July 20, 2012
My Dear People:
In February of this year I initiated a process whereby I hoped that all of us together — bishop, priests, deacons, religious, and laity — would chart a path forward for our diocesan church for the next three to five years. I called the process “Consultation.”
For two years, a primary focus of the Diocese had been, by necessity, settling the bankruptcy. As I made clear when the Diocese filed for Chapter 11, I believed that doing so provided the fairest possible way to provide compensation to survivors of the crimes of childhood sexual abuse by our priests, given the number of suits filed against the Diocese and parishes, and given the Diocese’s finite resources.
Also, filing for Chapter 11 and gathering all the claims against parishes and the Diocese into one process had a second objective: the saving of many of our parishes from financial ruin. While we can never forget the terrible damage and suffering inflicted on survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and while we continue to do all we can to make amends for these horrible crimes and to continue the healing process, we must also strengthen our efforts to continue the mission of the Diocese of proclaiming the Good News, celebrating God’s love in Eucharist, forming community, and being of service to others. It is time for us to take another look at where we are going, anticipate the challenges, and celebrate our opportunities to continue the work of the Lord.
In announcing the Consultation I asked that you first engage in conversation with one another and then with me to determine what our priorities should be for the next few years. In mid-June of this year the process was completed. Over 1,100 persons participated in that process — an impressive number. Together we have identified four major priorities. The priorities focus on what we as a total Diocese must do to be renewed and to move forward with our mission.
As you recall, the process began with the priests of our Diocese. They met together with me for two days in a special conference to consider the life and ministry of our diocesan church. I asked the priests to identify what were our positives and negatives, what required improvement, and what new endeavors we might undertake.
The results of the consultation with the priests were shared with the laity, deacons, parish staff, parish councils, and religious in meetings in each of our parishes. There, in those parish consultations, you were asked to both express your opinion and provide your views on what you thought were the important matters needing address. Then followed meetings and discussions in the deaneries where representatives from all the parishes reassessed and refined the input from parish consultations.
Finally, the Diocesan Consultation Committee reviewed all the data emanating from those many discussions and meetings and recommended the priorities I place before you today.
The process has reignited an energy and an enthusiasm for the church much needed after the experiences of our most recent past. We look forward with hope as we move ahead.
I wish to thank all who participated in this important consultation. I am particularly grateful for the leadership and dedication of Sister Suzanne Donovan, who designed and facilitated the entire process. And I am grateful to the Consultation Committee for its very careful assessment of all the data gathered from all the consultation sessions and for their careful formulation with me of these four priorities.
May God bless our efforts and may our efforts be fruitful as we do our best to improve as well as preserve the vibrancy of parish life and respond to the call for renewal and holiness. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ through a renewed catechesis and may the Harvest-Master bless us abundantly in these coming days with holy and committed priests to proclaim the Good News and celebrate Christ in the sacraments.
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly
Bishop of Wilmington