Archdiocesan meetings begin to address use of pastoral resources
AHEAD IN PLANNING
-- April 24: Urban Northeast Planning Team
-- April 26: Urban Southeast Planning Team
-- April 29: Strategic Planning Commission
-- May 30: Rural Southeast Planning Team
-- June 7: Urban South Central Town Hall Meeting, 7 p.m. at Holy Cross
By Deacon Randy A. Grosse
The Catholic Voice
When strategic planning efforts in the Archdiocese of Omaha were announced earlier this year, the emphasis was on starting the process at the local level.
And that's been the case in recent weeks as deanery planning teams, parish groups and others began laying the groundwork for planning how to best use pastoral resources "“ clergy, parish staff and lay ministers "“ in the archdiocese.
The Rural North Central Deanery team has met twice, and "“ among other topics "“ the 30 to 35 team members discussed utilizing resources through clustering, merging or closing parishes, said Father Michael Schmitz, dean and pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce and St. Boniface Parish in Menominee.
'They want to keep their parishes if at all possible," said Father Schmitz. A clustering arrangement of parishes will be recommended to the archdiocese's Strategic Planning Commission, he said.
A focus of the work is getting feedback through the parishes, Father Schmitz said. 'We prefer parish town hall meetings in lieu of deanery town hall meetings," he said. 'The people are very sensitive to the issues."
Planning team members, Father Schmitz said, 'are open minded and willing to discuss the issues."
The Rural Central Deanery also is working through the parishes. 'Right now, we are not planning any town hall meetings," said Father Dave Belt, dean and pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk. Planning team members are being asked to talk to parishioners and put the topic on parish council agendas.
Father Belt said the deanery planning team met April 8 for the first time, and two other meetings are planned. The focus of the first meeting was an assessment of the current situation. The group also will look at where the deanery is headed and how to get there, said Father Belt.
'We had very positive conversations (at the first meeting) and the people who participated were very passionate about their faith and their parishes," he said. 'I think that we all know that we have to move forward and confront the reality that the face of the church is changing in the Archdiocese of Omaha.
'We have to find ways to work together to share the people and the resources that we have."
Father Belt said the main concern among the planning team members is that some plan be implemented. 'If we are going to take the time to plan, it has to be implemented," he said.
One urban deanery also is looking at the changing church as team members move ahead with the planning process.
Thirty-six people from the Urban West Deanery discussed the declining number of priests, the growth in the deanery and the size of parishes at an April 1 meeting.
Tim VanRoy, an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council delegate from St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha, said sharing ministries among parishes was among the topics discussed.
Planning team members supported the concept of sharing ministries as a way to avoid duplication of service, as long as service would not be diminished, he said.
In the Urban South Central Deanery, cooperation has been the operative word, Father Carl Salanitro, dean and pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Omaha, told The Catholic Voice.
The planning team has met twice, he said, and another meeting will be scheduled before a deanery town hall meeting is held in June.
Father Salanitro said the meetings have been very positive. 'We all wanted to work together, to pull together," he said. 'We didn't have people trying to protect their turf. Everyone wanted to help each other."
The meetings already have produced one possible collaborative effort, he said "“ sharing the RCIA program. Coordinating Mass schedules was another topic planning team members considered. 'We kept things pretty simple," he said.
Team members also have suggested continuing deanery meetings "“ for both ordained and lay people "“ even after the planning process is complete as a way to keep communication lines open and find more ways to cooperate and assist each other.
Father Salanitro said changing deanery boundaries is one of the tools planners might use. And while that might change the dynamics somewhat, neighboring parishes can still work together, he said.
The Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Commission will meet April 29 to hear reports on deanery activities. The planning schedule now calls for completed deanery proposals to go to the archdiocesan commission by late summer. Those proposals will be compiled into an archdiocesan plan for review by the Priests' Council and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
The completed proposal should go to Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss by the end of this year, with implementation in 2007.