Archdiocese’s rural long-term planning sessions start this month

Pastors and parish leaders, principals, teachers and others from 31 parishes will gather this month with Archbishop George J. Lucas and other archdiocesan officials to begin a multi-year planning process stretching across all 87 rural parishes in the archdiocese.

Similar efforts the last few years have created plans for parishes in east Omaha and growing areas of suburban and west Omaha.

And the goals are two-fold:

Focus on the mission of bringing or deepening Christ’s presence in people’s lives, and determining the best use of resources to meet that goal, said Deacon Steve Luna, director of pastoral planning.

"How well are we as a church fulfilling the mission of Jesus?" Deacon Luna said.

Two meetings will kick off the rural planning process – the first Sept. 20 in Columbus, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Bonaventure Social Hall, involving parishes in the rural southwest deanery. A Sept. 21 gathering in Norfolk at the Immaculata Monastery – also 6:30 to 8 p.m. – will include parishes in the rural central deanery.

Assisted by Wisconsin-based Meitler consulting, archdiocesan officials also plan to study parish and school facilities and hold follow-up meetings that will extend into next year.

Father Michael Swanton, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus and dean of the rural southwest deanery, said he is pleased to be part of the process. Questions include how best to use resources to share the Gospel message – and the study will help provide the answers, he said.

Rural southeast and rural northeast deaneries – a total of 32 parishes – will undertake the effort in 2017-2018, and rural northwest and rural north-central deaneries – 24 parishes – will be involved in 2018-2019.

A key to the planning effort in the months ahead will be the process underway to shape a pastoral vision and priorities for the archdiocese, Deacon Luna said. Listening sessions earlier this year are playing an important role in developing that vision, which will be announced next month.

At this month’s meetings, Archbishop Lucas will provide an update on that process, which is expected to conclude with three priorities accompanied by actionable goals – and it will help all parishes and schools in the archdiocese, Deacon Luna said.

"It will give us a clear direction, verbalized by the archbishop," he said. "One church, united in vision, focused on mission."

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