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Over the past few weeks, our Scripture readings from Mass have shown us that St. Paul was a man on a mission. He would go to the ends of the earth, and lay down his life, so that people would come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and so that vibrant communities of faith would be established. Two thousand years later, we are carrying on St. Paul's zeal and mission through evangelization and mission-centered planning for our future. Initiatives such as Arise, The Light is On for You and Catholics Come Home are meant to bring us into a deeper relationship with Jesus in the community of the Church.
Accompanying these efforts, and being driven by the same mission, is a renewed comprehensive effort at pastoral planning which will ensure that the Archdiocese of Boston, especially our local parishes, will remain healthy and vibrant for future generations of Catholics. Since the founding of our archdiocese in 1808, through the great missionary work of our early Bishops Cheverus, Fenwick and Fitzpatrick, to the establishment and expansion years of Cardinals O'Connell and Cushing, to the present day, planning for a bright future of this People of God has always been a passion for our spiritual leaders.
The more recent planning initiatives find their roots in the 1988 Synod that established the Office of Planning and Research and the formation of clusters of parishes to begin working together to find common goals in 1994. These clusters continue to this day in the form of parish collaboratives. Our archdiocese is indebted to Father Robert MacMillan, SJ, Mr. Harry Foden and Sister Mary Anne Doyle, CSJ for their generous efforts, as well as to Mrs. Barbara Shine for organizing the large Convocations of Parish Pastoral Councils held into the early part of the last decade.
Continuing in the spirit of St. Paul, and with the dedicated guidance and leadership of Father George Evans, the 2007 Pastoral Planning Report (available at www.bostoncatholic.org, click on pastoral planning) captured various voices and perspectives and called for a "culture of planning" throughout the archdiocese, along with an "infrastructure that can sustain effective pastoral planning at all levels." The work of Father Evans and his committee demonstrated the fact that we are at a critical juncture, a turning point in the history of our archdiocese, as our parishes are challenged by a smaller pool of available clergy, changing demographics, tighter finances, and a secularized culture. Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, brought the challenges and perspectives of the Pastoral Planning Report to the people of our archdiocese through a year-long process of consultations on the report.
In 2009, motivated by the recommendations of the Pastoral Planning Report and by the feedback from the consultations, Cardinal Seán hired director, Father David Couturier, OFM. Cap. and associate director, Mr. Joshua Phelps for our Office of Pastoral Planning. Father Couturier and Mr. Phelps have been tireless in assisting the archdiocese in mission-centered planning for our future.
Since January, Cardinal Seán has been meeting regularly with his priests to consult with them about strategic priorities that will guide our way. The Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, the Pastoral Associates of the archdiocese, along with the Archdiocesan Parish Staffing Commission have all been discussing the steps we should take to enliven our mission as the Church of God in the 144 cities and towns in which we live and serve. The cardinal has been receiving much data and help in charting the way ahead.
In the coming months, the fruits of this work will be evident as Cardinal Seán will articulate the next phase of our pastoral planning. As we move forward, we do so with a sense of gratitude for all who worked so hard to pass on the faith to us. We treasure our faith and we call on the courageous example and powerful intercession of St. Paul, that all our efforts may be rooted in Christ, for the sake of His Kingdom and for the rebuilding of His Church.
Father Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.