Minutes of Diocesan Pastoral Council | 12.3.2022

I. Opening Prayer:                                  

Most Rev. W. Shawn McKnight opened the meeting with prayer and welcomed the newest members of the council.

II. Minutes Published:

The minutes of the 6 August 2022, meeting, having been approved by the membership on 4 November 2022, are published on the Diocesan website:

III. Women’s Ministry:

Barbara Prasad presented an overview of how the office of Women’s Ministry plans to empower and support women of the diocese at the parish and deanery levels. This includes the development of coalitions within the deaneries, providing training within the coalitions and assistance in building local alliances. Mrs. Prasad discussed a three-year plan for both the diocesan and the coalition levels. An additional goal is to establish two annual diocesan level events and one or two coalition-level events as a way of pooling resources and easing the burden on individual parishes.

Mrs. Prasad reported the results of a recent survey citing the primary desire of women in the diocese is to have greater faith education and formation. The survey also showed a strong desire of women to grow their faith and serve, but that they are often unsure how to do so. Mrs. Prasad hopes to help women connect with opportunities already in the parishes and to help parishes enhance opportunities.

Bishop McKnight asked the council members to review the diocesan level goals and objectives of the three-year plan and provide feedback to Mrs. Prasad. He asked them to also review the plan in terms of the fulfillment of the third year of the current diocesan pastoral plan: A Steward’s Journey: Our Call to Greater Communion. Mrs. Prasad requested input regarding the establishment of the coalitions; she initially sees these as working committees made up of two representatives from each parish. 

Discussion followed regarding the status of representation from the parishes and potential ways to implement formation and catechesis at the coalition level. The development of a Resource Portal at the diocesan level to provide topic-based resources as well as a location for parishes to share resources and opportunities was also discussed.

Bishop McKnight stated that Women’s Ministry could be an avenue to promote the transition from CSA to CSR. He further noted that the working plan to create three incubator parishes, or an equivalent version, would blend well into the Shaping Our Future Together process. Bishop McKnight suggested that each deanery should identify an initial grouping of parishes that would work closely with Mrs. Prasad to test best practices in women’s ministry. 

IV. Diocesan Pastoral Plan Review:

A. Year Two

Helen Osman provided a written assessment of the second year of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan. A point she emphasized was that the millennial age group is becoming increasingly disengaged with organized religion. Mrs. Osman also noted that considering the related national trends, our diocese is doing well especially in terms of developing stewardship.   

Mrs. Osman also pointed out that there is still a strong tendency for parishioners to focus their efforts on their own local church rather than considering the needs and resources of the broader region. The challenge moving into the next planning process is to find the critical level of engagement needed to have a viable and thriving community of the faithful. Bishop McKnight asked the members what stood out about their year two parish leadership deanery discussions – what went well, what did not, and where is there a need of further support, resources or imagination? Russell Kremer stated that the focus on co-responsibility has been a positive “call to action” in his deanery. He has seen an increase in participation and engagement in the past year. Mrs. Prasad noted that because the younger generation is increasingly mobile, we are challenged to create the feeling of church that is bigger than just where one grew up, it all has to feel like one church. Sarah Robinson has also seen increased involvement in the parishes, and although it is taking longer for some than others, there is an increase of participation and an understanding that the process will help the parishes.

B. Year Three – Integration into Shaping Our Future Together

Bishop McKnight reviewed the previous goals for the third year of the Pastoral Plan:
1. Stewardship – Implement a diocesan wide Catholic Stewardship Renewal. Currently, the Office of Stewardship is actively engaged in the planning and implementation.

2. Strengthening co-responsibility – Ongoing consultation with laity regarding opportunities for better collaboration with clergy, ecclesiastical ministers and other resources to strengthen parish life. This is emphasized in the upcoming pastoral plan, Shaping Our Future Together. 

3. Strengthening charity and mercy network with neighboring parishes and/or not-for-profits within the wider area to ensure all unmet needs are met. This is also emphasized in Shaping Our Future Together.

Bishop McKnight asked the members help to ensure that despite starting Shaping Our Future Together, the third-year goals of the current diocesan pastoral plan not be dropped, but efforts to implement them to be continued. He noted that we must rise to the next level and look at what parishes are doing as we are beginning to adjust to how we are to be Church after Vatican II. He asked the council, how must the individual parish cooperate with sister parishes to grow and flourish? Although we are not used to thinking this way, we must begin to, as everything we do must be done better in terms of our mission. 

Bishop McKnight invited initial thoughts regarding the next discernment process as well as other goals to add to the process. He included the addition of the Women’s’ Ministry element under the 2023 goal for Strengthening Participation: Identify a coalition of parishes in each deanery to promote best practices in Women’s’ Ministry. Mrs. Osman will publish in diocesan communiqués that the Diocesan Pastoral Council has updated Year Three of the Pastoral Plan with the additional goal. 

