In his reflections on Making All Things New, the archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative, Cardinal Dolan said pastoral planning itself is as old as the Church but the call to a new evangelization makes its more urgent than ever that the archdiocese has its priorities in order.
“The new evangelization tells us that the pastoral urgencies of today’s Church call for a mission mode, not a maintenance model,” the cardinal said.
“No longer can we presume our people will come; no longer can we wait for the people to show up…Now we must ‘cast out into the deep!’” the cardinal explained. (Cardinal’s Column on Pastoral Planning, Page 5.)
In speaking about the “whys” of pastoral planning, Cardinal Dolan said that the “parish setup” in the archdiocese that he and other recent archbishops of New York have inherited “is the result of a post-World War II boom” in the Catholic population that was wisely met at the time “with a neighborhood parish or ethnic parish paradigm.”
With the model and numbers changing, however, the archdiocese “no longer need(s) 385 parishes,” the cardinal said.
Pastoral priorities identified in the sessions that a committee headed by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then vicar general, conducted throughout the archdiocese showed Catholics have a clear idea of the pastoral priorities they want, the cardinal said.
The cardinal was speaking June 6 at a well-attended gathering of hundreds of priests, deacons and religious at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.
At two two-hour sessions, participants from around the archdiocese were welcomed by Father John O’Hara, director of strategic pastoral planning in the archdiocese, and given an overview of Making All Things New by John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of The Reid Group, which has assisted many dioceses in pastoral planning projects and has been hired by the archdiocese to work on the implementation of Making All Things New.
They also took part in small group conversations in response to the overview and had an opportunity to raise questions at the end of the session.
During their presentation, Reid and Ms. Gallagher outlined an eight-phase process leading to implementation at the parish, cluster and archdiocesan levels of the decisions ultimately made by Cardinal Dolan and announced in September 2014.
Successive steps followed during the parish restructuring process include: conversations at the archdiocesan, parish and cluster levels; suggestions of a particular model by each cluster team; preliminary recommendations of the Archdiocesan Planning Commission; conversations about the preliminary recommendations at the cluster level; responses by the Archdiocesan Planning Commission about a particular model with a rationale by the cluster team; final recommendations of the Archdiocesan Planning Commission with a rationale sent to Cardinal Dolan; decisions by the cardinal after appropriate consultation; and implementation beginning on Jan. 1, 2015 of the cardinal’s decisions.
Between meeting sessions, participating clergy and religious gathered at a barbecue on the seminary grounds. Clergy members shared reactions to the presentation they had just heard as they munched hot dogs, hamburgers and other fare just off the grill.
Father Joseph LaMorte, pastor of St. Gregory Barbarigo parish, Garnerville, and chairman of the archdiocesan Priests’ Council, told CNY he “absolutely believes” the time has come for Making All Things New to move forward.
“It will be great for the vibrancy of parishes,” he said.
Father LaMorte noted the parishes in St. Gregory’s area in northern Rockland County are “perfectly” suited to share resources. Cooperative ventures on an unofficial basis have already been explored with programs of the youth group at Immaculate Conception, Stony Point, he said.
“This process will facilitate that (kind of cooperation) in a good way,” he said.
Father LaMorte noted that the professional expertise provided by The Reid Group would go a long way toward making such cooperation much more commonplace.
“They are not going to discover anything in New York that they haven’t experienced elsewhere,” he said.
Father LaMorte thinks that bringing the “wisdom and experience” of the members of the Priests’ Council to bear on a project such as Making All Things New would have a beneficial effect on the council.
“It will revitalize the Council,” he said. “We have a new challenge ahead of us.”
Deacon Steven DeMartino, coordinator of wellness and support for priests of the archdiocese, said he believes there will be an old-fashioned response, in a good way, to Making All Things New as it unfolds in the coming months.
“If the pastors invite,” he said, “the people will participate.”