So, the question of the hour: why a sudden drop in the number of parishes in collaboratives?
Parishes scheduled to be in Phase IV of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, "Disciples in Mission" have been named (Pilot, Nov. 27). Some people are surprised to see that this phase has only nine parishes, grouped in five collaboratives. What???? Phase I was understandably small: 28 parishes in 12 collaboratives. They were -- still are -- the pioneers. For the most part, things went well in Phase I. Collaborative life is not without some bumps and road blocks, but 11 of the 12 Phase I collaboratives are now implementing their impressive local pastoral plans. (Local pastoral plans can be viewed at www.disciplesinmission.com)
Buoyed by the progress in Phase I, we followed the original plan which called for a bigger Phase II. Phase II, inaugurated in 2014, has 42 parishes in 20 collaboratives. And, in general, Phase II is going well. Most have submitted drafts of their local pastoral plans and these drafts look good. Within both phases, unforeseen circumstances crop up and some collaboratives (just under 10 percent) are working on an extended, or later phase, timeline. Phase III has 33 parishes grouped in 16 collaboratives. Phase III leadership teams, staffs, clergy, councils, key volunteers, and interested parishioners are now receiving training in evangelization and leadership. Workshops dealing with practical issues about achieving or maintaining a stable collaborative will begin after Christmas. Each phase has benefited from the experience of those who have preceded them. There is still a learning curve for everyone.
So, the question of the hour: why a sudden drop in the number of parishes in collaboratives? It seems that the implementation of Disciples in Mission isn't following its own plan. Are things not going well?
The answer: implementing an archdiocesan plan of this magnitude was much more complicated than expected. In order to provide the greatest assurance of success, the process needed to slow down. The original "Disciples in Mission" document stated that the plan would be carried out in four phases. From the beginning, there has been a commitment that the Pastoral Planning Office would closely monitor progress in each phase, at each stage, of implementation. With feedback from pastors, and in consultation with appropriate archdiocesan offices and agencies, the office would make necessary adjustments to the plan. One adjustment, based on comments from clergy and staff in Phases I and II, was to redesign the training workshops and re-work scheduling. The other, major, adjustment produced this smaller Phase IV.
As of June 2015, 102 parishes are functioning in 48 collaboratives. Evaluation and on-going support of such a large cohort requires time and attention. The next two years will include a focus on evaluating the process and progress of the plan. This cannot be done in the most effective way while simultaneously supporting and training the clergy, staffs, council members, school boards, and key volunteers who are entering the next phase. Reducing the number of collaboratives in Phase IV provides a bit of breathing room. Archdiocesan support staff and consultants can be more present to the new, fewer in number, Phase IV collaboratives. They will still be able to assist Phase I and II collaboratives with the implementation of their local pastoral plans, and can continue working with Phase III to develop their plans. With God's good grace, Phase V and beyond, will return to the pattern of more parishes in more collaboratives.
The parishes that will make up Phase IV are:
-- St. Paul Parish, Cambridge
-- St. Michael Parish, Avon/ St. Joseph Parish, Holbrook
-- Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ/St. Paul Parish, Hingham
-- St. Ann Parish, West Bridgewater/ St. John the Evangelist Parish, East Bridgewater
-- Sacred Heart Parish/ St. Patrick Parish, Watertown
Phase IV will begin collaboration in June 2016. "Disciples in Mission" is a plan to make parishes strong, stable, intentional, effective, centers of the new evangelization that will help the Church grow by reaching out to those who have fallen away, or who do not yet know the Lord, or the Church. Denise McKinnon-Biernat, archdiocesan director of Financial Services says, one goal of "Disciples in Mission" is "stabilize in order to evangelize." Pray for the parishioners, staff, and clergy of these nine parishes, that they will be open to the working of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Pray for the diocesan offices who will be working with them, that they will be effective partners in collaboration.
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.