(Editor’s note: All page and chapter references are from the bishop’s pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him and In Him”)
By Teresa Spiess
Have you read the book?
As we unpack the pastoral plan and the spiritual guide provided by Bishop Robert Gruss in his pastoral letter, Through Him, With Him and In Him, many of us have been struck with how much work the plan outlines. The question for many of us is, “Where do we start?”
Actually, much of the work has already begun. Many plan-directed activities are happening. Over the coming months, this space will outline some of those activities.
Prayer is always a great place to start. Therefore, in addition to encouraging everyone to read the book, pastors are now including an intention in the Prayers of the Faithful (Universal Prayer) each Sunday for some aspect of the plan. Have you noticed?
The goals in the Diocesan Priority Plan included due dates. Who is going to make sure that the plans are moving forward? Are we supposed to be doing something?
Pastoral Planning is a living work, and it relies on the human efforts of many people. The process has to allow for some adjustment when the situation shifts. Already we are seeing some shifts, although the movement is always forward toward a goal.
Foundational Ministry Sacraments and Worship
The first due date for a goal in the plan was the formation of a liturgy commission, which was originally slated for completion by September 1 (pp. 104-108).
Background: Our Office of Worship has been a one-man operation for many years. Fr. Michel Mulloy has served as the director of the office since 1994, working alone for most of that time. After the goals for Sacraments and Worship were published, he was reassigned from the cathedral to McLaughlin. The move and settling into a new parish community required him to focus on pastoral matters this summer.
With less time for Fr. Mulloy to focus on the Office of Worship and with other priorities in the diocese over the summer, the timeline for this goal was no longer realistic, and the Bishop, with counsel from the Envisioning Team, changed the due date to November 30, 2016. The work includes the following:
- The commission itself will need to be formed – mission, vision, values, goals, priorities – and formalized with a charter. •The members will need to be formed: to read and reflect on Church documents and scripture, to study the liturgical environments in this diocese, to prayerfully discern how the liturgy of the Church can be most completely the “summit toward which the Church is directed” and “the fount from which her power flows.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)
- The commission will need to be carefully selected. Those who serve will need to be able to give of time and attention to this work. They need to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit and to the authority of the Church. They need to be able to approach this work without a preconceived agenda. The members will be asked to travel for meetings and to serve for a number of years.
The selection of commission members is well under way. Pastors have nominated parishioners to serve on the diocesan liturgical commission. Father Mulloy has reviewed the nominations and made his recommendations to the Bishop. Membership will be established by November 30, when meetings will begin to charter the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. All this is to be completed by March 30, 2017.
Among the first tasks of the Liturgical Commission will be to consult parishioners about their experience of Mass in their parishes. The delay in establishing the Commission necessitated the adjustment of this goal (p. 108). The new due date for this goal is October 30, 2017. That will allow time for the Commission to research and develop the process for consultation and assessment of current liturgical practices, to communicate the plan for assessment to the diocese, conduct the survey and tabulate results for the Bishop for further communication.
What is expected of me?
While all of that is going on at the diocesan level, each of us can participate by spending some time reflecting on our own encounter with Jesus Christ in the sacraments and by making an extra effort to be engaged in prayer, especially when we are at Mass. As Bishop Gruss reminds us in his pastoral letter, “Full, conscious and active participation in our liturgical celebrations is foundational to this encounter. As we are transformed by what we celebrate, so we become more fully the Body of Christ, the Church” (p. 108).
Pastoral Priority Reconciliation Goals (Chapter 9)
- Identify areas where reconciliation and unity are strong and areas where reconciliation is needed for each parish or group of parishes by December 1, 2016.
- Each parish or group of parishes will submit to the Bishop a plan which engages and promotes reconciliation and includes an implementation process by March 1, 2017.
Parishes have begun their work on the Pastoral Priority of Reconciliation. In August, Bishop Gruss provided pastors with an action plan to accomplish the above goals.
Have you noticed anything about reconciliation going on in your parish? Fr. Steve Biegler used his October 9 bulletin cover to call for a week of prayer for reconciliation in the cathedral parish from October 12-18. Many priests have reflected in their homilies on reconciliation in its various forms and among individuals and groups, as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In his homily on October 23, Fr. Brian Lane reminded parishioners that a simple and effective Act of Contrition can be quoted directly from the Sunday Gospel reading: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13). Other homilies in the past few months have emphasized reconciliation within our personal relationships, between family members and within communities.
To become a reconciling community, we might begin by carefully reading Chapter 9 of the Bishop’s pastoral letter. To go further, we can look at the Sunday readings and study them for God’s message of reconciliation.
Parishes have been asked to host evenings of prayer and reflection on Reconciliation, to dream about what a reconciling parish would look like and to assess the availability of reconciliation and the need for further reconciliation in their parish communities.
By December 1, pastors are to report that assessment to the Bishop. Then pastors and parish leaders will use the assessment and resources on reconciliation to make a parish reconciliation plan aimed at making each parish a reconciling parish, where forgiveness, healing and unity are promoted and nurtured. The plans are scheduled to be in place in parishes by March 1, 2017.
How should I participate?
Meanwhile, we as individuals can make our own assessment. Accept the challenge! Reflect on the questions included on page 84 in the pastoral letter, participate in our parish’s discussions on reconciliation, and share with our parish leadership our own thoughts, hopes and prayers for reconciliation. Visit and pray with our own family members about reconciliation.
If the pastoral plan is merely a nice idea left tucked inside an attractive book on a shelf in the corner, it can accomplish nothing. However, if we give it the time and attention so that we know the plan and have internalized the vision and mission of the diocese, these mere words can shape all of the work that we do for the sake of the Gospel, and together we can “create” a healthy, vibrant diocese that will continue building the Kingdom of God for years to come” (p. 6).