Pastoral planning underway in two rural deaneries

Deacon Don Placke of St. Michael Parish in Central City liked what he heard Sept. 20 at the first pastoral planning session for the archdiocese’s rural southwest deanery.

Archbishop George J. Lucas and other archdiocesan officials said pastors, parish leaders, teachers and others in the region’s 18 parishes and eight schools will contribute to a study that ultimately will help bring resources to bear on a renewed sense of mission for the deanery and the entire archdiocese: sharing Christ’s desire for love, unity and mercy.

"It’s something the church needs to do to come up to the 21st century," Deacon Placke said. "We need to evangelize."

Deacon Placke joined about 120 other parish and school leaders participating in the pastoral planning effort who heard the archbishop’s hopes for the archdiocese at the social hall of St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus. A similar gathering for 13 parishes in the rural central deanery Sept. 21 in Norfolk also drew about 120 people.


Planning Sessions

Over the next three years, planning sessions will be held across all six of the archdiocese’s rural deaneries as part of a pastoral planning process that began several years ago in east Omaha and was expanded last year to growing areas of west Omaha and nearby suburbs.

The sessions look at population trends, facilities and funding, staffing and planning, with a focus on meeting the needs of vibrant parish and school communities over the next decade and beyond.

And the latest effort coincides with Archbishop Lucas creating a three- to five-year pastoral vision and priority plan for the archdiocese – a plan that was developed through eight listening sessions earlier this year and will be announced in more detail later this month.

The archbishop provided a glimpse into the overarching vision in Columbus and Norfolk, urging session participants in Columbus to take an "intentional look at the life of parishes, at structures and resources, bringing it to bear" on people’s need to experience Jesus’ love and share it with others.

"It’s my hope that we will become more one church, encountering Jesus personally, equipping ourselves and our neighbors to be his disciples and living in mercy," the archbishop said.


Meeting rural needs

Applying that vision to the needs and desires of parishes and schools in the rural central and southwest deaneries will continue into next year, with assistance from Deacon Steve Luna, director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese, and officials with Wisconsin-based Meitler consulting firm.

Parishes will form planning teams to help schedule site visits, study demographic, facility and other data, and hold parish-level meetings. Planning committees also will be developed in each deanery, to help lead, guide and coordinate the parish plans. Each deanery committee will forward a plan to the archbishop for his approval, Deacon Luna said.

Irene Rutten, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Cedar Rapids, said she and her husband, Ron, were impressed by the amount of research that will be undertaken, and the desire for parishioner feedback.

"We were both very impressed that the archdiocese is planning for the future; and not only that, but how in-depth" it wants to go, she said.

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