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Update on the Process to Develop a Diocesan Pastoral Plan
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Advent/Christmas issue of the Diocesan Newsletter, I gave a brief update on the progress that has been made in developing a pastoral plan. The purpose of this letter is to give a detailed report to those of you, the priests and lay leaders, who are more directly involved in the process.
At the November meeting of the Council of Priests, we discussed the feedback from the special deanery meetings which occurred in October. The continued support and enthusiasm for our pastoral plan is a source of hope for me and the other members of the council. Some concerns were raised at the October meetings, however, particularly about the process and the need to be more inclusive.
The Council of Priests, therefore, instructed the executive to meet with our facilitator, Father Gordon Judd, C.S.B., and any other of our facilitators who were available, to revise the process according to the concerns raised at the October deanery meetings. This adjustment will mean an extension of the time line beyond what was originally envisioned.
On December 2, the executive of the Council of Priests met with Father Judd, Maria Sanchez-Keane and Bernardine Ketelaars to determine where we are in the process and where to go from here. This letter reports on the results of that meeting.
The purpose of a pastoral plan
First of all, I believe it is important to remind ourselves why we initially embarked on this project. The purpose of a pastoral plan is to identify the priorities which will inspire us and focus our energies as our diocese looks to the future.
In his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millennium), the Holy Father asks each diocese to develop a pastoral plan, so that the Gospel will take root in the life of the Church as we begin the new millennium. He challenges us, here in the Diocese of London, to establish goals and objectives, and to find the resources required, which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 29).
Living the Gospel authentically and boldly announcing it in our society and culture is a massive challenge. That is why it is absolutely critical for us to identify a few key pastoral priorities which will harness and direct our energies as a diocese.
Involvement of the working group
When the executive of the Council of Priests met on December 2 nd, we reviewed the feedback from the special deanery meetings in October and realized that we needed to involve a broader, more inclusive group to manage the process. By doing so, we will give our pastoral plan a better chance of eliciting the support and participation of the whole diocese.
At the special deanery meetings in June, a working group was established to review the feedback. The working group consisted of three members from the Council of Priests and a representative from each deanery, selected by the deanery. At the end of the June meetings, the working group reviewed the feedback and produced a list of essential elements. We all agreed that the group worked well together.
The executive decided, therefore, that this working group would be involved in each of the steps needed to develop our pastoral plan.
Steps in the process
The executive will reconstitute the working group and instruct them, with the help of Father Judd, to study the feedback from the special deanery meetings in October and to develop a draft of the pastoral plan by the end of January.
In February, the working group will distribute this draft and a report of their work to all of us, so that we can prepare for a another set of special deanery meetings in March. The main purpose of the March meetings is to review the draft and give the working group our input to improve it.
Following the March meetings, the working group will review the feedback and produce a second draft of the pastoral plan. They will submit this draft to the Council of Priests who will submit it, with their own recommendations, to the bishop for his final approval. The bishop will then promulgate the pastoral plan to the entire diocese.
Setting objectives and implementing the pastoral plan
Our diocesan pastoral plan will consist of a preamble and a list of goal statements. The preamble should be a brief statement, which could identify who we are, the present-day context, and our motive for embarking on this project. A goal statement should be: inspiring; clear and focused; practical and measurable. The pastoral plan, then, will enable the whole diocese to focus our energies on a few key goals for the next five years.
Once we have the pastoral plan, we will need to set for ourselves specific objectives for achieving each of the goal statements. The goal statements will enable us to establish common objectives which will then be implemented on a diocesan-wide basis. Setting objectives, however, is a task that will occur at different levelsparish, deanery and diocesan. Each parish will be asked to take the pastoral plan and set objectives for their own parish in achieving each of the goal statements. Each deanery, and each of the diocesan offices, will set objectives to help parishes meet their objectives, for example, by identifying and providing the resources required. In this way, the pastoral plan will focus and direct the work of the entire diocese.
We will also need to work out the implementation of our pastoral plan. At regular intervals over the next five years, we will need to evaluate whether we are achieving the goals of the pastoral plan and the specific objectives we set for ourselvesat parish, deanery and diocesan levels. Each of useach of our parishes, deaneries and diocesan officesneeds to take responsibility for the implementation of our pastoral plan.
All of us know that developing our pastoral plan requires our full commitment and the best of our creative energies. After doing all of this work, none of us wants to produce a beautiful document which will just gather dust on our shelves. If we are serious about a pastoral plan, then it will involve a commitment to an extended process which will include establishing objectives and an implementation strategy.
I am sincerely grateful to you for your commitment to our pastoral plan. Your active participation in the process will ensure that our pastoral plan will reflect the hopes and aspirations of the entire diocese. As I mentioned in my Christmas message this year, the spirit of cooperation among the lay faithful, religious and clergy of our diocese is a sign of hope that the power of the Spirit is present with us.
In the end, our pastoral plan is the work of the Holy Spirit. As we move forward in developing it, I pray that we may seek to put on Christ and allow him to work through us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London