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Strengths, weaknesses and opportunities emerge in ‘United in Christ’ pastoral planning — Father Michael Carrier

Seated are, from left, Father Michael Carrier and Bishop Koenig with members of the Brandywine Hundred Deanery Leadership Team.

By Father Michael Carrier
Church of the Holy Child

Bishop Koenig’s “United in Christ – A Pastoral Letter Introducing Our Pastoral Planning” has invited local deaneries and parishes to enter into conversation as to how we are truly “United in Christ.”

Within the Brandywine Hundred Deanery (the most northern deanery) which consists of the Church of the Holy Child (Brandywood), Holy Rosary (Claymont), Immaculate Heart of Mary (Liftwood), St. Helena (Bellefonte), St. Joseph on the Brandywine (Greenville), and St. Mary Magdalen (Sharpley) this planning process has led to conversation among the Deanery Leadership Team and its pastors as to what is unique to the parishes within our deanery.

Are there areas of ministry where parishes could consolidate their efforts for one program or area of ministry to allow it to be more “vibrant”?

The conversation around the table is based on the three major themes from our Diocesan Synodal Sessions that emerged from the assessment phase of our planning.

We have noted the “Notable Absence of Youth & Young Adults”; “Significant Decline in Church Participation”, and “Value for the Faith and Teaching of the Catholic Church.”  The themes that have emerged within our deanery have allowed for conversation among the team and its pastors as to the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within our deanery.  Since each parish is within a few miles (2 to 3 miles) from the next, there have been many commonalities and also some differences noted within each of them.

The process has allowed the team to converse about the areas in which our parishes can work on and minister together for the greater good of all our parishes being “United in Christ.”  It has led us to clearly see that there is no need to “recreate the wheel” when it is already there for us.

How can we possibly better utilize the structures and ministries that already exist within our deanery parishes that are working well?

Many times in such a planning process the question of “which parish will be closing?” is asked over and over again.  This process in our deanery has been clear to state that it is not about closure – but about vibrancy.  What is it that we can we do as parishes with the deanery to support each other to become more vibrant in proclaiming and living out the Gospel?

Recently, Bishop Koenig attended our Deanery Leadership Team and Pastors’ meeting as we continued vital articulation regarding the process of formulating goals for our deanery.  Throughout the meeting, he heard from the team with great passion about our deaneries’ strengths and the opportunities available to become a more vibrant deanery while supporting each of our parishes as we strive to achieve this goal.  The process is a welcome challenge to see how we can more effectively move outside the box in a new age while continuing to live and proclaim our faith.  More importantly, these efforts will ultimately allow all of us to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Father Michael Carrier is pastor of Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington.