Consultation process

Phase V collaboratives were announced in the fall; 16 parishes will form 11 collaboratives, inaugurated in June. After the announcement, pastors of all 16 parishes submit letters of resignation, although most often, they remain in place until June. Their letters of resignation open up the process to appoint a pastor for each collaborative when the collaborative begins. A pastor resigning from St. A Parish can apply to be pastor of the new collaborative of St. A and St. B parishes. When the list of collaboratives is posted in The Pilot and the resignations are received, any priest of the Archdiocese of Boston can ask for consideration to be named pastor. Meanwhile, the current pastors in parishes of what will be the new collaboratives prepare a parish profile -- sort of a State of the Union report which includes the status of the parish faith formation programs: adult, children, and teens; sacramental information; the number of buildings; number of priests living in the rectory, names and positions of parish staff; and information on schools that are connected to the parish.

Next step: the Clergy Personnel Office works with the current pastors to set a date for a consultation meeting. Representatives from Clergy Personnel and Pastoral Planning offices facilitate the consultation meeting. They meet with members of the parish staffs, finance and parish councils, and school boards of all of the parishes that will be in the new collaborative. Often the vicar forane for that vicariate, and a priest from the Clergy Personnel Board will attend. This board is an advisory group that assists in the process. The consultation meeting has two items on the agenda: explain the process involved in naming a pastor for the collaborative, and ask the staff members and leadership for their feedback and insight about the parishes. The staffs and council members describe the current parish programs. Because these meetings could have 30 to 40 people participating, they often break into smaller groups to discuss what areas of parish life that they feel need attention, what is going well, what group(s), if any, may be missing from parish life, and why someone would want to be part of this parish.

After the consultation meeting, the Clergy Personnel Office assembles a packet about the collaborative. The packet contains the pastor's parish profile, information from the consultation meeting, and supplemental information from the archdiocese about finances and facilities. All of this is reviewed by the Clergy Personnel Board. Added to the packet are the names of the priests who have asked to be considered. Again, the current pastor of one of the parishes in the soon to be collaborative can ask to be included on this list as well. Any priest or bishop can also "nominate" a priest for consideration. The slate of potential pastors is then vetted. The regional bishop where the collaborative is located, the vicar general, the chancellor, and, when applicable, the Catholic Schools Office, all, independently, get the list and are asked for their feedback. After this vetting, the slate is presented to Cardinal O'Malley along with a report of the Clergy Personnel Board conversation and the comments from the vetting process. Cardinal O'Malley makes his decision and the selected candidate is contacted -- initial phone notification is followed by an official letter of appointment. A start date is agreed upon, and a public announcement is made in the parishes of the collaborative and in The Pilot. Most often with a new collaborative, the start date is in early June, when newly ordained priests begin their assignments, and other priests who are getting a new assignment move to a new parish.

The process takes some months. During this period, the Clergy Personnel Board meets frequently. The priests who generously serve on the board make time in their busy weeks to come for meetings, some forgoing days off, so important is this process. Clergy Personnel and Pastoral Planning offices, and, surely, parishioners in the parishes, pray that the pastor named will be the best man for the job. The road ahead will not be easy -- being the pastor of multiple parishes is demanding and can take its toll on everyone, but especially the shepherd -- even if he has been pastor in a one of the parishes in the collaborative. The Secretariat for Discipleship and Evangelization sets aside time each Tuesday afternoon to pray for the parishioners, clergy, councils and staff of collaboratives. All Catholics in the archdiocese are encouraged to join in the prayer, Come Holy Spirit.