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A visit from down under

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'If you're going to do structural change you have to do more than structural change.' Boston is doing much more than changing structures. The goal is to turn hearts and minds even more toward Jesus Christ and the work of introducing Jesus to others.

Susan
Abbott

Daniel Ang's tweet for May 11: "I have no doubts @bostoncatholic leads way in planning for mission. Delight to meet, share w/ these gifted leaders." The staff from Pastoral Planning and Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support offices return the compliment: it was a pleasure to spend the morning with Daniel Ang, director of the Office of Evangelisation for the Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia. Mr. Ang was appointed to the office in April by Bishop Peter A Comensoli. The new office builds on the firm belief that evangelization is "the deepest identity and vocation of our Church."

Before going to Broken Bay, Daniel was the director of the Pastoral Planning Office in the diocese of Parramatta. Appointed to that position by now-Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., Daniel led and coordinated the diocesan planning process. In this capacity, he co-authored their pastoral plan, "Faith in Our Future."

Daniel arrived in the United States in April to attend the annual Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development in San Antonio, Texas, and then conducted a "research tour" that took him across the United States. He met with (arch)diocesan staff and researchers in several major cities including Louisville, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York, and attended Mass at Nativity Parish, Maryland -- the "rebuilt" parish.

The meeting at the Pastoral Center lasted over three hours. Mr. Ang was fascinated and impressed with "Disciples in Mission." Not only has he studied the document, but he also follows the implementation progress through the website, disciplesinimssion.com, and the Pilot online (thebostonpilot.com). "People overseas have their eye on what you're doing, so keep going! The process is extremely well conceived; that the plan got written is amazing!"

Interest was high on both sides. Questions about details of Boston's plan were matched by inquiries about the work of evangelization in Australia. There are similarities. As director of Evangelization, Daniel oversees religious education and youth ministry. He explains, "Evangelization is not a side partner but is something every office does." Boston operates out of the same principle.

Michael Lavigne, director of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support described that we are trying to assist faithful Catholics on their faith journey as disciples and provide skills for evangelization. "This," he said, "is a culture shift."

When asked if Disciples in Mission is a success to date, Sr. Pat Boyle, CSJ, associate director of the Planning Office commented cautiously, "Yes, it's very hopeful." Father Paul Soper added that a collaborative really needs nine years to get established: time to form a team, write the three year local pastoral plan, live out that plan, evaluate it, write a plan for the next three years, live it, and evaluate it. An advantage of implementing a plan that is "home grown" and has gone through multiple consultations, is that it is flexible and can be adapted as needed. Pastors and staff of collaborative parishes and archdiocesan staff are in constant contact and "Disciples in Mission" has been tweaked, as needed, since implementation in 2013.

Mr. Ang recognized the tremendous amount of prayer and effort that went into writing "Disciples in Mission," making it unique to this place and circumstance. He notes, "If planning is outsourced (to a company that assists organizations in transition), can they effectively wrap their plan around theological content and context? It's more like you're buying a program, not building you own." He also said that Boston had a good reputation at the national conference; "If you're going to do structural change you have to do more than structural change." Boston is doing much more than changing structures. The goal is to turn hearts and minds even more toward Jesus Christ and the work of introducing Jesus to others.

On his website timeofthechurch.com, Mr. Ang offers this food for thought: "When you get what you want -- a diverse Church sharing responsibility for ministry and mission, engaging with the issues of the day with evangelical zeal, moving from what Pope Francis called ... 'a superficial and dry religiosity' to a living house of prayer and deep discipleship -- the Church becomes infinitely more complex. We should not be afraid or wearied by this prospective complexity but receive it as the gift of a stronger and more faithful future, calmly accepting the fact that renewal is always bought at the price of risk."

Upon his return to Australia he tweeted: "So good to be home. Very excited, energized to ... serve this beautiful part of Sydney, Central Coast. Pray for me!" We will, and are delighted to have a new friend and colleague "down under" praying for Boston.

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.

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