Parish Collaboratives

The Boy Scouts motto “Be Prepared” is something all of us have taken notice of at one time or another. For instance, how do we prepare for a snowstorm in the forecast? We gas up our car, we make sure our shovel is handy, and we join the lines at the local supermarket to buy a few essentials that we absolutely cannot live without. What do we do to prepare for a week away from home? We leave some lights on to make the house look lived in and we ask the post office to hold our mail until we return. Some people prepare for work the next day by laying out the clothes they’re going to wear and setting the timer on the coffee brewer so they have a cup of hot coffee waiting for them in the morning. In each of these situations, we prepare ahead of time. We make plans involving actions and then we carry them out.

In an effort to prepare for the future when there will be fewer priests available for parish ministry, the Archdiocese of Boston has developed a proposal for a new model of parish leadership and staffing. The plan calls for multiple churches, in some cases, to be served by a single pastor who will lead a pastoral team comprised of other priests, and professional lay staff. The idea is to create a structure called a Pastoral Service Team (PST) to provide pastoral services to multiple parishes. The archdiocese describes the model as follows:

“The Pastoral Service Team would be comprised of a group of priests, deacons, pastoral associates and lay ecclesial ministers, who provide pastoral services to multiple parishes. Because of shared ministerial leadership and shared finance & pastoral councils, the parishes would collaborate with each other on some ministries such as evangelization, faith formation, and outreach. This proposed new structure does not call for the closing of any parishes. Rather, it focuses on the means by which pastoral services are provided in and to our parishes, and through collaborating on ministries, allows the Catholic community within an area of the Archdiocese to benefit from a broader set of local Catholic ministries. Each pastoral collaborative, served by a PST, would be charged with the development of a local pastoral plan to best serve the Catholics in that particular area of the Archdiocese.”

At a gathering of priests held on December 5, 2011 in Randolph, we heard some sobering statistics from the Archdiocese Planning Office. It is estimated that twenty priests will retire in each of the next ten years and that an average of five priests will be ordained in that same time period. That means we will lose150 active clergy and that by 2021 we will only have 175 priests to serve 290 parishes. Other factors that have to be considered are the decreasing number of Catholics attending Mass and participating in the sacramental life of the Church, and the fact that today, 40% of parishes are unable to pay their bills. Now is the time to plan and prepare for the future. While failing to plan isn’t automatically a recipe for disaster, after all, how many snowstorms have blown out to sea? If we do not begin to plan now for the so-called “future”, before we know it the future will be here and then what will we do?

 

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