The team was brutally honest. There were no Fs, some Cs -- "not on track but may be... accomplished with ... re-tooling" -- and enough As and Bs to foster perseverance.
Amidst the "holy chaos," that Deacon Phil DiBello described in last week's column, the Billerica collaborative has created a "scorecard" to track their local pastoral plan (LPP) implementation. In every collaborative plan, priorities are supported by goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Developing the scorecard was an impressive process in itself, involving the leadership team, plan writing team, and councils -- about 17 people in all. They prepared for the initial meeting by evaluating each goal in their LPP. Their template has four columns:
Goal, including "owner," -- i.e. the person responsible for leading the effort to accomplish that goal;
Assessment -- the current status;
Action items -- what needs to be done to move the goal forward; and lastly,
Grade, a letter from A to F -- report card style, from A -- accomplished: to F -- "deadline has passed' or "will not be accomplished by deadline."
The team was brutally honest. There were no Fs, some Cs -- "not on track but may be... accomplished with ... re-tooling" -- and enough As and Bs to foster perseverance. The chart is straightforward and simple, but hours went into completing it. For goals without an assigned "owner," the team discussed who could best move that goal forward. After the initial meeting, a draft was prepared and reviewed. Only then did they arrive at the final scorecard. The process and examination was rigorous. They don't want to wait a full year to do it again, so they will revisit the scorecard -- reviewing implementation progress -- in 6 months.
Deacon Phil copied goals and action items from the scorecard and printed them onto posters in the collaborative offices. This way, the whole team will see the goals as they go about their daily work. Deacon Phil says that the process of tracking implementation is a "kick start to remind people that we take it seriously." Noting that the scorecard is also posted on the collaborative website, Father Paul Soper, director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, said, "For people to see this online -- this could be a game changer."
Salem has also posted their LPP goals in their work space, on whiteboards. Each poster includes the name of the person who is responsible for leading implementation of that goal and the expected date of completion. A copy of the local pastoral plan will be part of the manual that they are preparing to give collaborative volunteers.
The purpose statement of the Lynn Catholic Collaborative is to "form intentional disciples" and identifies characteristics and actions that intentional disciples exemplify. Forming intentional disciples is also the first priority in their LPP. Lynn has no scorecard, but as a reality check, Father Flynn regularly asks the staff if their communities understand what intentional discipleship means. The staff has spent a good amount of time discussing this, and feels confident that the combination of bulletin notes and homilies on the topic has provided clarity and understanding.
Turning to implementation successes, the Salem team was delighted to see families bring extended family members to Easter Mass. Salem has begun a "Seekers Mass" for adults on Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m. This Mass has more contemporary music and includes a witness talk. After Mass there is an opportunity for coffee and conversation. And, as Margo Morin says, people still want to be baptized -- not only infants, but adults and children.
In Billerica, both Deacon Phil and Pam Newfell, office and finance manager, have noticed that parishioners are participating at Mass in different churches within the three-parish collaborative, with growing ease. People seem to be more driven by Mass times than by Mass locations.
There are certainly challenges in collaboration. Billerica has redesigned their entire religious education/ faith formation program. It's too early to assess the change; a survey yielded responses from about one-third of the families involved. Reaction is mixed, but several respondents mentioned that the ride home from religious education class has been a source of faith-related discussion. Deacon Phil names the biggest challenge: "making disciples. Learning how to do it on a large scale -- across three parishes. A lot of issues will go away when and if we make disciples."
This summer, pastors will share their implementation progress in a letter to Cardinal O'Malley. Local Pastoral Plans are not meant to sit on the shelf -- or be the work only of clergy, staff, and councils. We pray for the successful implementation of all Phase I Local Pastoral Plans.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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