Program #0446 for Thursday, January 10, 2013: Phase 1 of Disciples in Mission

January 10, 2013

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Phase 1 of Disciples in Mission

Phase 1 of Disciples in Mission

Summary of today’s show: The Archdiocese of Boston unveiled Phase 1 of the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan, including 12 collaboratives of 28 parishes that will be the first to band together in a new arrangement in order to pool resources and work together to bring about the New Evangelization. Scot Landry and Susan Abbott were joined by Fr. Paul Soper, director of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese, to discuss the reasons for the initiative, the names and groupings of the first phase, the expected timeline from this point, and makeup of some of these newly announced collaboratives.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Paul Soper, Director of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Boston

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: Phase 1 of Disciples in Mission

1st segment: Scot Landry said it’s an exciting day in the Archdiocese of Boston, following up an exciting week with the ordination of Bishop Deeley last Friday and the launch of Catholic Faith Essentials. Today, Phase 1 of the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan was launched and it is so significant that we are focusing on that topic instead of our usual news headlines for Thursday. Scot and Susan discussed how long this has been in process.

Scot welcomed Fr. Soper to the show. He said Fr. Soper has been busy today being interviewed by the media and then meeting with the Presbyteral Council. A group of people including two pastors from the collaboratives, parishioners, and members of the archdiocesan pastoral planning commission were interviewed by National Public Radio and the Salem News and other news outlets.

Fr. Soper said today we announced the list of the Phase 1 collaboratives. He said the first phase is a learning phase. They took 10 percent of the total parishes and took the opportunity to learn from it. There will be 135 collaboratives when they’re done, so they have 12 collaboratives including 28 parishes.

  1. Saint Luke and Saint Joseph, Belmont
  2. Saint Mary, Saint Margaret, Saint John, Beverly
  3. Saint Mary, Saint Theresa, Saint Andrew, Billerica
  4. Saint Mary, Brookline (a one-parish collaborative)
  5. Saint Mary of the Angels, Roxbury and Saint Thomas and Our Lady of Lourdes, Jamaica Plain
  6. Saint Mary and Sacred Heart, Lynn
  7. Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Maria Goretti, Lynnfield
  8. Saint Lucy and Saint Monica, Methuen
  9. Sacred Heart, Middleboro and Saints Martha and Mary, Lakeville
  10. Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton
  11. Saint James, Saint John, Immaculate Conception, and Sainte Anne, Salem
  12. Saint Jerome and Immaculate Conception, Weymouth

Fr. Paul said they needed a good sample of parishes to represent the whole archdiocese. In these 12, there are 2 in each region of the archdiocese with 4 in the north region. There’s one single-parish collaborative, one-four parish collaborative, one urban, one rural, six with schools, six without, and of those who do, one has two schools. Several collaboratives are bilingual and two are trilingual. Scot said it’s a diverse mix of big, small, urban, rural, suburban and so on. Fr. Paul said they also didn’t have to reach into the pot of parishes not ready for this mix. They had a significant number of parishes volunteer for phase one.

Fr. Paul said he’s pleased with the list because they are places that can embrace the mission of evangelization and because they can embrace the challenges they will face. He doesn’t think they will all have it easy, but he hopes to glean lessons from the future from the challenges they face and he’s confident they will all be successful.

Scot said a lot of things need to happen now. He said the current pastors know that being part of Phase 1 is that they will all submit their resignations so Cardinal Seán can select the best pastor for each collaborative. The current pastors can re-apply. Fr. Paul said it’s very hard for the 23 pastors to submit their resignations, even though all of them knew the process. They love the parishes they serve and aren’t eager to leave. At the same time, they put themselves at the service of the Lord. He said the resignations are important because Cardinal Seán needs the freedom to look at each collaborative to decide the priest best fitted to that collaborative to advance the mission of evangelization. Fr. Paul said the priests of the Archdiocese are shining through this process. He hasn’t met a single case of hostility or resentment as he called each of the pastors this past weekend.

Scot said the number 12 is significant for Catholics as it is the number of apostles and tribes of Israel. Fr. Paul said they chose 12 intentionally. He said when Jesus called the 12 apostles, he was reconstituting Israel and re-establishing the ancient order of grace. Twelve is putting the people back together. That’s what Disciples in Mission is about.

Scot asked when the collaboratives become official. Fr. Paul said they will be formally inaugurated on July 1. Before that they hope the pastors will be assigned by early April. Until then, his office will go out and talk to pastors, parish staffs, parish councils, and the like to begin discussions. The new pastors will be trained in May and June in leadership and evangelization and administrative matters. Catholic Leadership institute will be providing the leadership training. Fr. Paul said most pastors will take their formal duties on June 4, which is called the Spring transfer date. This is usually 10 days after ordination and it’s when most priest re-assignments take place anyway.

