Leading change: How do we lead change with our proposed new plan for “Area Catholic Communities”, a plan which will set the course for our parishes and diocese for the next ten years? They say, “Only babies with wet diapers like change!” Truth is, babies welcome it, despite the fact that it disrupts their life. They see it as a gift! First-time parents also like the change a new baby brings despite the fact that it drastically disrupts their life as well. What this means is that attitude and understanding is everything when it comes to facing transitions in our life and so one question we can all ask is: “What is my attitude toward all this and how can I help this process go more smoothly in positive ways?” We as a ‘Area Catholic Community’ cannot always force change, but we can create a fertile ground for it to happen by praying and engaging the Holy Spirit in all our decisions and being flexible ourselves. Will some things be inconvenient or disrupt, “Yes.” Will some of it also enrich our Catholic way of life, “Yes.”
This said, there are several points I would like to make with regard to the Vision and Values as presented to me by our Diocesan Planning Board and our bishop. These are priorities they have established when setting out on the final ‘draft’ of the ‘New Plan.’
First Vision and I quote: “Every parish in the Diocese of St. Cloud will be part of an ‘Area Catholic Community’ consisting of two or more parishes in a given area. The communities are expected to collaborate to provide for the pastoral and spiritual needs of all in the given area based on the Catholic population. By sharing resources, talents and efforts we hope to energize Catholics and help all parishes thrive in the Diocese of St. Cloud.”
Now Values: 1) Every Area Catholic Community will celebrate the [Sunday] Eucharist weekly. (Notice it does not necessarily say every ‘parish’ which in some cases may not be possible.) 2) Every parish will have access to Sunday Eucharist within 25-30 miles. 3) Priests will celebrate only 3 Masses on a given weekend (not including funerals/weddings) unless special permission from the bishop. 4) Intentional collaboration between all parishes will need to happen. 5) Every parish has something unique and special to bring to the area community. 6) Priests, Deacons and Parish Life Coordinators together will need to play an important role in providing leadership for the all the needs of the community. 7) Laity who serve in professional roles will need formation. 8) Each Area Catholic Community will determine the best approach for staffing to meet the pastoral and spiritual needs of the area community. 9) Every parishioner by virtue of their baptism has responsibility to carry out the priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles in the parish community.
This Vision and these Values from our Planning Office, I believe, offer us hope! It is my understanding that Bishop Kettler has no intention of closing any parishes in our dioceses provided they can meet their pastoral needs and keep up their facilities and finances (Don’t quote me exactly on this.) What this does mean is that each parish will need to be very flexible and willing to adapt to any final changes that will need to be made as well as keep up their programs and costs.
In my next article I will be laying out some of the steps our bishop and Planning Office recommended for us to begin the process of best implementing and carrying out a smooth transition for our specific “Area Catholic Community.” Until then, stay tuned for more.