July 9, 2015
‘Making All Things New’ on Course
“Making all of us blue”;
“Making many of us old”;
“Making us all confused”;
“Raking New Anger up”...
I’ve heard them all, and used most of them myself!
I refer, of course, to our ongoing strategic pastoral planning, begun over five years ago, that will reach an important goal on August 1, in less than three weeks, when 140 of our parishes will be officially merged.
Thanks to a lot of hard work by our parish priests, deacons, staffs, and faithful people, meetings have already been going on since the decisions were announced months ago, to help make the mergers smooth. Thanks...
Some of the affected parishes appealed the long-deliberated decisions to Rome, as they have every right to do. Ninety percent of the appeals have been turned down by the Holy See, observing that all fair and proper procedure has been used. I am confident that the remaining ten percent will be decided in our favor, as the same process that has already been found just was used in these cases as well.
And last week, we made final the appointments of the pastors for the newly formed merged parishes, which brings a sense of direction for our patient priests and people.
The process has been long, fatiguing, upsetting, at times frustrating, and testing of our patience. Mistakes have been made, not, I am confident, in decisions, but in some implementation of the process.
But…thanks to God, and to so many of you, it has worked, and has led so many to conclude, “It had to be done, should have been done a long time ago, and it’s good the tough part is mostly over.”
August 1, while bringing a sense of resolution and “moving on,” will usher in a new stage of pastoral planning.
For one, all the tough decisions made are, according to the decrees, to be reviewed in two years. It’s only then that parishes will propose if they need the second site at all, and make suggestions about the disposition of the unused churches and buildings. Thus, discernment continues...
Two, we’ll still have at least a year of “getting settled” in the newly merged parishes, with patient consultation and decisions about Mass times, staff, united organizations, parish councils, trustees, and calendars, and even the proposal of a new name. (For now, as we’ve noted, the newly merged parishes will simply be using the hyphenated titles of the two former ones.)
Three, and most intriguing for the future, good questions that have arisen during the process need to be continuously explored in all our parishes, not just the newly merged ones. While two-thirds of the parishes in the archdiocese were left untouched by merging, all parishes were involved in the process, and all the clusters raised excellent questions about the future, such as: how can we better, in a united way, serve our hospitals, nursing homes, youth, fallen-away Catholics, immigrants, the poor, those in prison, our regional schools, and our sick and homebound? How can we better distribute and use our priests, deacons, and staff, and train lay leaders better to exercise service in catechesis, charity, youth ministry, and parish business management? And, especially, how can we win our people back, and fill up our parishes like they used to be? That’s called the new evangelization!
It’s a time of trial, to be sure, but it’s also a time of trust, as we listen to Jesus and “cast out to the deep,” and a time of excitement, as, hopefully, with so many of our parishes more sound, secure, and settled, we can be liberated from mere survival and maintenance, and embrace the sense of mission at the heart of the Church since the first Pentecost.
To those hurt by decisions, and dreading August 1, as they will see beloved parishes move and cherished churches no longer used regularly, I apologize for the hurt I admit is there, and ask you to give this new structure a chance, as your grandparents did when new parishes were formed generations ago and settled ways were shaken.
May He continue to “make all things new.”
A blessed summer!