By Msgr. Leonard F. Troiano | Special Contributor

For many who read this article the beginning may seem strange. Harkening back to my high school years, I remember learning about the ancient Roman god “Janus.”   He is usually depicted as standing in the portal of the doorway of life and having two faces.   One face looks to the past and the other turns its glance to the future. Janus was always referred to as the god of beginnings and endings, the god of transition. 

The first month of the year, January is recognized as the door to new beginnings.  Many believe that the name of our first month is derived from this mythological figure.  So in this first month of 2017 we find ourselves standing in the doorway at an historical moment in the Diocese of Trenton and our parishes, all of us looking back and then turning our glance to the future.

Looking back, it has been more than 18 months since Bishop O’Connell publicly announced his intention to undertake the “Faith in Our Future” planning initiative.  As we have all learned, his decision was based on a deep desire to strengthen and enliven the parishes in all four counties of the Diocese and prepare us to meet the challenges of the future.  Bishop O’Connell recognized and expressed his concern about the dwindling number of active priests who will be available for service to the people of the Diocese, the need for better financial stewardship of resources and the care for the spiritual and pastoral needs of the people of the Diocese of Trenton.

Recently, I was asked the question, “As you look back over this year and a half, how would you describe your experience of the “Faith in Our Future” initiative.  

As I stand in the doorway looking back I can say with certainty that the experience has been a positive one. And as I look ahead I am hopeful that much will be accomplished. Let me share a quote I recently came across: “Looking back and wondering if it could have worked eventually hurts more than trying and failing.”

The wondering is over, we have tried and succeeded. We followed the Bishop’s mandate and no longer have to wonder about its success.  During the Faith in Our Future process, working with the Reid Group from Seattle, Washington, nearly 500 people from all 107 parishes of the Diocese came together as members of parish Core Teams and eventually as Cohorts. The process asked them to enter into an intense study and serious discussions about the future of the Church in their area of the Diocese.

At times it was difficult for them to accept the changing realities that are occurring in the Church and in a particular way in their respective parishes. For them, it might even have been painful to determine the impact these new realities are having and will continue to have on the way we worship, learn, gather in community and serve each other.

There have been many positive results that have already emerged during the first phase of the planning process.  To mention a few, individuals from neighboring parishes have gotten to know one another and formed new working relationships.  Information about programs and ministries is being shared.  New ideas have surfaced inspiring better ways of working together.

As we go through the door and move forward into the future, it is my hope that as a Diocese we will be able to build on these positive results. For their part, these 500 individuals have laid the foundation to begin imagining a new way forward, be creative and at times compromise.  Through it all they were diligent in offering their best thinking for their parishes and the Diocese. 

There is a great debt of gratitude owed the pastors and individuals who accepted the invitation and participated in the “Faith in Our Future” initiative by dedicating their time and faithfully walking through the door.

Msgr. Troiano serves as episcopal vicar for diocesan planning.