples in Mission'' will be implemented in a series of phases over the next five years. This gradual process will allow us to learn from the experiences of the initial phases and provide sufficient support at every stage of this process.

In concert with our Pastoral Planning efforts, auxiliary Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, is developing and promoting programs for strengthening the Catholic faith in the Archdiocese. Among the initiatives being overseen by Bishop Kennedy is the Theological Initiative for the New Evangelization at St. John's Seminary. His work and leadership will be essential to insuring a productive implementation across the many ministries of the Archdiocese.

At this time I wish to publicly express my gratitude to Monsignor Fay, Deacon Clough and the Pastoral Planning Commission, to parish pastoral staffs, parish leadership, and to all of the people of the Archdiocese of Boston whose input, feedback and prayers have contributed to this process. In particular, I wish to express my appreciation for the fine work of Father Paul Soper, our interim director of pastoral planning, who is helping to lead the day-to-day activities as we begin to set forth on this important journey in the life of the Church. His work, and that of many others who have contributed to this effort, has helped us to reach this important moment. I also wish to express my gratitude to the priests of the Archdiocese, who have generously given much time and effort to this process and, moving forward, will be key leaders in the ongoing work of evangelization and pastoral planning.

It is my strong conviction that ''Disciples in Mission'' will establish the foundation to allow us to continue the work of renewing the Church in the Archdiocese of Boston and go forward with the mission of the New Evangelization for many years to come.