Where will the priests in my Collaborative live once it has been formed?
That is a local decision, to be made by the local Pastor once he has been appointed. We strongly encourage all of the priests of the collaborative to live together in one rectory, and we further encourage that that rectory not be an office site, but recognize that this may not be possible in every collaborative.
My children currently go to Religious Education Classes at a particular parish. Is that going to change, or will it stay the same?
That is also a local decision. Many of the Phase One Collaboratives did not make changes to their Religious Education Programs in the first year. A few of them combined their Confirmation Programs,
but left the others in place in order to get time to watch and learn. Going forward, some collaboratives may choose to make Religious Education changes more quickly. Sometimes, each parish will still have a program on site, but the programs will be more integrated into each other, in terms of format, curriculum, and leadership.
Can you tell us more about Religious Education Program changes?
The task before the Church is to form Catholics who are willing to communicate and share witness of the faith to others, both young and old. Many parishes do so by relying heavily on faith formation programs for children and youth. However, as the collaboratives move through the phases and stages of the Disciples in Mission pastoral planning process in light of the New Evangelization, the necessity for a renewed focus on adult faith formation will likely become clear. We hope to support collaborative parishes in their attempts to meet the faith formation needs of the parishioners in their communities. In particular, we encourage them to offer a variety of opportunities that will encourage people of all ages to grow in their relationship with Christ both personally, and communally.
The Pastor, Pastoral Team, and Councils will work with parishioners in order to decide what programs are most effective in responding to the faith formation needs of the collaborative. Strong consideration should be given to the charisms and character of each parish within the collaborative. Ultimately, the manner and form in which these programs are offered depends on the leaders in the community, and should be utilized as a means of building up the Catholic Church in the mission of Christ through cooperation and faith.
This could call for a number of different scenarios, for example, one parish within the collaborative might be designated as the “home church” for the collaborative’s Confirmation programs; requiring each Confirmation candidate from any parish within that collaborative to register there. Or, it might simply call for each parish to offer their own religious education or Confirmation schedule of classes and allow for any candidate within the collaborative to participate in the program that is most convenient for his or her schedule. The latter approach might call for the parishes within the collaborative to settle on a uniform program and offer it on one evening of the week per parish. This might aid in an effort to offer a flexible variety of options for a larger community.
Once the youth have been evangelized, prepared, and formed to be initiated into the Catholic Church, the parishes within the collaborative may decide to celebrate the Sacraments of Christian initiation as a collaborative, in larger ceremonies at one of the parishes. Or, the collaborative might decide that each parish should host their own, smaller liturgies, based on the parish schedule, participation from the community, and clergy availability. However the collaborative pastoral team chooses to approach and configure the faith formation programs, the group must keep in mind that we are all called to be disciples in mission, and we must lead by example.
What will happen to the Mass schedules?
The schedules of Masses in parishes across the collaborative will likely need to be adapted to account for the ability of the available priests to say all of the Masses and travel between parishes as needed. The pastors, taking into account the advice of their staff and councils and the needs of their parishes, will work to create a schedule of Mass times and locations that takes heed of the needs and history of each particular parish within the collaborative and make that information available in both the weekly bulletin and on the collaborative website.
Some collaboratives may have enough support from assisting priests that significant changes are not required. Some collaboratives may find more significant changes are necessary. Pastors, their councils, and pastoral teams will likely take into account parish survey data, Mass counts, and parish financial realities. We trust our pastors to be aware of and sensitive to the particular charisms, circumstances, and needs of each parish within the collaborative and do their best to minister to each in the truth and light of the mission of the Church.
I have heard that once the Collaborative forms, all of the current staff has to resign. Is that true?
That is not true. The Pastor has to resign, but usually, the resignation doesn’t take effect until June, when the Collaborated is inaugurated. And the current pastor may apply to be the pastor of the collaborative if he wishes. The Parochial Vicars and Deacons are, as always, open to reassignment. Parish Councils and Finance Councils always are re-formed when a new Pastor comes. But the staffs do not have to resign. That being said, we need, going forward, to choose our Team for our mission, and not our mission for our Team.It will certainly be necessary, in most collaboratives, for some staffing changes.When possible, it is hoped that there can be horizontal movement for the staff, so that they do not lose their jobs, but that may not always be possible.
Should our collaborative have a Social Media presence? Should we, as individual Catholics, evangelize using Social Media?
Yes, absolutely.While it certainly is not true that every Catholic uses social media, many do. Every week, about a quarter of a million Catholics go to Mass in the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston. Many of them have Facebook accounts.If all of them were to post to Facebook that they have just come home from Mass, we would take a very good step toward changing the popular concept that no one goes to Mass anymore.
What would be key elements of a website for an evangelizing parish?
If a parish needs to engage, invest, and invite in people to work towards the goal of evangelizing and making disciples, then the website needs to be engaging, it needs to make the invitation explicit, and it needs to demonstrate the parish’s investment in its people.
Mass times, contact information, directions, locations, and connections to communication channels need to be easily accessible without too much searching, swiping, or clicking. When we say communications channels, we mean however your parish chooses to communicate regularly – be that through a weekly bulletin, e-mail newsletter, calendar or list of events, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, text or phone alerts, a parish app for smartphones and tablets, or anything else you find works well in reaching people.
Speaking of smartphones and tablets, your website should be designed so that it is attractive and easy to obtain information no matter what device someone is using to view your website – be that computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Pictures and videos are great ways to engage and invite visitors and demonstrate your parish’s investment in the community. "In many cases, it is necessary to obtain the prior written consent of an individual to use such person’s photograph or other likeness on a website. Should you have any questions in this regard, please contact the Office of the General Counsel of the Archdiocese." Please see the Archdiocesan social media guidelines for more information.
Written descriptions and invitations are good, too, but they need to be easy to understand, easy to find, and brief enough that people feel comfortable taking the time to read what you have written.
While we’re suggesting all of these wonderful things you should have on your website, we should say that you also don’t want to have too much on any given page of your website. We wouldn’t want it to appear cluttered or to have people find it overwhelming. Links for more information are good, but that information needs to be there and be up-to-date. Also, it shouldn’t be too confusing to get back to the main page or find the basic information which everyone wants from any other page.
Since the page needs to be updated frequently to reflect the life of the parish, whatever software or web-based platform you have should be easy to understand and easy to use. If it is too confusing to understand how to update the website, or simply too difficult to accomplish, then the site probably won’t be updated as often as it should be.
What should I read in order to understand all of this better? We have five books we would recommend:
Phase One Collaborative Local Pastoral Plans were approved by Cardinal Seán. There is a good level of excitement in these collaboratives. Having all of these parishes focused like a laser on evangelization is a very exciting thing. The Phase One Collaboratives are, in the aggregate, doing pretty well financially, approximately tracking the rest of the Archdiocese in terms of offertory. Pastoral Teams are coming together. Councils are talking about evangelization. People are praying hard and working very hard.
We promised to implement the plan with great flexibility, making adjustments whenever and wherever needed, and we are. Using feedback from Phase I and II pastors, we re-structured the Phase III training process and schedule for collaborative councils, staffs, and school boards.
There have been some difficulties for sure, and in some cases adjustments in timelines and configuration were needed. The people involved are tired – there’s no doubt about that – because the work is hard. With all of this, though, there remains a profound sense of satisfaction as well. We point to the wonderful Local Pastoral Plans that Phase I produced. Our “pioneers”, blazing their own trails, have set themselves on the road to making their parishes centers of evangelization, filled with intentional disciples!
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