What is Disciples in Mission?
Disciples in Mission is the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. It was promulgated by Cardinal Seán in November of 2012. It was developed from a long process of consultation and deliberation, involving many thousands of people throughout the Archdiocese.
What has Cardinal Sean said about this plan?
“Parishes are the heart of the New Evangelization; they must be well staffed and financially sound so as to be effective in this mission. For this purpose, the pastoral plan groups the parishes of the Archdiocese into approximately 135 collaboratives. Each parish maintains its own identity in a collaborative. Each parish retains its buildings, its canonical rights, its financial assets and obligations. The collaborative, however, will have one Pastor who will work with one Pastoral Team, one Parish Pastoral Council and one Parish Finance Council. Together they will develop a pastoral plan for their local collaborative, focused on serving the needs of their parishes and advancing the mission of the Church. Joined together in a collaborative, our parishes will be better equipped to celebrate the Sacraments, provide religious formation for children and adults, respond to the pastoral needs of the sick and infirm and assist those in need of material assistance, through the lens of Evangelization.”
Will you summarize Disciples in Mission for me?
Parish-based evangelization works, and we can train for it, but we need strong parishes in order to do so. Disciples in Mission calls every parish of the Archdiocese of Boston to become a strong, stable, intentional, and effective center of the New Evangelization. Disciples in Mission is not a plan to close parishes, because we believe that parishes are going to grow, not shrink, and we are going to need all of the space that we have. In order better to focus our resources on evangelization, Disciples in Mission organizes the 288 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston into approximately 135 Collaboratives.
What is a Collaborative?
A collaborative is a grouping of one, two, or three parishes that work together for the goal of evangelization.
A collaborative has one pastor, one set of assigned priests and deacons, and one Pastoral Team (including Pastoral Associates, Religious Education and Faith Formation leaders, Finance and Operations specialists, and administrative and facilities personnel). All of these work together for all of the parishes of the collaborative. The collaborative has one Pastoral Council, and one Local Pastoral Plan for evangelization.
The collaborative does not share money or bank accounts or other financial assets or obligations. If Parish A and B form a collaborative, and you put your money in your offertory envelope or give online for Parish B, it will go into the bank account of Parish B, not Parish A. If Parish B has obligations (debt, deferred maintenance, etc.) going into the collaborative, those obligations remain the obligations of Parish B alone, not Parish A. The collaborative is not a legal or canonical entity.It does not have a federal tax payer number. It does not have a bank account.It cannot own property.
Because the patrimony of each parish continues to belong to that parish, as well as the obligations of each Parish continuing to belong to that Parish, each Parish has its own Finance Council. However, since many costs are shared, the finance councils of all of the Parishes in the collaborative may often meet together.
A one-parish collaborative? In what sense is one parish a collaborative?
There are some parishes which, because of their size or their geography or the distinctiveness of their mission will not have a collaborative partner. But, in every other sense, these parishes will be collaboratives. They will still enter the Pastoral Plan in a particular Phase. They will still participate in significant training for evangelization. They will still write a Local Pastoral Plan.
Why are we doing this, and why are we doing it now?
We are dealing with what we have come to call our “four deficits.”
We believe that by the end of Year Nine, the collaborative is now functioning strongly, focused on
evangelization, and has started to see significant increase in Mass attendance, and, harder to measure, a significant increase in the number of people who are deeply dedicated disciples.
We’re hearing that Phase IV will have significantly fewer collaboratives. It seems that the implementation of Disciples in Mission isn’t following its own plan. Are things not going well?
Implementing an archdiocesan plan of this magnitude was much more complicated than expected. In order to provide the greatest assurance of success, the process needed to slow down, not carried out in four phases as indicated in the original Disciples in Mission document. From the beginning, there has been a commitment that the Office of Pastoral Planning would closely monitor progress at each stage of implementation and after receiving feedback from pastors, and in consultation with appropriate Archdiocesan offices and agencies, would make necessary adjustments to the plan.
As of June, 2015, 102 parishes are functioning in 48 collaboratives. Evaluation and on-going support of such a large cohort requires time. The next two years will include a focus on evaluating the process and progress. We cannot do this in the most effective way and simultaneously support and train the clergy, staffs, and council members who are entering the next phase. By reducing the number of collaboratives in Phase IV, we gain a bit of breathing room. We can be more present to the new, fewer, Phase IV collaboratives, assist Phase I collaboratives with the implementation of their local pastoral plans, continue working with Phases II and III, and carry on evaluating the many components of Disciples in Mission.
Can you share some of the difficulties that previous Phases have experienced as they have entered into the formal collaborative process?
In some cases, there was little or no advance preparation, and in some cases there was negative advance preparation – this has impeded the formation and development of the Collaboratives. Forming Pastoral Teams is a difficult process. Choosing the team for the mission rather than the mission for the team is necessary, but runs contrary to our desire to involve everyone and to maintain continuity. Even with the best “due diligence” and to prepare the new pastor for conditions of buildings and property in his new collaborative, there have been some real unexpected situations that have demanded immediate attention before the work of forming a leadership team or focusing on evangelization
What lessons have been learned by these Parishes and the Archdiocese?
