DISCIPLES IN MISSION
Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston
My name is Fr. Paul Soper. I am the Director of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Boston. I am going to give a general overview of Pastoral Planning, but expect to see more in-depth coverage in the weeks to come. And you can always get more information from our website, DisciplesInMission.com.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Archdiocese of Boston and the Universal Church have had a pretty tough decade. Reeling from the effects of the abuse crisis, declining Mass attendance, a bleak financial picture, and an ever-dwindling number of clergy to carry forth the mission of the Church, we easily could have decided to contract and turn inwards. However, we strongly believe that we have something extraordinarily precious in the Person of Jesus Christ, that is not only worth sharing, but we are called to share. Therefore, instead of choosing the easier, yet more painful route of closing churches, we have decided to form a deluxe, innovative, and dynamic plan to treat the cause and not the symptom of such disheartening changes. What if we found a way to reverse global trends and get people back in the pews, increase donations, and see vocations on the rise, so that not only would we want to keep churches open, but we would need to keep them open to serve our burgeoning population? That is exactly what this plan strives to do.
In order to do this, we needed to address some structural components to get us there. As our priest population is aging, we find it more and more challenging to serve all the parishes in the Archdiocese. It has also become more difficult for pastors to serve their individual parishes because they are expected to wear many hats—as both spiritual shepherd and business manager extraordinaire. To address these issues, we have created collaboratives of parishes where we can not only pool resources, but also where a priest or priests can serve the spiritual needs of a parish, while a strong, well-trained support staff can handle the day-to-day tasks of running an organization. This way, priests can better focus on what they were called to do—serve the people of God.
We never wanted this to be a top-down restructuring of every minute detail in a parish—certainly the people on the ground know best the dynamics of their own parish. That is why each collaborative will be tasked with writing their own local pastoral plan to hash out the details of how Pastoral Planning will take shape in their collaborative. While there will, of course, be many practical issues to work out –which rectory will the priests live in, how will rental income be divided equitably among the parishes, where will CCD be held, to name a few—it is important to remember that at the crux of the matter will always be the grace-filled evangelization of the flock and bringing people back to Christ.
In the coming weeks, we will discuss exactly how we plan to do that—how we came to choose the collaboratives in Phase One, what will the trainings (undertaken by both parishes and the central staff of the Archdiocese) be comprised of, what is this “New Evangelization” and how does it work. All of that and more to come on this podcast. Until then, you can always get more details about Pastoral Planning on our website, DisciplesinMission.com. Thank you for listening and we hope you will join us next time.
Article Two – What are we trying to achieve?
“The Pastoral Plan recommended by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission … seeks to revitalize the Church in Boston by positioning our parishes more solidly for the task of evangelization, the work of reaching out to our brothers and sisters and drawing them more fully to Christ Jesus … Taken together, the proposed steps aim at the strengthening our parishes as efficacious missionary communities, able to engage successfully the many teaching, sanctifying, and governing aspects of the Church’s mission.” – Disciples in Mission
The Pastoral Plan is an eleven page document. You can read it at www.disciplesinmission.com – but the whole can be summarized in twenty words: Parish based evangelization works, and we can train for it, but we need strong Parishes in order to do so.
Disciples in Mission is all about Evangelization – about making Parishes conscious and effective centers of the New Evangelization. But what does that mean? How can a Parish be Evangelization focused? We’re going to explore that, but we know several things at the outset.
The Pastor needs to be firmly focused on his identity as the chief evangelizer of the Parish.
The Pastor needs to be surrounded by excellent structures, including the other Priests on the Staff, the Deacons, the Pastoral Team, and the Councils. These structures, with the Pastor, need to be firmly focused on the mission of Evangelization.
The Parishes, and therefore the Collaboratives, need to be secure financially.
Training needs to happen at all levels.
More information will be given periodically to keep all informed.
Disciples In Mission – Phase One Implementation – Article Three (now outdated for Phase 1 Collaboratives)
Disciples in Mission – Phase One Implementation – Article Four
As a part of the implementation of Disciples in Mission, each Collaborative will write a local pastoral plan. The plan will be a road map for them, answering the question, “How do we get to the place of being a strong, stable, intentional and effective center of the New Evangelization?”
The Phase One Collaboratives will start writing their plans next January (2014). They will have about a year in which to write them, and then at the end of that year they will present the plans to Cardinal Seán, who will either approve them, or send them back for revision.
The team which is going to write the local plan will be made up of people from the Pastoral Team, the Councils, and other Parish leaders. They will be appointed by the Pastor. As they begin their task, they will have eight days of training in the process.
The plan will be broad in its scope. It will seek to answer the sorts of questions that Parish mission statements have long tried to answer. Who are we as a people? What do we do? Why do we do it?
It will also get quite specific as to programs. Where do we have our Religious Education program meet? Is it in one site or two or three? Where will our priests live? Where will our offices be? How will we use each building that belongs to our collaborative? How will we foster vocations? Who are the members of our Pastoral Team? What is the job description of each one? How are the pastoral and administrative responsibilities of the Collaborative distributed among the members of the team?
The plan will also be very specific as to finance. How do we set our budget? How are the distributed costs proportionately distributed? If we are a three Parish Collaborative, and one rectory is being used to house the priests and another to house a Youth and Young Adult Center and another is rented as income property, and the Parish offices are in the Parish Center of one of the Parishes, who has to pay what to whom in order to make all of that fair? How often will we report out our financial condition to the people, and what will that report contain?
Most importantly, the local plan will have to lay out the path to Evangelization. How are we going to make use of key moments in the lives of our people and our families to Evangelize? What are we going to do about Adult Faith Formation? How will our people come to know Jesus in the life of our Parish, and fall more deeply in love with him?
The local plan will also contain measurables, and a plan for how to evaluate them. How will we measure our success? How will we use surveys and sacramental numbers and Mass Counts and outside evaluations to tell us how we are doing? How will we respond when something isn’t working? The plan will also have to envision what to do if something isn’t working. What went wrong? Did we run out of money, or run out of energy, or run out of motivation, or was it a bad idea or an idea that didn’t fit? Was it a problem of leadership? Do we just try something else, or do we try to fix our processes? What tools will we use to fix them?
By having a local plan, and using it to hold ourselves accountable, we embrace the best practices both in management and in Evangelization, so that our Collaboratives can be successful in reawakening the ardor for the faith in the lives of the people of 21stcentury Boston.