Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parishioners express desire for solidarity in Archdiocesan regional planning meetings

Solidarity between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Catholics - Parishes capable of fostering community - Programs aimed at keeping young people in the church.

These were just a few of the hopes expressed during a gathering at St. Richard in Richfield Sept. 12.

About 400 English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Catholics from parishes around the archdiocese attended the gathering to provide input regarding strategic planning for the archdiocese’s future.

The meeting was the first of eight regional parishioner meetings to be held in the archdiocese during Sep­tem­ber and October. It was the only meeting scheduled to include a presentation in Spanish.

Upcoming planning meetings

» St. Pius V, Cannon Falls
Sept. 26, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

» All Saints, Lakeville

Sept. 28, 7-9 p.m.

» Holy Spirit, St. Paul

Oct. 1, 7-9 p.m.

» Holy Name of Jesus, Wayzata

Oct. 6, 7-9 p.m.

» St. Timothy, Blaine

Oct. 8, 7-9 p.m.
In addition to attending a regional parishioner meeting, you may share your ideas, hopes and concerns with the archdiocesan planning task force in the following ways:

» Via the Web:

» By voice mail:
(651) 291-4435.

» By postal mail:
Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, PST - Planning Process Comments, 328 Kellogg Blvd. W, St. Paul, MN 55102.

Key parish facts to know about the Parish Planning Process

“This meeting is really designed to help you become more familiar with the archdiocesan planning process, including the important information that we’re learning about our current reality,” said Lori Dahlhoff, a member of the Parish Services Team who led the English-speaking session.

The meeting was also a means to foster conversation between members of different parishes and to provide feedback for the Strategic Planning Task Force, she added.

Planning Task Force members will con­sider ideas and concerns presented in the regional parishioner meet­ings as they prepare their final proposal, which they will present to Archbishop John Nien­stedt in July 2010. The Parish Services Team is assisting the task force.

The series of parishioner meetings follows planning meetings for priests and parish leaders, which were held during the summer.

At St. Richard, the two-hour format began with a bilingual introduction from members of the archdiocese’s Plan­ning Task Force and Parish Services Team before attendees separated for presentations in English and Spanish. Participants were given facts and supporting statistics about the archdiocese as a framework for the planning process. (See sidebar “Key parish facts.”)

Young adults, racial division

In the English session, participants were invited to share their concerns and ideas first with those sitting near them, then with the whole gathering.

Attendees expressed concerns in­clu­ding the number of people leaving the Catholic Church, separation between English- and non-English speaking Cath­olics, and the loss of a sense of community within their own parishes.

Fred Seagren, 67, said he attended because he thinks it’s important for all Catholics to be involved in decision-making in the church.

St. Richard, his parish, has struggled financially over the years, he said, and he would like to see root causes to current trends — such as low parishioner financial support, declining Mass attendance and fewer vocations to the priesthood — ad­dres­sed. He expects the planning process to lead to greater collaboration and sharing among parishes.

Ruben Soruco, also a parishioner at St. Richard who attended the meeting, is most concerned about the declining number of young people in the church, he said.

“We are losing every day the participation of more young people and children because we are not paying attention to them,” he said. “[Young people] have their own new idiosyncrasies, they have their own philosophy, and we should tap those re­sources and make religion a little more appealing for them in order to preserve our Catholic beliefs.”

Soruco, 79, pointed out that even the meeting itself was an indication of this problem within the archdiocese. Most of the attendees in the English-speaking group were senior citizens. In contrast, many of the Spanish-speaking attendees were families with children and teen­agers.

Soruco hopes people who don’t regularly attend church take time to attend the regional meetings because otherwise the Task Force will only hear from people who are already involved, he said.

Participant Gail Pueringer, 48, said she hopes parishes can find better ways of uniting white and Latino Catholics. “We should remember that we are part of a bigger picture,” she said. “We should say that we are all one.”

About 200 people representing 14 parishes participated in the Spanish-speaking session, according to Estela Villagran Manancero, a member of the archdiocesan Parish Services Team and Hispanic ministry coordinator. Some parishes bused people to St. Richard to participate.

Donald Mendoza, 42, was one of about 15 Latino parishioners of St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center to attend the Spanish session.

“The reason that we decided to go is because we have a few necessities in our community,” Mendoza said after the meeting. “For example, there are a few people that cannot bring their children to the school because they don’t have enough money or the church doesn’t have enough money, and my understanding is that there is more money in other churches, that they can share the money with us, and that we can provide for all the needs in our church.”

At the Spanish-speaking session, participants were given art supplies, then asked to work together in small groups to create an image depicting the church of the future. Mendoza said his group drew an altar without a priest behind it. While the church’s Latino population has been steadily growing, the number of Spanish-speaking priests and parish leaders has not kept up with the need, he said.

The archdiocese has begun a parish leadership training program for Latinos to address the shortage, said Manancero. Forty-five people recently graduated from the 18-month program. Also, several archdiocesan priests are learning Spanish in Mexico, she said.

Many of the comments at the meeting centered on a more united church and a desire for more resources for children, said Nadia Najarro Smith, a Spanish interpreter hired by the archdiocese to write a summary report of the meeting.

Jim Lundholm-Eades, a task force member and director of the Parish Services Team, said generally it’s clear that people love their own parishes and are concerned about their futures.

They’re also glad that Archbishop Nienstedt is taking the time to listen to people and “do this right,” rather than rushing the process, he said.

“People . . . realize that we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done before,” he said. “The world has changed demographically, financially and so on. People are seeing the big picture of the archdiocese. Catholic Spirit

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