“Planning for Success:” This is what we hope for as we start the path of transitioning to: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Michael and St. Joe (Waite Park) into one Area Catholic Community. As you may have already heard, although the full plan is still in a ‘draft’ form, chances are our 4 four parishes will be grouped together as one, so it’s important that we begin working together to accomplish this task. I say this because I don’t see this will change much when the ‘Final Draft’ is put out. My hunch is that several things have come into play in the Planning Committee decision for our specific group: 1) Is that St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Michael and St. Joseph already have a history of working together with our All Saints Academy School. 2) The geographic boundaries of both the railroad tracks to our south, the Mississippi River to our east and cities limits to our West have played an important part as natural boundaries within our area. This is just my speculation. I personally like the new arrangement they have planned for us. So, how do we “Plan for Success!”
The first step the Diocesan Planning Office has asked of us is for each pastor to present the ‘draft’ to their own Parish Staffs and Parish Councils to get their input and feedback. We are then to send this to their office for review. I have done this. The input and feedback from both our Councils and Staff were very positive but also with some concerns and questions on how best to proceed. After the Planning Office has all the parishes’ feedback my guess is that the Bishop, in conjunction with the Planning Office, will draw up the ‘Final Draft’ which I imagine will be printed in our local Diocesan News Paper: “The Visitor.” After this, we as twinned parish(es) (or our Area Catholic Community) may have a “Parish Hall” meeting, open to all parishioners for discussion. It’s important to know that at this point the plan will not change, but it simply to address any of your questions or concerns.
From this point on, it seems the Office of Planning would like each Area Catholic Community to determine for themselves the best approach for going forward. One of the things we learned at our Arrowwood Conference is that the best way to start is to do the small things that will have a larger percentage of success. For example: Fr. Timothy (pastor of St. Michael and St. Joe) and I have talked about beginning to exchange pulpits early 2019. We talked about possibly looking at a combined 4 parish bulletin and having that laid out as well. We also talked about our Faith Formation coming together as one, and down the line sharing some of the major liturgies during Holy Week and Christmas. Sharing some of the larger liturgies will take more planning, but these will happen at some time. We also have to look at a new Mass schedule! This conversation may have to be made in dialog with all the parishes within the St. Cloud metro area so we don’t duplicate times. This will create more opportunities of choices and times for people. Again, this is further down the line, but these discussions will need to be made. There are many other decisions about staffing etc., but at this point it we can’t get too far ahead.
There are essentially 3 phases to our Area Catholic Community: Phase 1) Where all parishes “Co-exist” as they are. This we are doing right now, but this will not be sustainable in three years. Phase 2) Is “Collaboration” where each parish keeps its own identity and yet has some sharing of office space, programs, and staff. This would include Inter-parish Councils both separate and together, one Faith Formation Program, one Marriage and Baptismal Prep. Etc. Phase two is where I hope we will be in 3 years. And finally, phase 3) Would be “Consolidation” where there is one Centralized Office under one roof with one Church Corporation, one Parish Council, One Parish Name yet with different worship sites. This last phase will not happen for years to come, but chances are it may have to happen organically as demographics and financial situations change.
You have probably heard about the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus. When it comes to new ideas Pope Francis is quoted saying our “Seven Last Words” as a parish should not be: “We have always done it that way!” Change is inevitable, but it can also create new opportunities for good! Peace, and here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!