Originally published May 19, 2010
Archbishop John Nienstedt asked members of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women to be ambassadors for the long-range parish and school planning process May 6 at its annual convention, held this year at St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights.
Its members’ support and prayers are necessary to help others see the big picture and to achieve unity, not division, within the local church as the planning recommendations are announced in the fall and implemented in the years ahead, he said.
In March 2009, Archbishop Nienstedt appointed a 16-member task force to prepare recommendations for the archdiocese’s comprehensive planning. He acknowledged that these recommendations, which the task force will present to the archbishop this summer, may include parishes merging, clustering or closing.
Ensuring continued vitality
He reiterated that the need for comprehensive planning was born from challenges faced by the local church, including changing demographics, aging buildings and clergy limitations. But, he stressed that these needs are not the only driving force.
“The overall motivation here is not just the question of good stewardship over very limited resources, but certainly that’s part of the picture,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “It seems to me that the overall intent is to ensure a vital, dynamic church for the future as a communion of faith, hope and love.”
He added: “This long range planning project, as unique and historic as it is, is driven by a singular mission, and that’s remained constant throughout the millennia — to make the name of Jesus known and loved by all.”
The anticipated changes may be difficult for some people to accept, but they are necessary for the vitality of the local church, he said, likening the process to a farmer pruning a vine.
Carol Shukle, former ACCW president and strategic planning task force member, said the council is in a unique position to help the process because it has members in every parish.
“The women of the church can do what we always do best. We can support the church and really take the lead in getting behind the archbishop’s plan and easing feelings,” she said. “The women need to keep in mind the archbishop’s vision . . . and look at this as something that will strengthen the church.”
According to its Web site, the ACCW serves to support, empower and educate women in spirituality, leadership and service within their parishes and the archdiocese.
‘Greater things to come’
Archbishop Nienstedt’s words echoed those of Father Paul Fruth, who had spoken earlier on parish merging, clustering and closing at one of the morning’s six breakout sessions.
The moderator of the Duluth Diocese’s Council of Catholic Women and pastor of Holy Family in McGregor and Our Lady of Fatima chapel in McGrath, Father Fruth urged ACCW members to be leaders and unifiers during this time of change for the archdiocese.
Changing parish configurations entails pain and loss, but Catholics need to have courage and offer self-sacrifice, he said.
“When you give up yourself to Christ . . . you’re going to be doing these big, big things,” he said. “We may think, ‘We’re losing everything. We’re losing our little church.’
Wait a moment. If you’re in Christ, what makes you think there won’t be greater things to come?”
Church structures are living, and therefore changing, he said. When parishes are asked to combine, members must keep this understanding at the forefront, he said.
“It means that something is alive, it’s dynamic, it’s growing, it’s going onward, it’s going upward,” he said.
He urged ACCW members to consider their — and their parishes’ — position in salvation history and be leaders as their parishes transition to new forms.
Two ACCW officers were also elected at the convention. Marcia Simon will serve a two-year term as first vice president, and Elaine Monitor will serve a two-year term as treasurer. Simon is a parishioner at St. Dominic in Northfield and Monitor is a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Hugo. Catholic Spirit