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What's happening these days in pastoral planning?

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Parochial vicar formation, the consultation process, and information meetings are but three important aspects of a larger process.

Sister Pat Boyle,

Every once in a while it is good to stop and take a good look at all that is going on behind the scenes in pastoral planning. It is important to keep our readers up to speed on all that is taking place in the archdiocese particularly in relation to Disciples in Mission. Recent articles have focused on a variety of events that have taken place on the archdiocesan level: the Hope Conference, the symposium at Boston College for the Portuguese Catholic Community and the Enculturation Program for priests from outside the U.S. While all of these programs have some degree of importance to the work of Disciples in Mission, there is still more going on at the parish level that is directly related to pastoral planning and the preparation of parishes before they begin as new collaboratives.

In this article, I will describe three initiatives that are currently underway: parochial vicar formation, the consultation process, and information meetings for parishes not yet in a phase. Five parochial vicars from four of the Phase V collaboratives came together last week for formation and training about ways to engage more intentionally in the work of evangelization. The presentations and information discussed gave these priests ideas about ways to engage with staff and parishioners to help them deepen their relationship with Christ. A few of the topics addressed were: the role of the parochial vicar, teaching people how to give a witness talks, presenting a "teaching Mass" as a way to help people better appreciate the gift of the Eucharist, and making the most of "Gateway Moments." These are those moments when people come to a parish seeking something that they know only the Church can offer: the sacraments of initiation or marriage or funerals. Discussion about those topics generated good conversation and ideas that can be easily applied to their current assignments.

In the coming weeks, these parochial vicars and their pastors will accompany their parishioners to workshops that will address those same topics. Hopefully, once parishioners have learned about evangelization and making disciples, the priests and the people will work in a more unified way to draw people closer to Christ and his Church.

The consultation process is also underway. The pastor or administrator of the parishes that will be in Phase VI have written their letters of resignation. This allows the process for appointment of a pastor for these Phase VI parishes to begin. The next step in the process is the parish consultation meeting. At this meeting, the parish and finance councils and members of the staffs, provide relevant feedback that is helpful for the Clergy Personnel Board. That feedback, along with a parish profile, financial information and demographic data about each parish in a collaborative is provided to the Clergy Personnel Board for their deliberations. Over the next two months, the Clergy Personnel Board will review all the information so that they are prepared to discuss names of possible priests to serve in these new collaboratives. Once they have discussed all the priests to be considered for each collaborative, they send their recommendations to Cardinal Seán. The cardinal reviews the names that have been recommended, and before choosing the priest for each collaborative, stops to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance. The priest that Cardinal Seán chooses is then asked to accept this assignment.

Since there will be about 18 collaboratives in Phase VI, the clergy personnel process and the cardinal's decision need sufficient time and consideration. Once these deliberations are complete, the announcement of the pastors will be made in the Phase VI collaboratives.

While all of the above is going on, many of the Phase VI collaboratives are requesting parish meetings. These meetings help parishioners better understand what is involved in being a collaborative and why evangelization efforts are so critical. They are also a wonderful opportunity to dispel myths about Disciples in Mission by sharing some "best practices" that collaboratives in earlier phases have successfully initiated.

Parochial vicar formation, the consultation process, and information meetings are but three important aspects of a larger process. There are many factors that need attention before beginning as a new collaborative, and all of them impact the priests and the parishioners. We ask for God's continued guidance and direction. Your prayerful remembrance of those in the Phase VI collaboratives is something we all rely upon!

- Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Pastoral Planning.

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