Placing planning in the context of evangelization and discipleship resonates with Boston's plan.
The Office of Pastoral Planning recently welcomed a team from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, visiting to hear about Boston's pastoral plan, "Disciples in Mission." John Romanowsky, Executive Director of Evangelization; Ruth Puls, Director of Catechetical and Pastoral Formation; and Daphne Daly, Director of Pastoral Planning, spent a full day at the Pastoral Center. Joining the conversation were Phase I pastors Father Paul Ritt and Father John Sheridan; Kathy O'Leary, New Roads Catholic Community, Belmont; and Margo Morin, Salem Catholic Collaborative.
Baltimore has approximately 150 parishes and a Catholic population over 500,000. Their pastoral planning hope is to have clusters of two to three parishes planning together and sharing resources. Daphne Daly noted that Baltimore already has some parishes working collaboratively but not in a formal way. They are at the very beginning, trying to open up the process for people to see possibilities of sharing resources. In June, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori published a pastoral letter on evangelization and parish-based planning: "A Light Brightly Visible -- Lighting the Path to Missionary Discipleship." Placing planning in the context of evangelization and discipleship resonates with Boston's plan.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is the home of Timmonium Tim, the fictional, cultural, but non-church-going Catholic in "rebuilt," the book about Church of the Nativity Parish in Timmonium, Md. Ruth Puls notes that, "The genius in 'rebuilt' is not in its answers but in its questions." How can Baltimore reach Timmonium Tim; for us, how do we reach Betty or Bob Boston? In connecting planning to evangelization and discipleship, both Boston and Baltimore focus on reaching out and bringing home. Father Paul Soper, Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning stressed the need for disciple makers. "One trained disciple maker can, maybe, get one or two people back to Mass." Even 20 disciple makers will not be enough to stem "the tide of secularization that will continue to erode Mass attendance." The turnaround will come when professional collaborative staffs train people in the parish to be disciple makers.
Pastoral Center staff deeply involved with the well-being and success of parishes in the collaboratives, entered the discussion. Denise McKinnon Biernat, Tricia Fraser, Deb Dillon, and Jim DiFrancesco, fielded questions about finances, property management, and personnel.
Speaking about the startup of the collaboratives, Father John Sheridan admitted that he finds the Holy Spirit very present in the chaos of new situations, but he also gave thanks for the archdiocese's thorough advanced preparation, "This wasn't a slap-dash thing, it was very thought out." Both he and Father Paul Ritt praised the support from archdiocesan offices and the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI). Father Ritt added that, "Training on how to exercise leadership in a team environment has been so helpful. We (clergy) have to be lifelong learners too."
Building a competent, evangelization-focused, collaborative team can be expensive, but Msgr. Bill Fay, Director of Campus Ministry, spoke from his recent experience as pastor of the Methuen collaborative, saying, "From the beginning of "Disciples in Mission" the staff at the Pastoral Center was trained to help and find creative ways to help make this work, because it has to work." Assistance from the Pastoral Center is a balanced one. Kathy O'Leary commented that the archdiocese lets, "collaboratives work things out for themselves, while at the same time, making best practices known." The enthusiasm of Pastoral Center staff impressed the visitors. Central Ministry Offices are not often associated with mission and ministry but in Boston, they are very engaged in the work of evangelization. John Romanowsky reported that Baltimore's Catholic Center is working toward "missionary conversion of ourselves" and a "Discovering Christ" off-site retreat day was a positive experience.
The long meeting presented the struggles and successes of pastoral planning. It is not easy. It is not a quick-fix. It is not the status quo. Father Bob Blaney, Director of Clergy Personnel, hears from priests the concern of "not enough time with parishioners -- especially after Mass" when the pastor has to get to the next parish for the next Mass. Phase I folks acknowledged the challenges, but Msgr. Fay offered, "We have to find new ways. We may find that something doesn't work, but we won't know until we try." Margo Morin sees a growing understanding in what it means to be part of a collaborative. Anticipation is growing as well, "People are excited, waiting for things to get started." Father Sheridan spoke about the possibilities ahead, "If we spend our time looking at what was, we'll never see what can be."
We keep the Archdiocese of Baltimore in our prayers as they look to the future.
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.