By JOANNE FOX
Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City, was first announced in the Feb. 25, 2016, edition of The Catholic Globe. Since that issue, the newspaper has published 39 reports on the proposed plan and its repercussions.
With that level of material available, one would think there could not be confusion on what’s going on.
That would not be the case, according to Father Brent Lingle, director of worship and pastoral planning.
“Daily, we receive letters and emails about concerns that have been addressed in the newspaper and at parish meetings,” he said.
Here are some common misunderstandings about the plan, with the dates of the stories that appeared in the newspaper.
Myth: It’s the idea of Bishop Walker Nickless
Fact: The pastoral plan was created with the input of diocesan priests and deacons, with the help of the consulting firm, TeamWorks International. (2/25/16)
Myth: No laity were in on the meetings to decide anything.
Fact: Another step was taken in the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Planning process with meetings at St. Lawrence in Carroll, St. Cecelia in Algona, Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City and All Saints, St. Joseph, Le Mars. There were representatives from each parish at the meetings: pastors, deacons, representative from the finance council, representative from the parish council, parish lay directors and school and school board representatives. (5/5/16)
Myth: The diocese will put my church’s pews, tabernacle, statues, Stations of the Cross on Ebay.
Fact: A Policy on Sacred Patrimony was approved and promulgated for the Diocese of Sioux City on Oct. 26, 2015. According to the policy, “The care of sacred items that belong to the parishes of the Diocese of Sioux City is an important task that the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City shares with the pastors of the diocese. Once an item is purchased or donated for sacred use, it must be perpetually cared for.” (3/24/16)
Myth: Ordain women and/or married men and the vocation crisis will be solved.
Fact: Father Lingle explained it has been the longstanding tradition of the church that priests are celibate. “Many Protestant churches that have married clergy are also facing a vocation crisis,” he said. “Pope St. John Paul II declared definitely that the discussion about women priests was over and there is no way the church could ever ordain women as priests.” (6/2/16)
Myth: The diocese closes churches and then abandons us to figure out what we are supposed to do.
Fact: Define “vibrant” parish. It’s something individuals in the chancery office are in the process of examining and drafting a document to assist parishes in determining what constitutes “vibrancy” in a parish. According to Fred Shellabarger, director of evangelization, catechesis and family life, the idea to provide guidance to parishes came out of discussions at Department of Formation and Ministries meetings. “In order for Ministry 2025 to be successful in the long run, we have to continue to remind ourselves that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the church, and that we are called to be disciples who, in turn, make disciples,” he said. (10/20/16)
Myth: Retired priests should help out; why aren’t they?
Fact: “I think it’s wise in saying you can’t count on the retired priests to serve the parishes,” said Father Jim Smith, a diocesan retired priest. “For all practical purposes, I am the third priest at Storm Lake St. Mary’s Church and I am most willing to help, but there are priests who are not willing to tie themselves down to regular service at a parish or parishes, and I understand that.” (5/18/17)
Myth: You know, if I just write Pope Francis, I’m sure he wouldn’t close our church.
Fact: According to Father Lingle, individuals certainly can send concerns to the Holy Father about Ministry 2025, but he emphasized, “We are not operating in a vacuum here in Northwest Iowa. Rather, we have done our due diligence in making sure our planning is being communicated to the larger Roman Catholic Church; for example, we sent correspondence to the apostolic nunciature indicating how our pastoral planning would proceed.” Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, a native of Hospers and priest of the Diocese of Sioux City – who himself was a former member of the nunciature staff – confirmed the importance of clear communication, especially with the people and priests of the diocese and the nunciature. That was the case for the Diocese of Sioux City, Father Lingle affirmed, and added that in all correspondence on Ministry 2025, “it was indicated we were proceeding fully within the parameters of what the bishop could implement.” (6/1/17)
Myth: Close my church and I suppose the next thing you will take away is my cemetery.
Fact: “If a parish is closed that has a cemetery, it will be transferred to the assuming parish,” said Father Lingle. “Every cemetery will be maintained and cared for. The parish has both a legal and a moral obligation to care for the cemetery.” (7/27/17)
All Ministry 2025 stories can be found at catholicglobe.org, click on the Ministry 2025 icon.