Archbishop John Nienstedt reports on his first glance at the work of the group that has prepared the Archdiocesan Plan involving parishes and schools in the Archdiocese. The plan will be released in all the parishes the weekend of October 16 and 17.
This year’s “working vacation” also had another purpose. As I left on July 2, our vicar general, Father Peter Laird, gave me the 300-page report from the Strategic Planning Task Force. You can imagine my reaction: “What’s this? I’m going on vacation!” Nevertheless, I took the first week at my home on Lake Huron to read the document three times.
First of all, let me say that I found that the Strategic Planning Task Force did an excellent job of compiling data and giving credible rationale for their recommendations. I believe the whole archdiocese owes these members its heartfelt gratitude.
Second, I admit that I did not agree with all the recommendations that were made. I have asked for more information and, over the next few weeks, I will consult with members of the Presbyteral Council, the archdiocesan Finance Council, the archdiocesan staff and the task force itself. I want to stress that this Strategic Plan is not “my plan.” It belongs to all who have participated in the process.
What was very clear to me in reading the report is that the overall vision of what has been proposed needs to be emphasized and clearly articulated. Yes, it is true that our limited resources, declining personnel and changing demographics demand that we reassess the way we function as church. But the overall reality is that we are the Body of Christ, called and sent forth to be the presence of Jesus in our world today.
The Strategic Plan is all about this divinely revealed fact, and how we can better proclaim the Kingdom of God by inviting all men and women into a communion of faith, hope and love.
The first step in providing for such a renewed local church is to ensure that our resources are being used efficiently. Once we are convinced that we have the right balance of property, personnel and finances to carry out our mission as church, then we will renew our programs in the areas of catechesis, evangelization, sacramental celebration and Christian service.
Let me be clear: This whole process is aimed at a stronger and more robust community of faith, one that will be an attractive powerhouse of spiritual guidance as well as for strong leadership in the public square.
In the display case that sits at the front entrance of our Chancery, a perspective on the past 150 years of this local church is being shown. The stories represented there demonstrate that our ancestors faced many challenges to give us the parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions that we have today. Those forebearers in faith made sacrifices and took risks to ensure that the church had the proper resources to proclaim the Gospel and call all men and women to Christ.
That is the same challenge we face today, albeit in very different circumstances. In the end, we may be a leaner church, but I believe we will also be a more effective church, shaping the future for the benefit of all.
One final story: A very insightful, holy woman told me this past week that I ought not to be worried about the reaction to the Strategic Plan. She said everyone she has talked to feels certain that his/her parish will be closed. So, she said, when the facts are presented, more people will be relieved than upset!
I hope she is right! I firmly believe that what we are doing with the Strategic Plan is in the best interests of all Catholics in this archdiocese.
“Be not afraid,” the angel Gabriel said to Mary. Those are helpful words for all of us to ponder. Catholic Spirit