Two lists

This week The Pilot names 36 parishes that will form 18 collaboratives in Phase III of the archdiocesan pastoral plan Disciples in Mission. The collaboratives will be inaugurated in early June, bringing the total number of collaboratives in the archdiocese to 50, made up of 107 parishes.

Several steps led up to the publication of this list. The names of the parishes requesting to be included in Phase III were presented by the Planning Office to Cardinal O'Malley for approval. When approved, the regional bishops contacted the pastors of the parishes to request that the announcement be made in the parish as soon as possible.

The next step, though necessary, can be painful. Each pastor in the collaborative submits his resignation to Cardinal O'Malley, effective early June. No one takes this lightly. Father Robert Blaney, Director of Clergy Personnel comments, "These pastors are making a sacrifice for the greater good, showing both courage and strong leadership."

Sean Hickey, Assistant Director of the office adds: "The priest does this in keeping with his promise of obedience made at ordination to the Archbishop... It is a true sign of each priest's sacrifice and love as well as their openness to what the Holy Spirit is doing at this time in our local church."

Generally speaking, the pastor remains the pastor in his current parish until June. Two lists are published today: the list of parishes for Phase III and the list of pastors who have submitted resignations.

The role of pastor is a spiritual, temporal and canonical one with appointed terms; it carries stability that allows him to plan and, in consultation with councils, parishioners, and archdiocesan guidelines, move the parish in a particular direction. In the United States, the Conference of Catholic Bishops has set a pastor's term at six years. A bishop can renew or extend this when circumstances dictate. In November 2012, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council recommended that Cardinal O'Malley suspend appointing pastors except for those parishes formally in collaboratives. Currently, when a pastor finishes his term, retires or is ill, an administrator is named. Administrators have no fixed term and can be moved where needed at the discretion of the bishop. From a personnel perspective, the resignation of pastors in collaborative parishes sets things in motion. It creates an upcoming vacancy that allows other priests to request consideration to be pastor of the collaborative, or recommend a priest for consideration.

The current pastors will complete a Parish Profile questionnaire noting many specifics of parish life. The parishes of Phase III then begin a consultation process which involves members of the parish staff, parish councils, and finance councils, and representatives from the Clergy Personnel and Pastoral Planning Offices. These meetings gather information that will assist the process of selecting the pastor for the new collaborative. The current pastor can apply to be pastor of the collaborative. In fact, of the 32 collaboratives currently established, 16 pastors had been pastor in one of the parishes in their collaborative.

The work of the Clergy Personnel Board is done prayerfully, with great diligence, and with evangelization as a guiding principle. Disciples in Mission states that, "the Archbishop should give preference to the goal of Evangelization in every assignment of a Pastor. It may be that the best priest for the position will be one of the current pastors, or it may be best that a new pastor would come in from outside of the collaborative. We recommend that, while being very respectful of the particular needs of the priests of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop of Boston give preference to the goal of evangelization in every assignment of a pastor to a collaborative, so that the assignment of the most suitable pastor is the single most important factor in ensuring the success of the collaborative and its evangelization efforts." (Part I.3)

Changing pastors is not easy for anyone; not for pastors, not for parishioners, not for parish staff or councils. Father Paul Soper, Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning Office comments, "The characteristic and remarkable generosity of the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston is what makes Disciples in Mission possible, and gives it its energy and impetus." Sailing on unchartered waters is rarely easy. We pray for the pastors and parishioners of Phase III collaborative parishes.

Susan Abbott is Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.