Bishop Dennis Sullivan, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, has written the following column about the “Making All Things New” pastoral planning initiative at the request of Archbishop Dolan.
‘Making All Things New” is the thematic we have selected for this pastoral planning initiative that Archbishop Dolan has initiated for the parishes of the Archdiocese. Those words, “Making All Things New,” are found in the book of Revelation. They refer to what Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, continues to accomplish for the world.
When applied to pastoral planning they affirm that this initiative is assisted by the Lord Himself, so that what will emerge from the planning will reflect the vitality of life in Christ. Every institution, organization and family have to engage in some form of planning and so does the Church. However, a distinguishing element of church planning is that it is done as the Lord’s work, as a spiritual endeavor of the Catholic community. The thematic Making All Things New makes that very clear.
Every parish within the Archdiocese will be involved in this initiative. Though our 370 parishes are distinct from one another, each one with its own unique identity, we are one community of Catholic faith. That unity of faith helps us to appreciate that what takes place in one parish affects another parish and increases the vitality of the whole Church. On the other hand, what does not take place in one parish affects another parish and diminishes the vitality of the whole Church.
This pastoral initiative is about pastoring. Pastoring means leading people to God; accompanying them on their journeys of faith; and shepherding our resources. A goal of the initiative is to assure that each parish has all that it needs to pastor its people as the Church expects that to be done. Another goal is to assure that the Archdiocese has what it needs for all its parishes to pastor God’s people.
Each parish has been asked to form a Making All Things New committee. The members of that committee have been invited to attend a vicariate information session, which I moderate. At the vicariate meeting, senior archdiocesan staff present a lot of information about the Archdiocese and about the particular vicariate. That information includes statistics about the numbers of the faithful participating in the sacraments, which is presented by Sister Eileen Clifford, O.P., Vice Chancellor; a review of the recently published Archdiocesan Financial Statement explained by Mr. William Whiston, Chief Financial Officer; a presentation by Monsignor Douglas Mathers, Vice Chancellor, on pastoral planning criteria that are frequently used for church planning; a reflection on the variety and availability of religious education programs in the parishes of the vicariate by Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., Director of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office; and, finally, Father Thomas Devery, Priest Personnel Director, shows some statistics about the number of archdiocesan and religious priests and deacons who serve in the vicariate. Reviewing this information is designed to assist the parish committee to appreciate the challenges and new opportunities that the Archdiocese and the individual parish face in the years ahead. In the months to come, they will compare that information with information about their own parish.
“Patiently, Prudently, Prayerfully,” wrote Archbishop Dolan in his November 4th letter on Pastoral Planning, and his counsel will guide how we will proceed with Making All Things New. Prayerfully because this is a spiritual endeavor. Prudently because we are looking to the future. Patiently because there will be challenges and perhaps disagreements as this initiative goes forward.
The Making All Things New committee has been asked to conduct a survey in their parish. The responses to that survey will be reviewed along with responses that have come in from an earlier survey of about 650 priests who attended clergy meetings on pastoral planning in the late autumn. At the vicariate meetings, Mr. Frank Napolitano from the Office of Parish Finance reviews some of the comments that the priests have offered about this initiative. Input from our permanent deacons and religious women and men is likewise being sought.
During this pre-planning phase, we are gathering information about parishes and widening the circle of participation so that this consultation can be as inclusive as possible. This kind of conversation will assist us in the design of a program of pastoral planning for the Archdiocese, the goal of which is the vitality of Catholic life in each parish. The trends that have surfaced show that we will need to create a culture of planning in each of our parishes and in the Archdiocese so that we can go forward with proper pastoral care for each Catholic.
Most diocesan pastoral planning programs last for two or three years before conclusions are agreed upon. The work to reach those decisions will take place with a wide and respectful consultation in order to represent each parish and to consider the bigger picture that our parishes form in the one church of the Archdiocese of New York. With God’s help and everyone’s cooperation, Making All Things New will make this happen.