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Visitors from Chicago

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The visits and meetings included collaboratives in Phases I, II, and III, in urban, suburban, and rural settings, some with significant ethnic communities, and two with parish schools.

Susan
Abbott

''Renew My Church" is the Archdiocese of Chicago's multi-year planning process, announced some months ago by Archbishop Blaise Cupich. Recently, the Pastoral Center in Braintree was blessed by a week-long visit by three counter-parts from the Archdiocese of Chicago: Msgr. Richard Hynes, director of the Department of Parish Life and Formation; Father Jason Malave, co-chairman of the Priests' Steering Committee for "Renew My Church" and pastor of St. Benedict Parish, a parish with a kindergarten through grade 12 school; and Mr. Tim Weiske, director of Strategic Planning and Implementation. They came to learn about "Disciples in Mission" the Archdiocese of Boston's pastoral plan. The visit began early Monday morning when Msgr. Hynes, the first of the group to arrive, met with staff from offices of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support, Evangelization, Institutional Advancement, Pastoral Planning, Parish Financial Services, and Real Estate. By Tuesday, all three members of the Chicago contingent were here. They attended the monthly Pastoral Center all-staff meeting and heard a presentation from the leadership team of the Salem Catholic Collaborative. More meetings with Pastoral Center staff followed.

Father Paul Soper, cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of the Pastoral Planning Office, scheduled "field trips" over the next two days, to five collaboratives plus a meeting with a staff member of a sixth. The visits and meetings included collaboratives in Phases I, II, and III, in urban, suburban, and rural settings, some with significant ethnic communities, and two with parish schools.

Wednesday morning, the caravan was off. First stop: Stoughton to visit Father Joe Mazzone, pastor of the Phase II collaborative of Immaculate Conception and St. James, and his staff. From there, south to Middleborough, to meet with Father John Sheridan, pastor of the Phase I collaborative in Middleborough, Rochester, and Lakeville, and his staff, and then off to St. Mary Parish, Franklin, a Phase III, single-parish collaborative, for their 6-9 p.m. plan writing meeting. It was a 12-plus-hour day. Thursday morning, back on the road and off to meet with Father Ron Coyne and his staff at the Blue Hills Collaborative of St. Anne in Readville, Most Precious Blood in Hyde Park, and St. Pius X in Milton. After visiting with them, the group headed north to the Phase I collaborative of St. Maria Goretti and Our Lady of the Assumption Parishes in Lynnfield, meeting with Father Paul Ritt, pastor, and director of Parish Ministries Donna Delahanty. This meeting ended in late afternoon. Killing two birds with one stone, the group avoided the drive back to Braintree in rush hour traffic by stopping for pizza along the way, and Chris Carmody, director of ministries for the Lynn Catholic Collaborative, a Phase I collaborative, joined the group. Chris shared his experience in Lynn, a city collaborative with a parish elementary school -- Sacred Heart -- and St. Mary's High School, an independent school on the parish grounds. Another long day. Friday, after a morning meeting with Kathy Mears, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, our visitors headed back to Chicago.

"Renew My Church" was introduced by Chicago Archbishop Blaise Cupich to "chart the course for greater vibrancy and vitality of our parishes... for generations to come." Msgr. Hynes, Father Malave, and Mr. Wieske saw great similarities in the goals of "Renew My Church" and "Disciples in Mission" but Chicago, with 351 parishes and 229 schools (elementary and high school), includes more property and entities. Like Boston, they have fewer priests to pastor parishes, many of their parish lay ecclesial ministers are getting ready to retire, and some of their buildings are in great need of repair -- which can be very costly in large, old buildings. Archbishop Cupich says, "We should not be afraid to face these realities, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new ways to live out our mission more fully. Addressing this situation will require a good deal of prayer and humility, hard work, tough choices and new sacrifices."

Next week we will share some of the conversations, observations, and questions that surfaced during the jam-packed week.

Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.

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