Bishop addresses strategic planning
June 26, 2008
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:
Over the past one hundred and fifty years, the Church in what is now the Diocese of Sioux City grew from a handful of small outposts of faith to a point where not only large communities but many small towns had their own church, convent and school, along with a resident pastor. Vocations to the priesthood were plentiful and our rural lifestyle was strong.
In the recent past, however, we have seen a decline in both the vitality of our smaller communities and in the number of men who are answering the call to priestly ministry. The result has been a need to consolidate parishes-and in some cases to close them altogether-and to spread ever thinner our priestly resources. This trend has continued and it is now necessary that new steps be taken to address it, hopefully in such a way that will protect both parish life and priestly ministry.
Recognizing this need, in November of 2007 I appointed our diocesan Vicar General, Monsignor Mark Duchaine, to serve as chairman of a Strategic Planning Task Force. He thereafter obtained the services of three brother-priests: Monsignor Ken Seifried, Father Armand Bertrand and Father Bill Schreiber. I am grateful to all four of these priests for volunteering to serve on this committee. They have met frequently and have already produced excellent results, which, in general, I now wish to share with you.
As you will be reading in The Catholic Globe in the next few issues, there are many factors to be taken into consideration in terms of reorganizing our parishes: demographics, viability, canonical procedures, lay input and involvement, vocations awareness, etc. To better understand these factors, each parish will be expected to provide a "self-assessment" of its strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, our laity will be invited to participate in the overall process by responding to a survey that is soon to be mailed to each household. I ask each and every one of you to participate and cooperate in this very important task. It is my hope that we can have a plan ready for implementation by the spring of 2009.
Let me conclude by noting that my intentions in all of this are threefold: 1) to keep open each and every parish that meets minimal standards for viability; 2) to protect our priests by not over-extending their time, talents and strength; 3) to streamline organization and efficiency through the consolidation of several parishes into one administrative unit. This is the task I have set before our Strategic Planning Task Force and which I now set before you.
Thanking you for your attentiveness to this situation, and with a prayer that God's grace will guide us through these turbulent times in a spirit of wisdom and harmony, I remain,
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless, D.D.