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Wrapping minds and calendars around Disciples in Mission, a far-reaching, multi-faceted plan, is not easy. The only way to do this successfully is intentional prayer, good will from involved clergy and laity, and patience.

Susan
Abbott

Disciples in Mission, established in 102 parishes, 48 collaboratives, was inaugurated in phases in 2013, 2014, and June 2015. The archdiocese has learned a great deal since the plan was promulgated in 2012. Phase I pastors were not shy, and rightly so, in reporting that the timeline for collaboratives to organize and train leadership teams, pastoral councils, finance councils, and school boards, and gather teams to write their local pastoral plans, was too tight. The timeline was adjusted, and nearly all of the Phase I local pastoral plans were submitted to Cardinal Sean by the revised deadline. We learned that a four-parish collaborative is just too big. The Salem collaborative was re-configured to three parishes and is doing very well. Phase I has 12 collaboratives, Phase II has 20, and Phase III, 16. We learned that getting started and writing the local plan is not the end -- it is another beginning. We have an obligation -- a blessed duty -- to provide ongoing support to all collaboratives. As new collaboratives are added, earlier collaboratives are not dropped, the list just gets longer. Pastoral Center staff and consultants from Catholic Leadership Institute were stretched thin. We need some time to catch our breath, so Phase IV will be a much smaller cohort (more about this in coming weeks).

We also learned that the format for training was a bit unwieldy. It was phases and stages and this group and that group, and, frankly, it could be confusing. The final training stage included additional formation in leadership skills for staffs, and support and guidance for the Plan Writing Team. Some members of the Writing Team, parishioners chosen at large, were in the deep end of the pool, having had no prior training, and not always completely sure of their task or responsibilities. If someone asked Pastoral Center staff how we spent our summer vacation, the answer, in large part, would be: exploring options to rework the training format and schedule. Again, relying on input from collaborative pastors, and evaluations from collaborative councils, school boards and staffs who have participated in training sessions, the structure has been revised.

Disciples in Mission is all about evangelization. It makes sense that the first training session should look at evangelization, spreading the Good News, following Jesus as disciples, and helping others know him better. These sessions will take place monthly, most often scheduled as an all-day workshop on a Saturday, but also offered in two evening presentations during the week. Called "Forming Disciples in Mission" (FDIM), the workshop will be open to anyone who wants to attend, with the expectation that collaborative council members, board members, staffs -- full-time and part-time -- plan writing team, and key volunteers will participate. FDIM workshops have taken place in June and August, with very positive feedback. These will continue over the coming months.

Disciples in Mission introduces a new model of leadership. The second workshop of training for collaboratives will focus on leadership: "Forming Leaders for Mission." This, too, will be scheduled for Saturdays and weeknights, and open to all, again, with the expectation that collaborative council members, board members, full-time and part-time staff, plan writing team, and key volunteers will attend.

Disciples in Mission strives to help parishes stabilize in order to evangelize The third training module, "Forming Collaboratives in Mission," will look at the nuts and bolts of parish and collaborative operations: finances, facilities repair, property and real estate concerns, and human resources. It will also look at relevant sections of Canon Law.

These three training modules take the place of what has been Stage Three training, for councils and school boards, and Stage Four training, for parish and collaborative staffs. It brings people together, regardless of their role in the parish or on the staff, to hear the same message and engage in discussion together. Although they may be taken in any order, the preferred sequence is Disciples in Mission, Leaders for Mission, and Collaboratives in Mission. A new module, Pastoral Plan Writing, will be introduced in spring 2016, for Phase III collaboratives.

Wrapping minds and calendars around Disciples in Mission, a far-reaching, multi-faceted plan, is not easy. The only way to do this successfully is intentional prayer, good will from involved clergy and laity, and patience. We've learned a lot, and we continue to learn from each other. Flexibility in implementation and fidelity to the spirit of the plan are essential, but prayer always comes first.

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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