Cardinal approves first round of collaborative local pastoral plans

BRAINTREE -- This month Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley approved local pastoral plans for 10 groups of collaborative parishes participating in Phase I of the archdiocesan pastoral plan "Disciples in Mission."

In a July 2 statement announcing the approvals, the archdiocese called this "a milestone moment for the collaboratives in developing innovative and effective plans for evangelization."

Cardinal O'Malley also thanked all those who worked to develop the local plans.

"We are grateful for the commitment of the pastors and parishioners in each of the collaboratives. The development of these pastoral plans will guide the collaboratives in their mission and ministry on behalf of the people of God. We are confident these faithful efforts will result in a strengthening of our parishes and renewal among the people of God," the cardinal said.

"Disciples in Mission," approved by Cardinal O'Malley in 2012, outlines a strategy for the archdiocese to support the pastoral needs of parishes. Under the pastoral plan, parishes were organized into groups called "collaboratives" to share resources with the aim of enabling them to better focus on the work of evangelization.

"We say all the time that 'Disciples in Mission' is the pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston, and that's only true to a degree. 'Disciples in Mission' is really a context for local pastoral planning. It's a way of enabling parishes and supporting parishes in the work of writing their own local pastoral plan," said Father Paul Soper, director of the archdiocese's Pastoral Planning Office.

The Pastoral Planning Office posted the 10 approved pastoral plans online at its website, DisciplesInMission.com. Another will arrive in coming weeks, according to the office.

"Disciples in Mission" calls for local pastoral plans to align with parish communities to focus on the work of the new evangelization. This alignment reflects two key commitments according to Father Soper.

"It's a plan that focuses the work of those parishes, over the next three years, on evangelization and vocations," said Father Soper.

With the organization of parishes into collaborative groups, assignment of priests to each collaborative, and establishment and initial training of pastoral staff completed last year, the first group of collaborative parishes moved forward with the drafting of the local plans.

To draft the local pastoral plans, pastors worked with members of their parish councils, parishioners, staff, as well as a group of archdiocesan offices known as Collaborative Support Team. The Collaborative Support Team consists of the Real Estate Office, Parish Financial Services, the Vocations Office, Human Resources, the Catholic Schools Office, the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support, and the Pastoral Planning Office. The national organization, Catholic Leadership Institute, also worked closely with collaborative groups in drafting the local pastoral plans.

Each collaborative created a set of guidelines unified under the guidance of "Disciples in Mission," yet unique to the local situation.

"The cardinal really, really believes in local planning, organic planning, things that come out of the lived experience of the local parish. So, there's no way in the world that the plans for different places could ever look like one another, because it's got to come out of the lived experience of the people in the parishes," Father Soper said.

Each plan contained two common sections: a purpose statement and a list of priorities.

The purpose statement or mission statement for each collaborative defined a purpose for the community of parishes.

In one example, the purpose statement of the three-parish collaborative of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Mary of the Angels, and St. Thomas Aquinas in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain reads, "Called together by the Good Shepherd into a multicultural, multilingual, and multi-generational Catholic community, we are followers of Jesus Christ and witnesses to his message. We provide a spiritual home in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain where all are welcome. We support one another in our journeys of faith and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors, and the larger world."

Local plans also contained a list of priorities for the parish collaborative. The plans broke each priority down into separate goals. For example, each local plan focused on vocations to the priesthood as a priority. As a goal to support that priority collaborative parishes committed to creating vocation or discernment teams.

The collaboratives also made less tangible commitments such as to be disciples and make a difference, a pledge to reawaken and grow, or a dedication to hospitality.

Sections in plans dedicated to the values of the parishes listed attributes such as courage, openness, and a commitment to intentional discipleship.

With the plans in place, collaborative groups will now implement the strategies outlined in each document. The Pastoral Planning Office said the plans will be implemented over the next three years and will be reviewed over the course of a year after implementation.

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