It takes time to get it right – this is one of the main reasons that we decided on a smaller number of collaboratives for Phase IV. We have spread out the process and built in much more time for advance preparation
We’ve seen the necessity to choose a good leadership team very early – the Pastor needs an excellent executive assistant, Finance and Operations Manager, and Director of Ministries so that he has a trusted team around him who shares his vision. This also lets him delegate as much as possible.
We expect that collaborative staffs, teams, councils, school boards, and key volunteers, will participate in the three “Forming ….” Workshops. What we have learned from existing collaboratives is that the whole collaborative benefits when as many people as possible participate fully and actively in workshops. We especially highlight Forming Disciples for Mission (click here for description and upcoming dates. This workshop is open to all parishioners – whether in a collaborative or not.)
The final lesson that we have all learned is that even if you are going to move slowly in some areas, have a PLAN about how to move slowly, and, we always encourages collaboratives to be creative!
How can the lessons learned in Phases One and Two help parishes as they prepare for their collaboration?
Advance preparation is critical. We encourage all parishes to begin working toward the time when they will be officially in a collaborative, even if that is several years away. (click here for Advanced Preparation suggestions)
Work on developing a conversation around Mass times, as that is an important early question
Over-communicate with clarity around the process
Use evangelization/discipleship language frequently – people hear that Disciples in Mission is all about the New Evangelization, but they don’t know what that is. A link to parish bulletin Evangelization reflections on weekly Sunday readings can be found on our Resource page.
Based on the experience so far with Phases One and Two, what has the Archdiocese changed in its implementation of the Pastoral Plan?
One of the first things we changed is how announcements are made: what parishes are in the next phase and who will be the pastor. There is no “announcement date”, we spread out dissemination of this information so as to avoid drama. Before an announcement is published in The Pilot, it is made in the parish at weekend Mass.
Realizing the importance of advanced preparation, we added a significant amount of time to this component, encouraging all parishes to begin working toward the time when they will be officially in a collaborative, even if that is several years away. Our Advanced Preparation page offers a general 18 month timetable..
We continually solicit feedback from pastors, parochial vicars, and staff, and from their input, we have spread out the training sessions, allowing participants more time to absorb the material.
We are increasing the diversity of training times and languages, to better accommodate people’s needs
We are giving more focus to change management in all levels of training, and especially in the training for the Pastors
We’ve been preparing and my parish is looking to being in a collaborative soon – maybe the next phase. What should we be doing now?
First, and always, pray. Ask to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout this process. There is no doubt that being in a collaborative is hard work; things don’t always go smoothly. But, parishes that prepared well are doing well – there is an excitement about working together to share the Gospel and bring people closer to Jesus Christ. Collaboration unleashes a holy energy! It all begins with prayer. Including collaboration in the weekly Prayers of the Faithful at Mass is a simple beginning. Sample General Intercessions are available on our Resource page.
Each person – clergy, staff, and parishioners – must be committed to his/her own prayer life and
participation in the sacraments. Bringing parishes together for social events as well as spiritual and formation opportunities is a good way to get to know your neighbors. Parish pastoral council and finance council members from the parishes should meet, as should parish staffs. The beginnings of formal collaboration can be stressful – change and transition often is. Being prepared to expect the unexpected is key.
If your pastor would like the Pastoral Planning Office to come out and meet with your Parishioners, Councils, and Staffs, as part of your preparation, please have him contact Father Paul Soper at Paul_Soper@rcab.org Again, we encourage parishes to consider the practical, concrete, suggestions for preparation available at www.disciplesinmission.com/advancedpreparation.
What is Pastoral Planning?
"The mission of the Archdiocese is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastoral Planning is the process we use to make preparations to carry out that work. Pastoral Planning is a critical tool in helping us understand our task today and work together to manage the resources available to meet the needs of the people of God. Needed at all times, it is particularly important as we cope with demographic and other major changes.”
I’m hearing about Collaboratives, Pastoral Planning, and Disciples in Mission, everywhere except in my parish! I’m curious - what should I do?
The first thing you can do is pray (always) and resolve to deepen your own relationship with Jesus. Every baptized person is called to be a disciple – a follower – of Jesus Christ, whether your parish is in a collaborative or not. Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette, Wisconsin, gives simple advice, “Be a friend of Jesus. Make a friend. Introduce your friend to Jesus.”
Try to speak with your pastor – gently, respectfully, asking if he has a sense of when your parish will be entering into a collaborative phase. Honestly express your thoughts and your hopes for the parish. If possible, offer to help organize a social event or prayer opportunity with your neighboring parish to bring people together.
The Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support offers an all-day workshop every other month. These are open to everyone, whether your parish is in a collaborative or not. You don’t have to be sent or sponsored by your parish, just register and come! (and bring a friend – or two). Participants will experience different forms of prayer from the Church’s rich tradition and will learn practical evangelization and discipleship skills. It is a great day of enrichment and education, and well received by past participants. More information is available at www.disciplesinmission.com/formingdisciples.
The Office of Pastoral Planning is always happy to come out to meet with the Parish Councils and Staff, and open meetings with parishioners, at your pastor’s invitation. He can contact Father Paul Soper at Paul_Soper@rcab.org to talk about what will be helpful.
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