The question posed at the outset of the presentation: "Does Pope Francis in "The Joy of the Gospel" have anything to say about Disciples in Mission?" was answered with a resounding "yes!"
The idea of a diocesan pastoral council can be traced back to Pope Paul VI's 1965 Decree Christus Dominus: "It is highly desirable that in each diocese a pastoral council will be established over which the diocesan bishop himself will preside and in which specially chosen clergy, religious and lay people all participate. The function of this council will be to investigate and weigh matters which bear on pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions regarding them." (CD 27)
Here in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) is alive and serving very well. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM Cap. and Bishop Peter J. Uglietto, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia head the APC. Msgr. Dennis Sheehan, Moderator of the Presbyteral Council, and Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, APC Coordinator, are members ex-Officio. Other members of the Council are appointed with the goal of having two representatives from each vicariate, two women religious, one religious brother, two pastors and two deacons.
Our APC Statutes build on the functions put forth in Pope Paul's decree, listing its purpose: "to investigate, ponder, propose practical conclusions; serve as a forum for discussion for issues of pastoral significance; provide a link in communication between the archbishop and the people; and stand as a sign of unity with clergy, religious, and laity working together."
The meeting schedule of five times a year may seem like service on the Council is light duty. Not so! Members have only four stated duties: 1. Give best counsel to Cardinal Seán; 2. Attend all meetings; 3. Accept appointment to Council committees; and 4. Accept appointment to archdiocesan committees, but all four duties are taken seriously and require diligent attention.
Disciples in Mission belongs on the APC agenda. Part of the APC's communication responsibility is to be a source of clarity and accuracy about the pastoral plan to parish councils in their region, especially those not yet in a collaborative. Father Paul Soper, Director of the Pastoral Planning Office and Sister Patricia Boyle, CSJ, Associate Director update the Council regularly. All members are aware of the pastoral plan and its implementation. The APC Faith Formation and Evangelization committee has done grand service in connecting the pastoral plan with the over-arching work of evangelization and the new evangelization.
At the meeting last fall, the committee reviewed Sherry Weddell's timely and popular book "Forming Intentional Disciples" (Our Sunday Visitor). In May, the committee gave a thorough and well researched presentation showing the connection between Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel" (Evangelii Gaudium) and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, Disciples in Mission. The question posed at the outset of the presentation: "Does Pope Francis in "The Joy of the Gospel" have anything to say about Disciples in Mission?" was answered with a resounding "yes!" Weaving together "Evangelii Gaudium" and "Forming Intentional Disciples," the presentation clearly demonstrated that our pastoral plan which is a call to all Catholics to evangelize, offers a message consistent with Pope Francis'. Pope Francis wrote: "...in all its activities the parish [should] encourage and train its members to be evangelizers...." (EG 28).
Phase One Collaboratives are moving into stage five of collaborative training which includes training in leadership and evangelization. The 20-hour evangelization component provides "resources and spirit" for the collaboratives to develop strong and healthy programs of faith formation for youth and young adults; a heightened awareness of vocations, especially to the diocesan priesthood; an increase in participation in the sacramental life of the church; and opportunities for apostolic and charitable works. This training will be a great help as they write the local pastoral plan, called for in Disciples in Mission. Cardinal Seán has asked the APC to be involved in the review of these local pastoral plans.
This extensive training and the fruit of the local pastoral plan will, with God's grace, bring Pope Francis' words to fruition:
"Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. ... The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesia) in every time and place, .... Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God's presence."(EG259)
The complete text of The Joy of the Gospel is available at www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html; the presentation to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council is available under the Presentations tab at www.disciplesinmission.com.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.