We’ve been paying a lot of attention to Making All Things New, the archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative, in our last few issues. And so it seems have a lot of you.
The planning has just entered the parish core team phase. About 2,000 parishioners and pastors took part in 11 regional meetings around the archdiocese Sept. 24-25.
If the meeting I attended was an indication of how things will progress from here, the archdiocese is in good hands. Parishioners and their pastors seemed to take the meeting seriously, listening well to the evening’s presenters, asking good questions and working well in their small groups.
“That’s pretty remarkable,” said John Reid of the number of parishioners on the parish core teams, who are now charged with bringing the planning process back to the rest of the parish.
Reid added, “It’s not the Cardinal out there by himself, or Father (John) O’Hara,” the archdiocese’s director of strategic pastoral planning.
At the meeting of the parish core teams of the East Manhattan Vicariate, which took place Sept. 25 at Cathedral High School, Reid said the job of the team members is not to do all the work but to make sure all the work gets done. That means bringing information back to their fellow parishioners, answering questions and working together to figure out the best answers.
The core members have a lot of homework to do between now and the beginning of December when they will come back to meet with other neighboring parishes in their newly formed cluster group. But that’s getting a little ahead of the story.
Father O’Hara, quoting the words of Cardinal Dolan, did a real nice job summing up what Making All Things New seeks to accomplish, as well as the spirit behind the work. “As His Eminence likes to say, ‘This is not about maintenance, it’s about mission.’”
“We want to discover what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century,” said Father O’Hara, who explained that the hoped-for outcome would be parishes that are “more welcoming, vibrant and alive.”
John Reid, who now lives in Seattle, is a principal of The Reid Group, which is serving as a consultant to the archdiocese on Making All Things New. He’s no stranger to New York, having grown up in St. Anthony’s parish, Silver Lake, and graduating from Archbishop Stepinac High School, White Plains. He was married in Most Holy Trinity Church, Mamaroneck.
The Reid Group itself has done similar consultations for a number of dioceses over the past 17 years, including the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., and currently, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Reid and his partner for the night, Karen Castellon, did a good job presenting the nuts and bolts of Making All Things New. They offered meeting-goers a tour through a color-coded guidebook that explained the initiative’s goals, the steps of the parish restructuring process as well as the criteria and timeline being used and different parish models. They listened to a host of questions, including the million-dollar one: Is the list of parishes that will ultimately close already determined?
Reid’s answer was an unqualified “no.”
I checked in a couple of days later with Msgr. Leslie Ivers, pastor of Epiphany parish in Manhattan, to see what he thought about the meeting. He surprised me by reeling off a list of initiatives that his parish core team was already planning. They are talking about holding a town hall-style meeting, or maybe two, in the parish. A computerized survey that will be linked to the parish website is another likely initiative. An email address has already been established to field suggestions, ideas and complaints about Making All Things New. This was all accomplished within a few days of the core team meeting.
“There is excitement in the parish about this,” Msgr. Ivers said.
There’s a lot of work to be done throughout the archdiocese. The core team meetings offered a good starting point for the real action about to begin. Where answers to questions were available, they were forthcoming. When they weren’t, a promise was offered to find out the answer.
If parishes are truly working together to determine the best course for parish ministry and service in the archdiocese, then that seems like something in which everyone should be invested.