Members of the diocesan Presbyteral Council heard reports about a new initiative for regional ministry gatherings, the diocese’s pastoral planning process and the deacon formation program at their meeting June 26 at the Chancery in St. Cloud.
They also voted to approve the diocesan budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Diocesan offices are planning to pilot a new regional approach to ministry that will offer formation and educational opportunities to pastoral leaders.
The initiative also is a response to Bishop Donald Kettler’s call for diocesan offices to increase their presence in parishes, said Bailey Ziegler, director of human resources for the diocese.
The date and location of the pilot gathering is yet to be determined, but it will focus on pastoral leaders in the Fergus Falls/Wadena and Alexandria/Morris deaneries.
The educational offerings and agenda for the day will be formulated based on responses to a survey being sent to pastoral leaders that asks about their needs and priorities.
Similar gatherings will be held in the future in other regions of the diocese. Those events also will be tailored to the needs of local parishes.
Among the hopes for the Regional Ministry Gathering initiative is that parish leaders will learn new skills and best practices for ministry from, and with, one another, Ziegler said. It will also help diocesan staff to work together more efficiently and collaboratively.
Council members also heard a report from Brenda Kresky, the diocese’s director of pastoral planning, on the status of the diocesan planning process.
The Planning Council is proposing evangelization as a broad, overall goal for the process. While the final plan, slated for implementation on July 1, 2019, will likely include new parish configurations and pastoral assignments, it also will address broader areas, including lay leadership formation and strategies for strengthening families, nurturing vocations and increasing parish vitality in other ways.
The evangelization goal has three proposed outcomes:
- Form Catholic communities that animate the gifts of all evangelizing disciples for cooperative ministry;
- Empower Catholic communities where evangelizing disciples participate fully, consciously and actively, and;
- Nourish Catholic communities of generosity that steward the necessary resources to carry out evangelization.
These outcome areas encompass the seven elements of a viable parish as outlined in the church’s Code of Canon Law: worship, service, community, leadership, word, evangelization and stewardship, Kresky said.
The Planning Council has also been discussing the concept of “regional hubs” as a way for parishes to better collaborate and share pastoral resources, Kresky told Presbyteral Council members, who discussed some of the advantages and challenges to such an approach.
Kresky said she would be talking with diocesan office directors about the planning process in the near future. She also plans to speak to priests at their deanery meetings in August. The annual clergy conference in October will focus on pastoral planning; Mark Mogilka, former director of stewardship and pastoral services for the Diocese of Green Bay, will address the meeting.
The Presbyteral Council also heard a report about deacon formation from Deacon Ernie Kociemba, associate director of the diocese’s Diaconate Office.
Currently the diocese has 63 deacons — 40 active, nine serving outside the diocese and 14 retired, he said. Seven diaconate candidates will be in formation this fall. However, there are currently no diaconate candidates in formation from St. Cloud to the western border of the diocese and from St. Cloud to the southern diocesan border.
Deacon Kociemba outlined the process and cost of becoming a deacon, and he offered to speak about the diaconate anywhere in the diocese where pastors would find it helpful.
The Presbyteral Council also:
- Approved the diocesan budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The balanced budget includes a 3 percent increase in parish assessments, a 2 percent increase in wages and a 6 percent increase in health insurance.
- Bishop Kettler updated the council about the diocese’s plans regarding bankruptcy reorganization. The diocese has not filed yet for reorganization and hopes to reach an agreed-upon settlement plan with all parties involved before filing. Such a plan would limit the time the diocese is in reorganization and keep down legal costs as much as possible, he said.
- The council heard a report from a representative of the St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville about programs it offers that could benefit lay minsters and others in the diocese. The school is planning to launch a new certificate in evangelization as well as offer additional online courses for its master of arts in ministry program.