V. Shaping Our Future Together:

A. Deanery Discernment Process Proposals

Mrs. Osman asked the members for a brief overview of the proposals or their impressions of the discernment process:

  1. Central Deanery – The deanery meeting was well attended. A committee of geographic and demographic representation will be formed and will create a self-assessment to be completed and discussed with each parish individually. The results of the surveys and interviews will direct the creation of a three-year deanery plan and evaluation process. 
  2. North Deanery – The deanery steering committee has created a plan with a timeline. Prayer was emphasized as being foremost in the plan. The steering committee will be expanded to include a broader representation of the deanery’s stakeholders. During this time, communication of the seven values to guide collaboration will be provided to each of the parishes. After this, a self-study instrument will be used to collect and collate necessary data for review, further discernment and the development of a Plan of Action and an evaluation process. 
  3. See City Deanery – A working group has been created and although there is not an update from the group, the initial discernment process flows directly from the liturgy. When people understand the liturgy, and if this understanding can be generated within the diocese, the rest of the process will unfold from it. Bishop McKnight confirmed and clarified the concept of the process is that the liturgy is the most important thing a parish does, but that it does not exhaust what the parish does. God is providing us with all the resources needed to do our mission well, we need to determine how to deploy those resources in such a way that we can fulfill the mission of the Church. It was further noted that the attentiveness of the pastor, the ministers, and everyone involved, to the beauty of the Mass is something that must be shared by all parishes. 
  4. Southeast Deanery – The overall conclusion was that everyone wanted to thrive together, every parish, every Catholic in their faith; it was also felt that it is important to preserve the individual cultures and traditions of each community. The deanery steering committee identified six geographic/regional clusters that will help facilitate the identification and deployment of resources. The committee will gather and share parish data, share bold and creative ideas for the future, gather and utilize parish leaders, evaluate parishes’ strengths and weaknesses, and finally formulate a deanery Ministry and Service template. 
  5. Southwest Deanery – The team initially started with the PPRI review to familiarize the members with deanery and diocesan information that is already available. It was also beneficial to draw the experiences from the 2017 parish merger process within Pettis County that resulted in the establishment of St. Vincent de Paul Parish. The personal experiences of the team members were valuable in the discussions of ideas, how best to apply those ideas to the seven guiding values, and the development of a plan. 

B. Next Steps for Shaping Our Future Together

Mrs. Osman thanked the deanery representatives for their work on the proposed plans and reiterated that chancery personnel will be able to assist as a resource where requested. Bishop McKnight stated that the proposals will be reviewed at the next Council of Deans meeting. He encouraged cross-pollination, to look at the plans of other deaneries and incorporate any applicable ideas into your own plan. He then encouraged the representatives to utilize the matrix template as their deaneries further establish their plans; Bishop McKnight noted that the template is how he will organize his response. 

VI. Universal Synod Update: 

Mrs. Osman recently returned from a meeting of the Universal Dicastery of Communication in Rome where the Working Document for the Continental Stage was discussed. This document will be reviewed by every diocese in the world who will then convene by each continent to discuss it. Mrs. Osman noted that the common concerns we are experiencing within our own diocese are being experienced universally. She also pointed out that in all her years working for the Church, she has never experienced an emphasis on synodality as she has while being involved with both our diocesan and the universal processes. 

VII. Updating Statutes:                                                                                      

Bishop McKnight asked the members to review the proposed statutes and provide feedback; the statutes will be voted on at the next meeting. He drew attention to Article III, Section 2, Number and Composition, and asked the members for an immediate recommendation regarding the number of lay deanery representatives. The consensus was to have at least two representatives from each deanery, preferably with staggered terms. Bishop McKnight then asked the members to look at Article IV, Section 1, Officers, and explained the definitions for President, Chairperson/Vice-Chairperson, and Executive Secretary. Referring back to Article III, Section 3, Selection, he noted that his preference is to have a consultation and proposal process for the deanery representatives. Under Section 4, Terms, he reviewed the term limits and that the bishop may dispense from the term limits for a just cause. The final important item Bishop McKnight addressed was regarding Article VII, Miscellaneous, that for a grave cause, the bishop may dispense with any of the provisions of these statutes. Once the statutes are approved, the offices of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson will be elected and they will assist with creating the agenda and take responsibility for the logistics of the meetings. Ben Roodhouse included an important change to Article VIII, Amendments, that the bishop may now amend the statutes by his own initiative, or through a two-thirds majority vote the council may propose amendments for the bishop’s approval.

VIII. Bishop’s Remarks:                                                             

Bishop McKnight stated he had no further remarks.

IX. Concluding prayer:                                                                      

Bishop McKnight closed the meeting with the Shaping Our Future Together prayer.