By Jay Nies
Parishes throughout central and northeastern Missouri are taking stock of their efforts, guided by Bishop John R. Gaydos’ pastoral plan for the diocese.
The plan, originally adopted in 2010 and updated and revitalized in 2016 after extensive consultation with priests and parish and diocesan staff, calls on the entire local Church to give particular focus to the following priorities:
•Helping Catholics of all ages, especially young people, grow in their knowledge and understanding of the faith;
•Promoting families and the Catholic understanding of family life;
•Reaching out to and welcoming inactive and alienated Catholics; people with no Church home; and members of immigrant communities; and
•Planning for the staffing of parishes in light of the diminishing number of available priests.
Throughout the 2014-15 consultation, the diocesan administration sought ways to promote cooperation and collaboration among parishes, and between parishes and the diocesan Chancery staff.
In the latest phase of implementing the plan, parishes are holding workshops to assess their progress and plan for the future, specifically in light of these priorities.
Sister Kate DuVal of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who has been facilitating this process since the 2014-15 consultation began, recently held three sessions to help train volunteers to serve as facilitators at one or more of these upcoming parish gatherings.
“We have 45 generous, faith-filled parishioners from around the diocese who participated in the training session to prepare for this service and are ready and willing to help further this process,” she noted.
None of the volunteers is being sent to his or her own parish.
At these gatherings, about 20 representatives of parish councils, school boards, finance commissions and other parish leaders will meet with the pastor and/or pastoral administrator to review what has been done toward advancing the four pastoral priorities over the past five years; develop initiatives and a process and timeline for carrying them out and evaluating them; and determine if and how the diocesan Chancery staff can be of assistance.
After the gathering at each parish, the information will be made available to the pastor or pastoral administrator and the parish council.
The priests in each deanery — one of eight geographical regions in the diocese — will then meet to discuss ways to collaborate on carrying-out common or overlapping action plans.
A final report will be sent to Bishop Gaydos, who will share it with the Chancery staff.
“Basically, you’ve got two things do to: let them raise up what has been, and help them move toward what could be,” Sr. Kate told the volunteers.
At the training sessions, Sr. Kate laid down a process of orderly discussion that will encourage everyone to give input and reach a consensus.
“The purpose is to listen to each other about what you’ve done already, what went well and what didn’t go well,” she noted. “What didn’t go well may be an action or initiative that you want to include, so you can strengthen it.”
She said the parishes should be looking at action items that can be accomplished within three to four years.
“So you want to draw forth what are some concrete possibilities that you can do with these priorities,” said Sr. Kate.
These gatherings will be geared toward identifying needs and ways to address those needs.
The parish meetings are scheduled to continue through May 16.
All of the reports are scheduled to be sent to Bishop Gaydos by May 31, in time for him to discuss them at upcoming Diocesan Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Pastoral Council meetings.