|PART THREE: THE CHALLENGE OF RECONFIGURATION
We have already experienced initial attempts at reconfiguration in Brooklyn and Queens. As previously mentioned, there are both advantages and disadvantages in our process Our advantages come from our small geographical size and the ability of our pastoral agents to assist different communities of faith that are joined together in particular areas of the Diocese.
Going forward, our reconfiguration work must be guided by two fundamental principles. First, our institutions exist to serve the needs of the Church, its people, and its mission. Our buildings are not as important as our people. We have been blessed with a rich patrimony of institutions and buildings that were needed in the history of our Diocese to serve its people and mission. But now times are changing; we need to reexamine these institutions and parish structures to ensure that they continue to serve the people of our Diocese as well as our common mission to be a vibrant, evangelizing people of faith. Although our intention is not to sell unused diocesan parish property, we may redevelop some properties to provide a steady stream of income for our parishes and institutions in keeping with our long-term goals and mission.
The second principle that needs to be remembered as the work of reconfiguration moves forward is the recognition that all reconfiguration must be done to help create vibrant parishes in the service of the larger mission of evangelization. The New Evangelization must be taken into account when making decisions that affect the future of our parishes and their people. We need to develop a process that allows schools and parishes sufficient time in which to identify and address the challenges that they face and to sustain their pastoral mission before reconfiguration is necessary. For this reason, our planning process is important. It allows for everyone in the Diocese to know what we are about, so that they can lend their support, as well as insight, which is necessary to accomplish the mission of the New Evangelization.
As we move forward, the process of reconfiguring our parishes and schools must be redesigned. In the past, we have worked two processes in tandem; however, this is not sufficient to meet comprehensive planning goals. The process we will develop will be proactive and will address the long-term needs of our parishes and schools. We need to recognize that there will always be situations that necessitate immediate intervention. The goal, however, is to move our planning process to one that is more strategic in nature, basing our decisions on the long-term mission needs of the Church. We must provide sufficient time for an appropriate consultation process before decisions are made. We should develop a collaborative process that involves dialogue and consultation at all levels. We can exercise leadership that allows both local and diocesan personnel to have meaningful input in the process. The Diocesan Reconfiguration Committee will be reorganized to include persons with knowledge of the needs and challenges that we face in both parishes and schools. Our goal is to have maximum collaboration in decisions regarding actual mergers or consolidations from the local levels, respecting the diverse circumstances of each neighborhood. We have attempted this in the past and we will double our efforts in the future. A detailed process for the ongoing reconfiguration of our parishes and schools will be issued by January, 2008, giving us an opportunity to see the road map that will lead us to the future.
After four years of serving as your chief pastor, I can only be ever thankful for the support I receive for my ministry as I have attempted to develop plans to apply my leadership to the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Leadership is never easy to exercise and it has many challenges that make imaginative and effective programs difficult to achieve. By God’s grace, I will heed my own words and “put out into the deep,” not being afraid, but continually redoubling my efforts to provide essential pastoral leadership, a leadership which is one of service and will allow us to become an evangelizing diocese with evangelizing parishes.
1 All references from the Scriptures are taken from the New American Bible, Oxford University Press, 1995.
4 IBID, p. 262.
6 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America (1999), paragraph 41.
7 Ratzinger, Joseph (Pope Benedict XVI), The Feast of Faith
(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 66-67.
8 Diocesan Vision Statement for Faith Formation, May 2006.
9 These statistics are drawn from the recent in-pew survey of parishioners throughout our Diocese. The complete results of this survey will be published in our diocesan newspaper The Tablet beginning in November
10 Estimates of the Catholic school-age population that attends the public schools located within our Diocese vary greatly. For children between the ages of 5 and 14, estimates range from 140,000 (based on studies from the PEW Research Center
) to 230,000 children (based on work done by the American Religious Identification Survey
). While the difference between these estimates is large, the challenge remains the same. The 76,798 children enrolled in our Catholic elementary schools and parish-based religious education programs represent a fraction of the total amount of children that should be encouraged to attend religious education in our Diocese.
11 This figure represents the average age of all active diocesan priests of September 30, 2007.
12 Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families
(1994), paragraph 23.
APPENDIX A: TIMELINE FOR PROPOSED INITIATIVES
Initiatives sponsored by the Vicariates and Agencies of the Diocese
November, 2007: Introduction of the revised cluster planning process
(Office of Pastoral Planning)
Introduction of revised strategic planning process for schools
(Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support
January, 2008 Introduction of the revised reconfiguration process
(Office of the Vicar General)
Introduction of comprehensive plan that will establish the financial
and pastoral support of parishes for local and regional Catholic schools
(Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support
March, 2008: Distribution of updated data reports to all parishes, schools and clusters
(Office of Pastoral Planning and the Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support Services)
Introduction of diocesan guidelines to help implement the General Instruction to the Roman Missal, 3rd edition
(Office of Liturgy)
Introduction of a single diocesan-wide program for electronic communication among all parishes, clusters and schools
(Office of Information Technology)
June, 2008: Creation of a Strategic Plan to address the needs of our Youth
(Lead agent: Office of Faith Formation)
Introduction of diocesan norms for Parish business managers
(Vicar General for Temporalities and Administration)
Initiatives sponsored by the Parishes:
June, 2008 Creation of a Parish Vocation Committee
(With the assistance of the Vocations Office)
Initiatives sponsored by the Elementary Schools:
June, 2008: Creation of a local or regional school board for all Catholic elementary schools
(With the assistance of the Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support Services)
Initiatives sponsored by the Clusters:
December, 2008 Deadline for the start of cluster planning in every cluster
(With the assistance of the Office of Pastoral Planning)