By KATIE BORKOWSKI
STORM LAKE – The next part of the Ministry 2025 pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City requires facilitators.
About 20 potential facilitators attended a training on March 4 at St. Mary’s in Storm Lake. The facilitators were from different parishes throughout the diocese. However, they will not be facilitating pastoral planning in their own parish grouping.
“I think the training went well,” said Father Brent Lingle, director of pastoral planning. “The feedback from the facilitators when the day was over was very positive. I have received a lot of messages from the facilitators indicating their excitement to get started working with the parish groups and pastors.”
In the planning process, Bishop Walker Nickless wants to challenge everyone, as he did when he first issued his pastoral letter, “Ecclessia Semper Reformanda,” on renewal in five important areas – love and appreciation of the Eucharist; catechesis, especially for adults; marriage and family life; culture, encouraging vocations and missionary character.
According to a letter written by the bishop, “The Ministry 2025 process is intended to provide a clear, consistent, simple and straight-forward process of organizing and reporting our assessment of our parishes … We will together define the key actions we must take at the parish level to build the Catholic Church and to attend to the pastoral and sacramental needs of the faithful.”
During the facilitator training, those gathered were given an understanding of Ministry 2025, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Planning Guidebook and an example of a Parish Grouping Report.
The Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan describes these elements of renewal in both narratives and numbers across parish grouping pastoral planning during 2017 and 2018:
- Vibrant and responsible diocesan operations
- Vibrant and engaging parish sacramental life and ministries
- Vibrant, healthy and holy priests, deacons and religious
Dennis Cheesebrow, founder of TeamWorks International, led the training with Father Lingle and others, adding to the conversation when clarification was needed. They identified the identities, roles and responsibilities for priests, deacons and laity, as defined by canon law.
The purpose of the training was to give the facilitators background information and something to “lean into during the meetings,” he added. “It is not about you personally. It is about you bringing them information and guiding them through this process.”
Cheesebrow clarified, “Not every parish grouping is going to go through this process at the exact same time. You might have some (parish groupings) that are ready to roll. You might have some areas that may not start until this fall.”
Ministry 2025 Parish Grouping Pastoral Plan Development is phase three of the process. The pastors will guide parish grouping leadership teams.
“When asked to facilitate a grouping, you are facilitating this in partnership with the pastor,” Cheesebrow pointed out. “I would call the pastor, introduce yourself and get their take and where they are in this. This is not for you to stand up and take all the feedback from the leadership team and the pastor to set aside and just go, ‘I’m not supposed to say anything.’”
The pastors are to provide pastoral leadership and the facilitators are to help guide the process. The facilitators were also provided with a list of diocesan resources and contact information.
“There is a lot of background work to help you and the parish groupings be positioned,” said Cheesebrow.
After lunch, a data report for one of the parish groupings was explained in detail to the facilitators. They were given a chance to offer feedback and discuss the process. There was also time to take a look at the key next steps and logistics.
Since the training, the facilitators have been responding back to Father Lingle with the parameters that will work for them.
“This includes how far they are willing to travel, when they are available, et cetera,” said the priest. “After I receive all of that information, I will assign them to a parish group. The facilitator will set up an initial meeting with the pastor to talk about setting meetings times with the leadership group and forming a timeline for the process at the local level.”
The facilitator, he explained, will lead a series of planning meetings where “they will walk through specific steps and assist the leadership group to formulate a pastoral plan for their parish group.”
This part of the process is already in progress for some parish groups.
“Some parishes that have a change in priest personnel this summer or a reduction in the number of priests serving an area will have to begin immediately,” said Father Lingle.
For some parish groups it will take several months to complete the steps and the various meetings, for others it will require up to six months, noted the director of pastoral planning.
“For example, the complexity of the Carroll County parish will require more time and that process won’t begin until mid- to late-summer,” Father Lingle said.
Key elements of each of the Parish Pastoral Plans will be:
1) Affirmation of or proposed refinement of parishes, oratories and closed sites for review and approval by the bishop.
2) Proposed liturgy schedule for weekends and weekdays for review and approval by the bishop.
3) A proposed three-year pastoral plan describing the various elements in the pastoral planning guidebook for review and approval by the bishop.
4) Inventory of sacred and secular goods for each of the current parishes, regardless of change.
5) Develop a proposal for a unified structure for parish finance council (one for each active parish in the cluster), pastoral council for each grouping, staffing and ministry, finances and assets, with a short- and long-range financial model for the grouping as well as support/obligations for Catholic school systems where applicable, perpetual care of Catholic cemeteries and a plan for the proposed use and care of oratories.