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Evangelization, unity drive two rural plans

Collaboration – sharing resources – unity.

These are among the key goals of a revised pastoral plan for rural parishes in two archdiocesan deaneries announced to members of affected parishes at Masses Dec. 9 and 10.

The plan, for the rural central and rural southwest deaneries, creates parish groupings, whereas the original proposal, released in July, proposed consolidating several parishes and converting some churches to chapels for limited use or to a mission of another parish.

Under the new plan, approved by Archbishop George J. Lucas, the parishes retain their current status, with each having at least one weekend Mass for as long as feasible. But they become members of larger groupings, collaborating to further the archdiocese’s pastoral vision of "One church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy."

"We received important feedback on the initial proposals," the archbishop said, "and I am grateful to all who have participated in the planning process in the two deaneries."

"Pastors and parishioners can move ahead now to plan for the realization of our pastoral vision, respectful of our history and our projected resources," he said.

In the next several months, the Pastoral Planning Office will work with other archdiocesan offices to help the parish groupings begin to share resources and develop a culture of evangelization, said Deacon Stephen Luna, director of pastoral planning.

"Everything we’re doing is setting up a structure to help people encounter Jesus and form disciples," he said.

Resource sharing could include broadening the practice of priests serving several parishes and sharing ministries, facilities, staff and pastoral councils.

"This is a good move in the right direction," said Father Michael Swanton, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus and dean of the rural southwest deanery. "It makes us more one church and not just isolated parishes."

The planning process for rural parishes began in September 2016, with discussions and meetings coordinated by the Pastoral Planning Office and Wisconsin-based Meitler consulting group.

After considering feedback from parishioners, deanery planning teams reconvened in October, developed and last month presented new recommendations to Archbishop Lucas.

"The archbishop was very sensitive to how people were feeling and really listened to their concerns," Deacon Luna said.

Parishes now can determine how the groupings will work to fulfill the vision and mission of the church, Deacon Luna said.

The changes will help address the realities of declining rural populations, fewer people participating in the faith and fewer priests available to serve parishes,

said Father Kevin Vogel, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Elgin and St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville.

"Through this planning process, the main focus has been to assist parishes in living out what it means to be a Catholic parish," said Father Vogel, who also is president of St. Boniface School and Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, both in Elgin.

Additional goals include discussing school needs in the two deaneries and developing plans for the remaining four rural deaneries, Deacon Luna said.


Parish groupings:

 Two priests to serve St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Neligh; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Tilden; St. Boniface Parish, Elgin; St. Bonaventure Parish, Raeville; St. John the Baptist Parish, Petersburg. Parishes currently supporting Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Elgin will continue, pending further study.

 Five priests (short-term) and four priests (long-term) (one Spanish-speaking) to serve Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk; St. Leonard Parish, Madison; St. Peter Parish, Stanton; St. Patrick Parish, Battle Creek; St. Francis de Sales Parish, Schoolcraft. Chaplain services to Norfolk Catholic elementary and junior/senior high schools to be determined.

 Move St. Michael Parish, Albion, to Rural Southwest Deanery and cluster with St. Anthony Parish, Cedar Rapids. One priest to serve both parishes.

 Move St. Joseph Parish, Pierce, to North Central Deanery to participate in planning process with that deanery.



Parish groupings:

 Six priests (at least one Spanish-speaking) to serve St. Anthony, St. Isidore and St. Bonaventure parishes, Columbus; Divine Mercy Parish, Schuyler; St. Joseph Parish, Platte Center; and St. Stanislaus Parish, Duncan. Pastor of St. Isidore to provide one Mass and support at Platte Center; pastor of St. Anthony to provide one Mass and support at Duncan. Chaplain services to St. Anthony, St. Bonaventure and St. Isidore elementary schools, and Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus to be determined.

 One priest to serve St. Peter Parish, Fullerton; St. Peter Parish, Clarks; and St. Michael Parish, Central City.

 Three priests (short-term) and two priests (long-term) to serve Holy Family Parish, Lindsay; St. Francis Parish, Humphrey; and St. Michael Parish, Tarnov. Chaplain services to Holy Family elementary and high schools in Lindsay and St. Francis elementary and high schools in Humphrey to be determined.

 Two priests (short-term) and one priest (long-term) to serve St. Lawrence Parish, Silver Creek; St. Rose of Lima Parish, Genoa; Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Krakow; and St. Edward Parish, St. Edward.

 One priest to serve St. Anthony Parish, Cedar Rapids, and St. Michael Parish, Albion, (moving from Rural Central Deanery).

 Move St. Mary Parish, Leigh, to Rural Southeast Deanery to participate in planning process with that deanery.

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