Thursday, June 10, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt: Planning for the future with the 'big picture' in mind

Originally Published on June 1, 2010

On Pentecost Sunday this year, I asked all of the pastors of our parishes to read a letter addressing our understanding of the church as a communion of faith, hope and love.

I did so in light of the meaning of the great feast day on which the letter was read: the pouring forth of the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in communion in order to empower them to go forth on mission to proclaim the Good News of God’s love, as revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Vision for the future

This vision, or “BIG PICTURE,” if you will, is so necessary to keep in mind as this archdiocese prepares to receive the recommendations from the Strategic Planning Task Force regarding the future make-up of our Catholic parishes and schools.

Those recommendations will be given to me for review and acceptance this summer and announced in early fall. They will most likely call for new collaborative relationships between parishes and schools, such as clustering or merging of programs and services. There are many reasons for these new configurations including changing demographics, limited clergy personnel, the size of our school-age population and the age or condition of our buildings.

But while these factors are all very evident, our need to undertake a new plan for our parishes and schools is more than just a question of being good stewards of the resources we have.

Indeed, the overall intent must be to ensure a vital, dynamic local church for the future as a communion of faith, hope and love, actively carrying out the mission of Jesus in word and in deed. Our long-range planning, as historic as it is, must be driven by the singular mission that has remained constant throughout the millennia — to make the name of Jesus known and loved by all.

Within this overall vision, my Pentecost letter was also meant to alert this local church that changes were, in fact, coming. We should not be afraid of these changes; rather, we should be prepared to accept them as opportunities to grow in faith, hope and love.

I am aware, especially as I grow older, that change is never easy. We all get comfortable with what is familiar, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But, just as the farmer has to prune back the branches on a vine in order to ensure its proper growth, so, too, do we have to evaluate the effectiveness of our limited resources in relationship to our overall mission as church.

What is essential lies in our willingness to accept the need to undertake these changes so that this archdiocese will continue to be strong and vibrant as we pass the treasure of our Catholic faith along to our children and grandchildren.

Deeper insight offered

In preparation for the coming changes, the leadership of each parish and parish school has been personally invited to attend one of seven meetings around the archdiocese, where they are being offered deeper insight into this vision, tools that will help them as leaders in the time of change to come, and an invitation to tell the archdiocese the kind of help that they will need from the archdiocese as our strategic plan is announced and moves toward implementation.

At this present time, I ask for the support of your prayers on behalf of all those who are involved in the planning process and all those who will participate in its implementation.

From the day of Pentecost to the present, the Catholic Church, as the Body of Christ, has been called to be a communion of faith, hope and love sent forth on mission into the world. I clearly see that this call is being given to us again, precisely in these changing circumstances.

How we answer that call will not only reflect the vitality of our faith and our ability to affect the mission of Christ, but will also redound on the promise of our very salvation. Catholic Spirit

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