Bishop Donald Kettler and members of the Diocesan Planning Council held a workshop Sept. 25 at Diocesan Ministry Day as part of the ongoing process to determine what actions to take in light of an expected decline in the number of active priests between 2020 and 2030.
About 135 people attended the session, including priests, deacons, religious, educators and lay people of all ages.
“The point of the session was for the bishop to hear from people across the diocese, and to give people from the diocese the opportunity for their voices to be heard,” said Jane Marrin, chancellor of the diocese and part of the Planning Council.
Participants were invited to consider four questions and were given time to reflect on them before breaking into small groups for additional discussion. The questions were:
- What does it mean to have “quality” parish life?
- What resources does a parish need to have that quality of life?
- How can we sustain 131 parishes with a projected 57 priests under the age of 70 as we look to the future?
- How do we maintain a Catholic presence in the 16 counties, 12,500 square miles, of the Diocese of St. Cloud?
Following the small group discussions, groups designated a spokesperson to share their findings with the large group. Many of the themes that emerged were similar to subjects brought up in a series of three meetings held this summer with the priests of the diocese.
At the priest meetings, participants discussed “right sizing,” how to measure the vibrancy of a parish and whether 131 parishes can continue. Bishop Kettler was pleased that all the priests participated in the sessions and noted that the answers were myriad.
Some of the concerns raised included the proper allocation of resources, the need for developing leadership and formation in parishes, a call for full participation, engagement and involvement of parishioners and a request to define what a parish is.
Data recorded at the priest meetings and the DMD session will be brought back to the Planning Council for further discussion. Bishop Kettler also provided a summary of the workshop to the priests at the annual Clergy Conference in Alexandria Oct. 4. Additional opportunities for input will be offered through deaneries and parishes, most likely beginning in early November.
The Planning Council plans to continue to gather information and share ideas prior to completing a formal report for the bishop and, eventually, unrolling an action plan.
“Our goal is to gather as much input as possible from people of the diocese. The most important thing is that people know that this workshop was just one step in the processes we are using to come up with a proposal,” Marrin said. “We welcome the input of everyone and encourage you to look for opportunities in your parishes and deaneries to be part of the conversation.”
Bishop Kettler concluded the session by thanking participants for their input and asked for continued prayers as the process moves forward. He hopes that by spring 2018, parishes and pastors will send reports to the Planning Council with substantial recommendations and that a formal plan will be announced by Fall 2018 and implemented by July 2019.
“What we are asking is for people to enliven our parishes,” Bishop Kettler said. “As bishop, I’m not the church. The priests are not the church. We have an important role to play, but it’s much more important what the parishes have and do. Parishes are doing some marvelous things and you’re helping each other get to the Kingdom of God, which is what we are all about.”
Questions about the planning process can be directed to Jayne Bruemmer, planning office assistant, at 320-251-2340.