In the past several months groups have gathered around the diocese to consider how the energy and resources of our church should be allocated to bring renewed vitality and hope to our mission and ministry. Each meeting generated not just input in terms of directions for the Consultation Committee, but each meeting also generated a renewed spirit of care and commitment to our diocese.
The energy around the tables and the quality of conversations was rich.
As facilitator, I had the good fortune of being present at all the deanery sessions and could listen to the comments and discussions. As I then compiled the information gathered some common threads emerged, threads that as the committee weaves them together will give direction to all of our efforts as a diocese in the coming months and years.
It was clear in the comments gathered that people in our diocese are conscious of the growing shortage of priests and they are open to looking at new ways to share resources among parishes so that together parishes may be able to experience what alone may not be possible.
The conversation about resources focused on programs, staff and availability of ministries in shared models. While no one had the answer as to what this might look like there was energy in exploring the possibilities.
Among the issues that consistently surfaced was a desire for more communications and greater transparency at all levels. It was clear in the conversations that people would find it helpful to have a complete annual financial report from parishes as well as from the diocese.
The laity gathered in deaneries wanted to have information to be able to respond to questions about our church — what is happening and how we are addressing our past and future.
Another focus that surfaced repeatedly was a commitment to Catholic schools, a desire to see the religious education programs enriched so that catechists have the skills to teach the faith and the possibility of a youth ministry model that would work effectively in our parishes.
As conversations evolved, the often asked question was who can do this? Over and over the response echoed: the laity are ready and willing, skilled and capable to assist in many areas of parish and diocesan ministry and hope that that invitation will emerge as the priorities are implemented.
Each conversation starter raised many hopes, explored many options and gave direction to the Consultation Committee. The topics that filled the conversations at the tables are far too numerous to list in any article but the clear resounded single thread was a joy at being invited to discuss our church, its future and its possibilities.
Sister Donovan, director of the diocese’s Human Resources Office, is facilitator of the diocesan consultation process on mission and ministry priorities that Bishop Malooly launched in February.