Last fall, Cardinal Sean O'Malley spoke with the Pastoral Center staff initiating a renewal program on the principles and purpose of Disciples in Mission, the Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese. The meeting was the beginning of a three-part process to inform the staff about the progress of the pastoral plan. More important than a simple update, it also calls departments as a whole and Central Ministry staff individually, to reflect on how they can best serve these parishes. The cardinal reminded the group that, "the goal of Disciples in Mission is to make all of our parishes, schools, and institutions thriving centers of evangelization." Note his words: "all... thriving centers of evangelization." All parishes are asked to be centers of evangelization including those not yet in a collaborative, and Central Ministry staff at the Pastoral Center are ready, willing and able to assist all parishes. In collaboratives, however, there are many steps involved in establishing and forming leadership teams and councils. This requires added attention.

The first part of Pastoral Center Disciples in Mission renewal was the meeting with Cardinal Sean.

The second part, Goal Setting, began last week and continues over the next few weeks. Two-hour sessions are scheduled on different days and at different times of day. Departments are asked to sign up for one session to examine some of the Phase I three-year Local Pastoral Plans (LPP) that were approved by the cardinal in June and are currently being implemented in collaboratives.

The first hour of the session recaps Disciples in Mission by the numbers: how many parishes (102), in how many collaboratives (48) in what phase and at what stage of the process. Patrick Krisak, Director of Parish Support and Training, and Denise McKinnon-Biernat, Director of Parish Financial Services, share presentation responsibilities. They acknowledge two related challenges: How do we support this new reality of pastors and staffs in multiple parish environments, and how do we support parishes (all parishes) in the work of evangelization?

In the second hour, department teams work together to develop a specific and measurable goal for their department that will support implementation of the LPP. Working with facilitators from the offices of Pastoral Planning, Evangelization, Finance, and Real Estate, each department engages in a micro version of what the collaboratives did over the span of many months as they wrote their plans. Like the collaboratives, the department staffs discuss the vision for their department, and the specific goals that could help them help collaboratives. The day-to-day work of an office is important and there is usually a time crunch, this can make it difficult to keep in mind the long view. Stepping back to ask questions about purpose, behavior, tasks, and priorities is a good way to set realistic and significant goals -- and be successful in reaching these goals.

The Goal Setting meeting last week had some first-time hiccups, including a registration glitch that had the presenters and facilitators expecting nine people but having, instead, 33 people attend. An abundance of blessings to be sure, but setting up extra tables and chairs resulted in over-crowding of the space reserved. Over-crowding resulted in some difficulty in hearing others at the table when goal-setting discussion began, and that can be frustrating.

Each department introduced themselves at the beginning of the meeting and participants appreciated hearing departments describe their work. Participants also appreciated discussion time and, as often happens with table conversation, wished that this segment of the meeting had been longer. In the end, for some, the information was redundant, for others, new employees, the material was new, and perhaps presented too quickly. The Goal Setting sessions will be tweaked a bit based on feedback from this first group.

The third part of the Pastoral Center Disciples in Mission renewal is voluntary participation in one of seven Small Groups that will meet for about an hour each week, for eight to 10 weeks. Small Group discussion topics include: Catholicism 101, Prayer, Bishop Robert Barron's Catholicism series, Making and Forming Disciples, Saints, Sacraments, and Passion Narratives. To date, over 50 people have signed up for one of the groups.

Pastoral Center staff and Phase III collaborative staffs and councils are experiencing renewal, formation, and training. It is a new time and a new vision. There is excitement and hard work -- lots of hard work -- made a bit easier when done together and with prayer and good intentions.