Cluster Planning Crucial to Making All Things New


Making All Things New, the archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative, entered a new phase last week as parishes formed their cluster teams.

Training sessions for the new cluster teams took place at sites throughout the archdiocese Dec. 3 and 4. Core team members from different parishes came together as newly formed units to choose chairpersons and secretaries for the next stages of the planning process and to schedule meetings.

Seventy-five cluster teams are now in operation across the archdiocese. Team members will learn about each other’s parishes during meetings throughout the next two-and-a-half months as they prepare to offer suggestions on behalf of their cluster.

John Reid, a principal of the Reid Group, which is acting as a consultant to the archdiocese on Making All Things New, spoke to approximately 100 cluster team members from North and West Manhattan parishes at Cathedral High School in Manhattan Dec. 4. He told them the process of change they were embarking on that night meant they would “have to travel through the wilderness” before they arrived at a new destination.

“How do we move through change well, so that parishes are thriving, not struggling?” Reid asked.

He then told them that as faithful Catholics they would be asked about their “dreams for the future.”

The process the cluster team members were about to undertake, Reid said, was sacred, confidential and would require their “best thinking.”

Cluster team members will be asked to speak “from your heart” about their own parishes, then listen as others do the same about theirs. They will also be given access to confidential parish records, regarding sacramental life and finances, which Cardinal Dolan believes their work of the next few months requires.

Reid also said cluster team members would be asked for their best thinking, or wisdom, “about the future of the archdiocese,” as they evaluated the cluster and made suggestions.

Reid and his associate, Karen Castellon, speaking in Spanish, also reviewed the eight-step Making All Things New process. Cluster suggestions to the 40-member Archdiocesan Advisory Board, including clergy, religious and lay leaders, are due by March 1, 2014.

The two parish models that cluster teams will be considering are: collaborative parishes, in which parishes enter into formal cooperative relationships with other parishes, and consolidated parishes, in which parishes merge or close.

Reid told CNY that communication was of paramount importance, especially during the cluster planning phase. That communication should not be limited to within the cluster, but it should also include the archdiocese and individual parishes themselves, he said. To facilitate such communication, weekly updates have commenced on the archdiocesan website at

Father John O’Hara, director of strategic pastoral planning for the archdiocese, said the cluster team members would be asked to “think beyond the boundaries of their parishes to the greater needs of the Church in New York and the archdiocese.”

A primary question Making All Things New is seeking to answer, Father O’Hara said, is: “How are we best going to serve people?”

“People are at the center of the process,” he explained. “We need to foster new growth. Sometimes you have to prune, to cut back, to stimulate new growth.”

After the training session Dec. 4, cluster team members formed from six West Manhattan parishes—Notre Dame, Holy Trinity, St. Gregory the Great, Ascension, Holy Name of Jesus and Corpus Christi—headed upstairs to a third-floor classroom where representatives of each parish spoke with pride about things they liked about their own parishes and with concern about areas where they thought improvement was possible.

Sharing of individual parish data proved no challenge, as reports were easily passed around the room. Despite the urging of the group’s facilitator, Sister Sarah Ryan, P.B.V.M., the selection of the cluster chair and secretary proved more problematic, with no one immediately stepping forward to claim either position.

Ultimately, the chairs of working committees on sacramental life, administration, outreach and evangelization, which are integral to the cluster evaluation process, agreed to serve as secretaries to the cluster for their areas. And shortly before the meeting was to adjourn at 9 p.m., Ken Craig of Holy Trinity parish offered to serve as cluster chair.