Planning in the Church: From the New Testament to today
Over the past eighteen months, there has been great interest in our developing Diocesan Pastoral Plan across the country and in other dioceses as people hear of the consultations that took place last year and the recommendations that have been developed throughout this year.
The strengthening of a planning culture in our Church is important and a healthy development for a number of reasons. Planning allows the Church to respond to changing demographics in our pastoral outreach and services, to take a pro-active stance towards the future, to draw on the individual wisdom and imagination of members toward a communal vision, and to focus resources on priorities as we seek to live the Gospel mission in a new time. Planning recognises the challenges for discipleship in the present and can also plant seeds of hope for the years of ministry and mission to come.
As reported in the most recent edition of the Catholic Outlook, our Diocese of Parramatta has essentially two goals that will shape its life and structures over the coming five years in its pastoral plan: growing in faith and sharing our faith. By committing ourselves to these two goals as a diocese – including our parishes, church agencies, migrant communities, movements, families and individual members – we seek to become what Pope Francis has described as a “true field of faith” amid the suburbs and mountains of Western Sydney.
As we have said, wanting to grow and share faith is not enough; we need to be organised to achieve these goals and to make the most of the gifts that God is offering us. Planning is a response of faith to the mission that God has entrusted to us.
Indeed, we find evidence of planning in the New Testament communities. In response to the Father, Jesus himself chose twelve disciples and send them out two by two (Mk 6:7), he gathered people in “groups of hundreds and fifties” when he multiplied and shared bread (Mk 6:40), and his followers organised their life and possessions as we hear in the Acts of the Apostles, so that the person and message they had experienced in Jesus could be passed with strength and vitality to future generations (cf. Acts 4:32f).
Such organisation and planning is indispensable for persons to do things together, to live a mission together, and that includes our Church as a community of disciples.
By offering a common vision, shared priorities and concrete actions for our diocesan community, our forthcoming Pastoral Plan hopes to promote a ‘new normal’ among our parishes and people. A recent visitor to our Diocese, Sherry Weddell of the Siena Institute, pointed out that we can sometimes forget that it is ‘normal’ for Catholics to have an intense personal relationship with Jesus, to be knowledgeable about their faith, the Scriptures, and Church teaching, to know what their personal charisms of service are, and to receive support by local parishes as ‘houses of formation’ that empower them to live the mission of God in the twenty-first century. We need to plan to ensure our communities are equipped to support this new norm and form intentional disciples now and into the future.
Blessed John Paul II counselled at the turn of the century, “since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God . . . it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity” (Novo Millennio Ineunte 31). The Gospel calls each of us, personally and communally, to make the most of our opportunities to grow and share faith. Our Diocesan Pastoral Plan will assist us in this Gospel mission.
We ask all of our online subscribers to keep an eye on their emails as we begin bringing together the hard work of the past year and a half into final form, and host briefing events. We are soon to update leaders of religious congregations on the plan, and will seek to keep lay leaders in parishes informed about recent developments as we approach Christmas, all in anticipation of a February 2014 launch of Faith in Our Future.
While parish pastoral councils have been well informed of the developing pastoral plan, remember that it is a resource for use by ministry groups including catechists, family groups, youth groups and movements, and sacramental teams as well, indeed any disciple of our Diocese who seeks to play a part in the future of our Church and its mission to others.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can offer you preparatory support or more information about the Pastoral Plan. We are always grateful for the supportive messages, feedback and readership of our online subscribers.
Yours in Christ,
Posted by Daniel Ang at 5:12 PM