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Pastoral planning transitions to specifics for parishes

By JOANNE FOX
joannefox@scdiocese.org

The term “vibrant parishes” has been used to characterize the hopes for Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City.

As the fiscal year comes to a close on June 30, priests and parishioners have been tasked with meetings to determine how that term will be defined for their church(es).

The Diocese of Sioux City had worked through the drafts of the design of Ministry 2025 by the end of January, explained Father Brent Lingle, director of pastoral planning.

“The next part of the process was for the parish groupings to do a local pastoral plan,” he said. “This would consist of a series of meetings with the clergy and lay leadership of the parishes and oratories.”

For some parishes, the process began in March, following facilitator training. About 20 potential facilitators attended a training on March 4 at St. Mary Church in Storm Lake. The facilitators were from different parishes throughout the diocese. However, they did not facilitate pastoral planning in their own parish grouping.

Michael McTaggart, a parishioner at St. Michael Church, Sioux City, served as a facilitator at the meetings between Immaculate Conception and Nativity – now Mater Dei Parish – in May and June.

“I wanted to facilitate because I have been a life-long member of the Diocese of Sioux City,” he said. “I wanted to give back to the diocese that provided for me and those I love the opportunities to grow in our faith and love of God.”

The parish groupings were asked to consider particular areas and goals for each category:

— Quality of and participation in liturgy and the sacraments

— Stewardship of time, talent and treasure

— Quality of and participation in faith formation of the parish

Each parish grouping was asked to develop a plan that would include:

— Affirmation of – or proposed refinement of – parishes, oratories and closed sites

— A three-year pastoral plan

— Inventory of sacred and secular goods for each of the parishes

McTaggart acknowledged getting a grasp of those tasks and coming to a consensus would not be an easy task.

“Some of the challenges were to realize that I needed to listen carefully to all the group members as we began the process,” he said. “I needed to look for opportunities to allow the group to take leadership in the process of developing their own Ministry 2025 Plan.”

McTaggart felt the IC/Nativity group membership consisted of people who wanted to make the process work, “which made my task much easier.”

“The group was open and honest in the discussions and never feared to address concerns that each parish felt needed to be dealt with in the process,” he said. “They dealt with the various ‘elephants in the room’ openly and honestly and worked toward solutions.”

McTaggart characterized the group as remaining “positive” throughout the process and expressing “a feeling of unity” to make the Mater Dei Plan work.

“There definitely was that ‘aha’ moment, when the groups’ focus moved toward one of which they wanted to make the best plan for Mater Dei that could be developed,” he said. “They truly took ownership of the process.”

When the planning meetings have concluded, a parish grouping will submit their pastoral plan for review and approval to the bishop, Father Lingle explained.

“For most parish groupings this will happen in July,” he said. “Carroll County will be starting their process later, so their plan will likely be submitted in late fall of 2017 or by January of 2018, with implementation to happen after the plan is approved.”

This will be the final phase of planning before implementation of Ministry 2025. Father Lingle said it will be important for parishes “to come together to collaborate and develop the best possible pastoral plan” for their parish grouping.

“There are a lot of details that need to be looked at and worked out and this can really only happen at the local level of the parish groupings in the diocese,” said Father Lingle. “This gives the clergy and laity a chance to work together in their groupings to meet the ministry and sacramental needs of the people in their area.”

It is Father Lingle’s hope that parishioners will realize they are stronger united with other parishes, than they are on their own.

“Pastoral planning is a difficult reality that everyone in the Diocese of Sioux City – and many other places across the country – must face,” he said. “While we celebrate and give thanks for the legacy of our church buildings and physical plants that those who have gone before us sacrificed and built, it is now our time to step forward to build the church in our own day and place. Perhaps this time is not so much to focus on physical structures but on the critical work of spreading the Gospel.”

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