As we enter 2017, parishes are moving to implement the goals and action steps articulated in the pastoral plans created over the last year.
These plans, created as a result of internal discussions by parish planning teams, pastors and staff, and ultimately approved by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, focus on multiple pastoral concerns as well as issues of financial and physical plant vitality and sustainability.Parishes were asked to distribute their pastoral plans to the broader parish community in November by means of pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts and website postings. In addition, many parishes held town hall meetings with a broad range of parish leadership and others interested.
So now what? How do our parishes take what is written on paper and engage in implementing the ideas to affect real change in our faith communities? All of the parish plans submitted to date are currently posted on the Pastoral Planning webpage of the diocesan website: www.bridgeportdiocese. org/strategic-planning. I would encourage all to take a look at the page, click on your town and parish, and offer your support, energy, enthusiasm and skills to your pastor and parish leadership to help implement the plans.
Catechesis and Education is the theme articulated by the greatest number of parishes, with 47 of them saying this was a priority in their community over the next two years. This falls in line with what was heard during the synod sessions and the pre-synod listening sessions. There is recognition that many Catholics in our diocese have not been fully formed in their faith and may only have a partial, or incomplete, understanding of the rich history and traditions of the Catholic Church.
On a diocesan level, the newly inaugurated Leadership Institute will help to strengthen the formation opportunities for Catholics. Recommendations from the Catechetical Task Force, which is currently working to identify new models of catechesis, will ultimately help parishes develop new programs and opportunities.
A number of parishes, such as St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield, have proposed ideas to include parents in their children’s faith formation classes by offering regular opportunities to come together (parents and children) for faith lessons. Other parishes, like St. Joseph in Brookfield, are looking at other means of integrating parents and children, including using on-line catechetical education programs, as a supplement to regular classes. A parish such as St. Ladislaus in Norwalk is moving to strengthen catechesis in Spanish to address the needs of many of the community who worship at that parish.
Many of our parishes (42 of them) recognize that the time has come to focus on and upgrade their buildings and facilities by addressing years of deferred maintenance issues, making their worship and office space more energy-efficient and welcoming, and creating additional space for the parish family to gather to strengthen the community.
For example, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Danbury seeks to create a more comfortable space for parish activities and to strengthen the sense of community by providing opportunity to socialize after Sunday Mass in a comfortable space. St. Roch parish in Greenwich is focusing on renovating the church hall so that it can be used for the activities envisioned in the rest of its pastoral plan.
Improving heating and cooling systems and repairing leaky roofs are mentioned in a number of plans. St. Ann in Black Rock, Bridgeport, is upgrading the church heating system and repairing damage to the bell tower. Their plan acknowledges that while “fixing the bell tower and replacing the heating system will not cause an increase in parishioners; poorly maintained facilities may prevent parishioners from attending.”
Over the coming months, articles will focus on some of the other priorities being addressed by our parish communities. Liturgy and Worship, Evangelization, and Family Life were addressed by large numbers of our parishes, while activities related to Leadership Formation, Finances, and Community Life were put forward by fewer parishes.
The Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, in conjunction with other offices within the diocese, will host workshops this spring designed to respond to the needs of the parishes, and offer resources, ideas, and support as parishes move into implementation. YOUR task is to step up in your parish community by offering your energy, support and enthusiasm to bring these goals and ideas to fruition.
By Patrick Turner