Planning... and planning

Disciples in Mission is the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. It is the broad plan to make all parishes vibrant centers of evangelization by organizing parishes into collaborative groups under one pastor and leadership team. Currently, 71 parishes are ministering as 32 collaboratives. The 12 collaboratives in Phase I, at just over one year old, have reached an important milestone in their young collaborative history. Within the broad pastoral plan is the directive that each collaborative prepare another plan -- a more specific, local plan, addressing the needs and vision, and tapping the unique gifts and strengths of the particular collaborative. Two plans: Disciples in Mission is the macro plan; the Local Pastoral Plan is the micro plan. Disciples in Mission originally called for local plans to be ready within the first eight to 12 months. Phase I collaboratives are the pilot group, testing a pastoral plan that, until their inauguration, existed only on paper. Living out the pastoral plan is a different reality. Responding to requests that the timeline for drafting and submitting the local plan be lengthened, the Disciples in Mission directive was amended and the time frame changed. Drafts of the local plan for Phase I Collaboratives are due in December. The final version is due in June 2015, which allows six months for revisions, if needed.

Disciples in Mission explains the intention and process of writing, implementing, and evaluating the local plan: "The collaborative pastoral plan will be a broad commitment of the parishes of each collaborative on how to use their resources and energy, in the best way possible, to operate effective and efficient parish programs and to be strongly focused on the New Evangelization." The local plan "will address practical and concrete issues, such as the composition of the pastoral team, strategies for evangelization, the financial viability of the parishes and their properties, the appropriate use of the properties of each parish, educational programs, liturgical schedules, housing for the priests, etc." ("Disciples in Mission" Part I: 10.a; 10.c).

Every local plan will name three pastoral priorities which are, and will be, the work of everyone in the collaborative. One priority must focus on encouraging vocations to the diocesan priesthood. The local plan will be the work of 10-12 people, including representatives from the pastoral team, the councils (parish council and finance councils), and parishioners from each of the collaborative parishes. Strategic thinkers with valuable experience and perspective are key. Some will be long-standing, involved parishioners, but those newly engaged in the parish also have an important place at the table. Members of the writing committee should come with no agenda. This is a process that takes time, and those asked to serve on the committee need to assess if they have sufficient time to give.

Each of the three pastoral priorities should contain at least two SMART goals. A SMART goal is: Specific and measurable; Motivating; Attainable; Relevant; Trackable and Time-bound. In addition to the three pastoral priorities, the plan will include other goals for the collaborative; these too will be framed as SMART goals.

The plan will be developed after wide consultation with parishioners and drafts will be presented to Cardinal O'Malley for review. The cardinal may highlight things for revision before final approval. Throughout this process regional bishops and vicars, offices and agencies of pastoral center, and a sub-committee of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council may be consulted.

The approved plan will be widely publicized in the collaborative parishes so that everyone has the opportunity to read it and become familiar with it. The writing committee will prepare a one-page scorecard that the collaborative pastoral council will use for review each time the pastoral council meets. A quarterly report measuring progress will be prepared and sent to each parish in the collaborative as well as to the regional bishop and Cardinal O'Malley, thus insuring accountability. The plan will be revised every three years.

It is no coincidence that the pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston is called "Disciples in Mission." Merriam Webster online dictionary lists the first definition of the word mission as "a task or job that someone is given to do." We've been given a job: be disciples of Jesus Christ and help others enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. To do this effectively, there has to be a plan. There is.