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Disciples in Mission: A time of great hope and promise


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November 15th was a historic day in our archdiocese. In a press conference on that day, Cardinal Seán formally accepted the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston entitled "Disciples in Mission." This Pastoral Plan will set the direction of the archdiocese for the future. It is a major undertaking for our Church in Boston. We want everyone in the archdiocese to be informed of this plan.

The proposal of this plan was made by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission which, under the leadership of co-chairs Msgr. William Fay and Deacon Chuck Clough, had worked for more than 18 months to tailor a plan for our archdiocese. After extensive research and consultation, the commission proposed that we work to strengthen our parishes in order that they would be centers of outreach and evangelization, inviting those who have stepped away from a full participation in their faith to give new consideration to the gift that it is for us.

With the well-deserved thanks of the cardinal and all of us in the archdiocese, the commission's work was officially completed. At the same time, the decision of the cardinal to accept the proposal marked an end to the recommendation stage of our planning effort. Now we will move to the implementation stage. This is a time of great hope and promise as we meet the challenges before us. In order to inform you of what lies ahead, we will be publishing articles such as this in subsequent months. It is a way of providing information as we continue in this planning effort.

The implementation of "Disciples in Mission" will evolve in an organic manner, in four phases over five years. A central part of the plan proposes that parishes will be organized into collaboratives that would share a common pastor and pastoral team. The creation of collaboratives will strengthen the mission of each parish so that each one will become a thriving center of evangelization.

The plan introduces new methods and ways of working together. Throughout the consultation process it was clear that extensive training would be needed. Implementation, therefore, will be accompanied by training for our priests, parish staffs, parish finance and pastoral councils, as well as the staff of the Pastoral Center and Central Ministries of the archdiocese. This training is centered on learning about how to communicate most effectively the core teachings of our faith, discovering best practices in administration and organization, and collaborating in the most cohesive manner, so that the professional efforts of all will promote the primary effort of the collaborative, the work of the new evangelization.

We will initiate the first phase of implementation in July of 2013 with 12-15 collaboratives, each of which will be made up of one to four parishes. We will continue, in the succeeding years, to inaugurate additional collaboratives and build on the experiences and insights gained from the first phase. We anticipate that the second phase of implementation, with a larger number of collaboratives, will be initiated in July of 2014.

We want this implementation to proceed in a way that enriches our parish life and uses our resources in the archdiocese as best we can. Therefore, the plan is envisioned to be flexible. Our learning from the inauguration and implementation of the first phase of collaboratives will help us, as we move forward, to enhance the model for the good of the mission.

An important aspect of the effective implementation of this plan will be the engagement and active participation of lay parishioners in this effort. Lay involvement, of course, is energizing many of our parishes already. As we begin implementation, we aim to involve lay parish leaders on unified collaborative pastoral and financial councils, which will have as their goal the strengthening of the individual parishes while making sure that evangelization is a central focus of the work of each parish.

These councils are crucial consultative bodies for the pastor. They offer him counsel in fostering pastoral activity and in administering the goods of the individual parishes. A critical activity of these councils will be to work with the pastoral team in recommending a pastoral plan for the whole collaborative. These collaborative pastoral plans will develop the strategy and tactics for outreach and for the administration of collaborative resources. Cardinal Seán will review and approve each of these collaborative pastoral plans.

"Disciples in Mission" envisions a vibrant role for all the faithful, clergy and laity alike, as we respond to the opportunities and challenges we presently face in the Church, and as we work to use our resources to build stronger parishes focused on the work of the new evangelization. Parish staffs, pastoral councils and finance councils, as well as school boards and all the other organizations and committees which enrich the life of our parishes, will have a role in helping to make them more effective in their mission.

In terms of a timeline for the next several months, Father Paul Soper, our Director of Planning, and his staff expect to announce the list of first phase collaboratives in January 2013. Then, the pastors who will lead the collaboratives will be appointed by mid-March 2013. These first collaboratives will be established officially on July 1, 2013.

Please keep this planning task in your prayers. We need to work together, so that we can advance the mission of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel entrusted to us to those around us. Over these months we will keep you updated on the progress of the implementation of "Disciples in Mission." You may also visit www.disciplesinmission.com for more information.

Bishop-elect Robert P. Deeley is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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