Over the last fifty years our society has witnessed what can arguably be called the most accelerated social change in human history. As we have moved through several paradigm shifts in the last generation the pastoral practice of the Catholic Church in Western Civilization remains, for the most part, unchanged from what existed prior to this state of flux. In the last decade, the result of this failure to adapt and recognize what the Second Vatican Council referred to as “the signs of the times” is finally becoming evident. As a result, Church leaders are openly calling for deep change in our pastoral methods and courage to implement new models of faith formation, discipleship and Christian living.
Since the Feast of Pentecost Archbishop Mancini has been echoing the calls for deep renewal that have been coming from the Holy Father over the last number of years. His letter from last week also spoke about this urgent need. I would like to encourage any parishioner who has not yet read these documents to do so, as they will be central to our future here at Saint Benedict. Since I arrived at Saint Benedict Parish one year ago this weekend, I have been speaking about similar things. Before I came to the parish I asked the Archbishop for his blessing to propose new pastoral methods for the sacraments and other aspects of parish life. He asked me to put something in writing that he could approve. After taking a year to get to know parishioners, observe and listen, I have written this proposal paper and submitted it to the Archbishop. Since then he has given his blessing to this project and I am now in the process of discussing this document with various ministries and leadership groups within the parish. I would also like to make it available to any parishioner who would be interested in reading it so it can be found on the parish web site, entitled,
As we already had several steps in place, the pastoral council of Saint Benedict proposes the following process of refocusing:
1. On Saturday the 8th of October, Tom Quinlan, the Director of catechetics from the Diocese of Joliet and a well known speaker and writer on the topic of catechesis, sacraments and Parish renewal will present in the morning to parishioners of Saint Benedict and others from the Archdiocese on these subjects. In addition to his own expertise he will use the Archbishop’s Pastoral letter as a basis for his presentations. In the afternoon we will have a session with the leadership of Saint Benedict Parish. This group will include Parish staff, Pastoral Council, the Stewardship Team and all ministry leaders in the parish.
2. In the three weeks following this presentation, a subcommittee of the ME25 impact planning team will conduct a series of surveys with ministry groups within the parish in order to reflect back and better understand the responses to the original survey. These questions will be based on two questions in the survey:
1) The spiritual leaders in my parish seem to care about me as a person, and
2) In my parish my spiritual needs are met.
The team will seek to understand parishioners perceptions of what constitutes spiritual leadership, what it means to be cared for, what spiritual needs are and what it means to have these needs met.
3. On the weekend of October 29th we will have a morning large group session with parishioners to discuss and examine these same questions.
4. A brief survey will also be conducted at all the weekend Masses on that same weekend to examine these questions.
5. In the New Year, three all-day sessions will take place and will be facilitated by an ad hoc refocusing team. All parishioners will be invited and encouraged to attend. We would consider 2-300 people as a very successful attendance. Through a facilitated process each of these sessions will in turn look at the questions:
1) Where have we been?
2) Where are we going?
3) how will we get there.
6. Feedback from these sessions will then be handed over to the Pastoral Council who will use it to form our parish vision statement, mission statement and five year pastoral plan.
7. We will repeat the ME25 survey in May of 2012.
8. The final draft of this plan should be presented to the parishioners before Advent of 2012.
9. The challenge with this process is twofold:
a. to maximize participation and to allow the contribution of parishioners to truly shape the results. Otherwise this process will not contribute towards engagement.
b. To continue to forge ahead with the initiatives outlined in this document due to the great sense of urgency before us.