Bishop Malooly has announced the formation of committees which will study the four priorities for the future of the Diocese of Wilmington and make recommendations to move forward.The priorities, which the bishop announced in July, were the result of discussions by priests, lay people, religious and deacons during months of consultations in all 57 parishes and seven deaneries. The meetings addressed the pressing needs and challenges facing the diocese.
The bishop has appointed three committees of clergy and laity: the Committee on Models of Parish Administration and Parish Structure; the Committee on Evangelization; and the Committee on Catechesis. A fourth committee, still in formation, will address the Vocation of the Christian, with a special focus on recruitment efforts for vocations to the priesthood.
The Committee on Models of Parish Administration and Structure will address how to continue vibrant pastoral services to parishes in the face of the dwindling number of priests. Bishop Malooly charged the committee to conduct a comprehensive review of parish needs and recommend a plan where, as needed, clergy might be shared between parishes.
The looming shortage of priests drives the priority. Of the 57 parishes in the diocese, 18 of which have missions, 29 parishes have only one priest assigned to them.
“While the diocese is fortunate to have enough priests, so that each parish currently is in the care of a pastor, we must plan for future possibilities, said Msgr. J. Thomas Cini, vicar general.
The challenge of the committee is to develop a plan that addresses continued, effective services to each parish community. Sister Suzanne Donovan, director of the diocesan Human Resources Office, will lead the committee.
The Committee on Evangelization will take of the challenge of both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to initiate a “new evangelization.” The committee, led by Justin Carisio, a DuPont executive, will study papal documents and statements by the U.S. bishops and other resources and then recommend practical programs for use in parishes.
Pope Benedict calls the focus of the new evangelization “re-proposing the Gospel to those who experience some crisis of faith and re-proposing the Gospel to those regions in the world still awaiting the first evangelization.”
“This new evangelization calls each of us to deepen our own faith, believing in the Gospel and living it each day. In a certain sense the baptized are to be re-evangelized first,” said Msgr. Cini.
Pope Benedict has said the message of Jesus Christ must be re-sown and watered for those who have already heard his call but need to recommit to the faith and deepen their relationship with the Lord Jesus. Having been renewed themselves, the baptized are then called to proclaim the Gospel and inviting others to join the church.
The Committee on Catechesis will review ways of teaching people the faith. “If evangelization is hearing the Word of God and responding to the call to holiness, then the natural follow-up is catechesis, that is, deepening our understanding of the Lord and the mysteries of His love,” said Msgr. Cini.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people, and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine … with a view of initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”
Throughout the consultation process participants expressed concerns that many do not understand the faith, or that the manner of teaching the faith requires some refocus. While these participants recognized the good work of parish religious education programs, such as Catholic schools, and ministry to the youth, many participants, both young and old, worried about the everyday Catholic’s appreciation for the treasures of the Gospel and the magisterium. Consultation participants encouraged the bishop to call for a re-examination of all faith-forming programs to assure that they are effective leading both the young and adults to a deeper understanding of the mystery of God’s love, the sacraments, the church, and the role of discipleship. Bishop Malooly has asked the committee to examine current methods of catechesis and to make recommendations on how they can be best improved to meet the challenges of our modern world. Father James Lentini, principal of St. Thomas More Academy, will chair the Committee on Catechesis.
A fourth committee will focus on Vocations, all vocations, with a special effort to promote vocations to the priesthood.
“Each person receives a vocation from God. While the goal of any vocation is union with God, each person’s path to that goal is quite particular, whatever our vocation, it is God’s way and call for us to find full union with him,” said Msgr. Cini. While a concern these days is the declining number of priests and the need to promote and enhance the vocation effort to attract more men to the life of priesthood, it is important that the church be equally committed to promoting all vocations as the specific, sacred way one fulfills the Lord’s call to holiness.
The committee will also focus on ways to highlight and strengthen the vocation of the laity — the majority of Christians who are single and married. The specific vocation and mission of the laity is to sanctify the world by participating in its structure and endeavors. Christian marriage is a sacrament involving a special way of holiness and service. Those who receive this sacrament are called to serve the church through an example of committed love to one another and generous self-sacrifice and commitment to the formation of their families.
The bishop has asked the committee to study ways in which the diocese might rediscover the meaning and importance of all vocations lived by the faithful each day and also re-examine the diocese’s recruitment efforts for priesthood and religious life.
The work of the committees will begin soon. Bishop Malooly has asked for reports and recommendations by shortly after Easter.