Susan asked if the parish council dissolves when the pastor resigns. Fr. Paul said the pastors’ resignation becomes effective when the Cardinal accepts the resignation, which could be in June when the new pastor starts. Shortly after June, when the collaborative is formally inaugurated, the responsibility of the pastoral council and finance council will be restructured to be a single council of each type for the whole collaborative. They then discussed where the people on those councils will come from, whether from existing councils or people who are not yet involved. Fr. Paul said the new councils will have to have members from all the parishes in the collaboratives.

Scot asked about the parish staff in the new collaboratives. Fr. Paul said nobody is going to go in and just start firing people. There will be hard decisions to make. In most cases, where someone’s job is redundant, there might be space for horizontal movement. So if they only want one religious education director, one of them could become a youth minister or adult faith formation director or something like that. Scot said most pastors don’t have as much staff as they need, but the phase 1 collaboratives have adequate offertory to properly staff the needs of all the parishes, especially where there are economies of scale. Scot said his sense is that we will need more people working in our parishes in the future, especially with lay ecclesial ministers and pastoral associates and directors of religious education. Fr. Paul said in some cases we have been more modularized and maybe the model is to become more generalized in their functions, which is what many are already doing in practice.

Susan said she’s heard from parish secretaries and business managers that they’re concerned about their positions. She asked what happens after July 1? Fr. Paul said for most pastors, from the day they’re appointed they will being the process of gathering the staff and the councils. Susan clarified that current staff keep their positions indefinitely until and unless the pastor re-allocates the roles in a pastoral team.

Fr. Paul said when Phase 1 is done, they want it to be a case study for the collaboratives in later phases. He said they plan to give the pastors the best support they can. He plans to have a team of people who can go out and provide support. For example, there will be an IT person who can help a pastor bring together all their computer systems or phone systems in the various parishes, providing recommendations for the pastor. If the pastor is okay with the recommendation, then the IT person will take care of everything. Another support person is a human resources person. The offices of the Central Ministries will be providing similar support to the parishes.

Scot asked what Fr. Paul says to someone worried about closing parishes. Fr. Paul said Disciples in Mission is about establishing parishes as advancing the goals of evangelization. Closing parishes would be counter-productive as you want a place for people to come to. That said, no one can say no parish will ever close again. If a collaborative determines in its pastoral plan that it does advance evangelization, then that would be considered. It could be that the local collaborative would be the one to say that they think a parish should close in order to use those resources otherwise. Fr. Paul said it would only happen after every other possibility had been tried.

2nd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Arlene Motta from Lynnfield

She wins the book Daily Reflection by Diane L. Allen.

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

3rd segment: Scot said what stands out from the list of collaboratives are the one-parish and the four-parishes. Fr. Paul said they have about a dozen single-parish collaboratives on their list, either because the parish is really large, is alone in a town and standalone, or a has a distinct mission, like St. Ignatius in Chestnut Hill. In some cases, because they’re on the geographic borders of the archdiocese and their neighboring parishes are in other collaboratives. But they will still undergo all the training, form their local pastoral plan, and show how they will re-tool themselves for the mission of the New Evangelization.

On the four parish collaborative, Scot said the complexity seems a tougher challenge. Fr. Paul said it emerged from their local experience. He said the parishes had already been meeting collaboratively for several years. About a month ago, the collaborative was struggling with whether to be in Phase 1. At the request of the pastors, Fr. Paul attended an open meeting attended by about 150 people. They talked at length and depth and grappled with the questions. At the end, they took a straw poll and two-thirds said they wanted to be in Phase 1.

Scot said there’s a lot of data that the archdiocese captures now and much of that is shared on the Disciples in Mission website. Looking at the data for the Salem collaborative, it looks like it will be busy. They have 14 Masses at the four parishes, five priests assigned, with 2,200 plus attending Mass. They have 460 students in religious education. On the website, there’s also a map of the territories, plus financial information, listing of the buildings, and statistical data. They have 23 years of sacramental data. Fr. Paul said the historical data shows us what growth can look like in these places. It should be possible to get back to the levels we had in 1989. Fr. Paul said these statistics are supportive of the broader national statistics. He said it’s pointed out very well in the book by Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples, that it’s adult religious experiences that form religious adults and so it’s adult faith formation that we should be focusing on.

Scot and Fr. Paul discussed the listing of buildings in the collaborative and how the collaborative could use those buildings for ministry or to use them for rental income. Fr. Paul said the empty buildings could have great potential to effect the New Evangelization.

Fr. Paul encouraged people to go to to look at the data and remember that we are doing this because Parish Evangelization works, but to do so we need strong parishes. Scot encouraged people to read Fr. Paul’s blog on the website which updates nearly every day.

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  1. Fr. Soper discussed Phase 1 on The Good Catholic Life - Disciples in Mission - January 10, 2013

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