Phase IV is a small cohort allowing Central Ministry support teams to catch their collective breath. There's a lot going on!
The five collaboratives in Phase IV of Disciples in Mission were inaugurated at the beginning of June, bringing the total number of collaboratives to 52, made up of 109 parishes. In the first year, a collaborative gets to know the staff, forms a leadership team, and attends workshops on evangelization, leadership and building a collaborative. The second year includes additional workshops for leadership team development. The pastor recruits a plan writing team and the collaborative writes a local pastoral plan (LPP). The LPP is submitted to Cardinal O'Malley usually in June of the third year and the collaborative lives out their plan over the next three years. Year six is spent evaluating their plan and writing the next version, which is implemented in years seven, eight, and nine. "Disciples in Mission" is not a quick fix. There are hard facts moving this initiative: the shortage of priests and lay ecclesial ministers, dwindling numbers of people in the pews, and lack of revenue. But as the archdiocese necessarily addresses the immediate situation, there must be a long-range vision as well. So once again, we adopt an approach: work to keep parishes open, bring people back to the practice of the faith and sacraments, and, simultaneously, actively, and intentionally, encourage vocations to the diocesan priesthood.
Phase IV is a small cohort allowing Central Ministry support teams to catch their collective breath. There's a lot going on. Phases I and II together are 32 collaboratives. Each local pastoral plan contains three priorities, so, 96 priorities. Each priority has goals and strategies. Phase I is in its second year of LPP implementation. Collaborative websites and anecdotal evidence indicates that there is progress, but this is not a "just add water and get instant results" process. There are areas that need ongoing advice and assistance from support teams. Many Phase II collaboratives have begun working on some of their goals and when their plans are officially approved, they will shift into high gear. Central Ministry will help with this work. Phase III collaboratives are working over the summer to prepare drafts of their plans, and, again, staff from the Pastoral Center try to attend plan writing meetings to respond to questions that might arise.
Recently, Phase IV pastors came to the Pastoral Center for lunch with Cardinal Sean, who gave them their letters of appointment as pastor of each parish in their collaborative. Following lunch there was a brief look at the timeline and what needs to be done before they return in October for additional meetings. Lucille Smith and Jenilee Raia from the Catholic Leadership Institute shared presenting duties with Patrick Krisak and Father Paul Soper from the Archdiocese of Boston. Lastly, each pastor met one-on-one with the Collaborative Support Team (CST), assigned to his collaborative. (Parish Services, Evangelization, and Human Resources).
During the presentation, pastors were asked, "What have you heard (about Disciples in Mission)?" There was a pause, followed by, "It's a lot"; "It's a journey, not a destination -- and it's a long journey!"; "I'm excited -- it's a challenge, but it's doable." Lucille responded: "My observation? It is very challenging but so exciting. It takes a lot of work to 'get there.' It's not a program that you can just purchase." Patrick Krisak cautioned -- and consoled -- pastors, "If you're trying to do it all by yourself, it's just too much."
He and Lucille both referenced the CST, "the people in the back of the room." The CST attends all collaborative pastor and parochial vicar training, ready to answer questions or follow up on a previous email or phone call. Since Phase I, the group has been called, "The people in the back of the room" -- that's where they sit. Literally and figuratively, they are behind the pastors every step of the way. In addition to evangelization, parish services (finance and real estate), human resources, and pastoral planning, the CST also includes the Catholic Schools and Vocations offices.
Father Bill Kelly, St. Paul Parish, Cambridge; Father Tom Boudreau, St. Michael Parish, Avon and St. Joseph Parish, Holbrook; Father Tom Nestor, St. Paul and Resurrection parishes, Hingham; Father Paul Ring, St. Ann Parish, West Bridgewater, St. John the Evangelist Parish, East Bridgewater; Father Kevin Sepe, Sacred Heart and St. Patrick parishes, Watertown, have a collective 47 years of experience as pastors, a few in multiple parish settings. They are good, savvy, pastoral priests. Still, the process is hard. They and their parishioners will need and appreciate our prayers and support.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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