2/26/2016 2:19:00 PM MONTHLY UPDATE Faith in Our Future
The Parish Self-Study Phase of the Diocese-wide pastoral planning process, Faith in Our Future, is well underway with parishioners across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties invited to offer their input about their faith communities.
Parish core teams have been engaging their fellow community members in a number of different ways, including the posting of online surveys, leading “town hall” style meetings, setting up task forces or work groups and a series of interviews with parish leaders. Whatever the method or methods selected by the parish, the aim is to inform parishioners about the process, and to collect their observations, experiences and hopes for the future, particularly in connection with aspects that reflect the vibrancy of local parish life, such as its commitment to evangelization, the Eucharist, life-long faith formation and outreach to those in need.
Across the Diocese, presentations from pastors and core team members have served to highlight the importance of Faith in Our Future. During a Feb. 18 town hall meeting in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, Father Garry Koch, pastor, told his parishioners that the initiative is a very important undertaking for the Diocese because “we are responding to the shifting realities of the contemporary American Church.”
“We need to understand this study as a positive step in vitalization and growth and not as a contraction or loss. We have to be flexible to be vibrant. It is with much foresight that Bishop O’Connell has pushed this forward at this time,” said Father Koch.
What happens from here?
The Parish Self-Study Phase is the first of eight phases that will unfold over the 18-month process. The core teams will spend the next few weeks digesting and interpreting parishioner input, considering it within the realities of parish statistics and financial data, as well as the larger mission. Each core team will complete several key reports that summarize evaluations and verify statistical data about the community, all of which will be used in the next phase of the Faith in Our Future process – when parishes come together as cohort groups.
The cohorts have been formed by grouping several neighboring parishes, which will share the findings from the parish studies and make suggestions about ways that the parishes in a given area might work together and respond to the goals of the initiative as set forth by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in December. Twenty-five cohorts have been formed, ranging in size from three to six parishes. All 107 parishes of the Diocese belong to a cohort. (See list below.) The cohort groups will first cometogether in mid-March for sessions that will prepare them for the next phase. From March to May, they will review the parish self-study reports and dialogue beyond the parish level as to what developments might be possible.
In June, the findings of each cohort will be submitted to a planning commission, whose role will be to issue preliminary recommendations as to how parish life within each of the cohorts would best be strengthened. The cohorts will then consider those recommendations and return their feedback to the commission.