The purpose of this recent meeting was to help pastors and staffs learn and share ways to track local plan implementation progress.
Two years after the final training session before Phase I collaboratives were inaugurated, the Phase I pastors returned to the Pastoral Center with members of their leadership teams. Their local pastoral plans are completed and approved. It was a long road to get to this point ... and the journey has really just begun. These local pastoral plans cannot sit on the shelf, relegated to the status of check-mark on a list of things required of collaboratives: Local Pastoral Plan. Done. Check. The purpose of this recent meeting was to help pastors and staffs learn and share ways to track local plan implementation progress.
The energy and goodwill in the auditorium was palpable. Before getting into the work of the day, Father Paul Soper, Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, asked the group to share their thoughts about the local plans. Pastors were excited that their plans were accepted and excited to move forward. Father John Sheridan, Pastor of the Cranberry Collaborative in Middleborough, Lakeville, and Rochester, seemed to speak for the group when he proclaimed, in a booming voice, "We did it! Writing the local plan was an extraordinary process. It brought out the best in all of us." Father Bill Lohan of the Methuen collaborative of St. Lucy and St. Monica parishes commented that the plan was, "Well received by the parish... it is a comprehensive blueprint that challenges people: What does it mean to belong to a Church?"
In that vein, one collaborative team reported looking at the scope of their plan and realizing the need for many more volunteers to step up and actively participate in the life of the collaborative, "Where are we going to get all the people to do all this?" And the collaborative leadership team must provide formation for these volunteers. Being Church means being involved. Clergy and staff all expressed the desire to start implementation and move forward. Father Soper advised collaboratives to break their plan into smaller pieces so "folks will not be so overwhelmed."
As for tracking progress, the Cranberry Catholic collaborative has already set up a program for time management and project management. The Salem collaborative drew up a time line listing goals and the name of the person taking the lead on that goal. Denise McKinnon-Biernat, director of Parish Financial Services, encouraged plotting progress on paper, "Seeing it on paper, you see the breadth (of the plan)." The Lynnfield collaborative plans to recruit an evaluation committee to help track and evaluate implementation. Deacon Phil DiBello of the Billerica Collaborative showed their plan workbook they will be using. He also mentioned that they may have to "streamline or change or stop doing things that have been ongoing in order to devote time and energy to something connected to a goal or priority." The Belmont Collaborative noted that not all members of parish staffs or leadership teams were part of the writing process; consequently, an important part of implementation involves helping parish staffs, councils, and teams understand the plan so they can help track progress.
"Assistance with implementation, tracking, and support of collaboratives must become the work of the Pastoral Center," said Father Soper. Underscoring this promise, several members of the Pastoral Center Collaborative Support team were present with a variety of templates that could be helpful. Father Dan Hennessey, director of the Vocations Office, had used one of the templates in his work and brought his completed worksheet as a sample. The Real Estate Office and Financial Services provided "Things To Consider" handouts. The Office of Evangelization, Training, and Parish Support was represented. Katelyn Perry from the Human Resource Office, offered assistance on personnel matters as well as guidance in dealing with parish volunteers. Accountability and regular meetings relative to goals and priorities are a necessary component of implementation for volunteers as well as staffs. Matt Schweizer, part of Financial Services said, "It's an exciting time to be Catholic. We face a lot of challenges, but there is so much reason to be hopeful."
Before closing prayer, Father Soper asked if the group wanted to meet again. He received a resounding yes! The 90-minute meeting ended in prayer. We pray that the joy and enthusiasm so evident in these good priests, deacons, and lay leaders will grow. We pray that the hard, but hopeful work of implementation will bear good fruit.
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.