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Called to be Church launches
Assistant Editor

"Called to be Church," the two-year planning process for the future of the Albany Diocese, officially starts its first phase this month.

When the pastoral planning initiative was announced by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard last June, he called it a "plan for stewarding resources" to achieve the mission of the Church in the Diocese. Since then, parishes have been "pre-planning" by:

* examining the concepts of mission and ministry in "town meetings;"

* creating parish profiles with statistics on their populations, church attendance, programs and buildings; and

* deciding whom to appoint to local planning groups.

Those groups will make recommendations to Bishop Hubbard about the future of their parishes when the process concludes in mid-2008.

Getting organized

There are now 39 local planning groups, each comprised of core teams made up of a half-dozen parishioners and pastors, administrators or parish life directors from every parish in the group. Several parishes make up each planning group. The groups will meet monthly through June 2008.

John Manning, director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning, said that meetings in January are basically organizational.

Parishes in each planning group have been asked to exchange profiles to learn about the other parishes in their groups. They will start to examine what the data reveal about the Church in their communities and how that will impact their futures.


Future meetings of the planning groups will focus on such topics as evangelization, life-long faith formation, the Church's service ministries, sacraments and leadership.

Diocesan offices are helping to flesh out what needs to be discussed on each topic.

In mid-2008, after looking at the staff, finances, facilities and governance of each parish in their groups, the core members will make recommendations to Bishop Hubbard on the future of the parishes.

Time to plan

Similar initiatives have begun in other diocese across the U.S. In Syracuse, for example, parishes have been given six months to create plans. Other dioceses are making pastoral planning an ongoing process.

Officials in the Albany Diocese, said Mr. Manning, chose to make Called to be Church an 18-month process to give "adequate time for reflection and dialogue to discuss challenges and how to meet them."

He noted that parishes have an opportunity to look at what they would like to do to better serve the needy, reach out to inactive Catholics, ensure that the Eucharist is available despite the decline in the number of priests and encourage leadership among the laity.

(Mr. Manning noted that the Diocese currently has 166 parishes. By 2015, only 95 priests will be available to serve them; and, of those, roughly 40 will be retired. Considering those statistics, "we need to come up with plans that allow us to adjust to the number of priests available.")

'Called to be Church' glossary

* Diocesan facilitators: the 39 parish leaders who facilitate planning group meetings;

* Core team: the planning group members, about a half-dozen per parish, who will create plans for the future of parishes;

* At-large and ad hoc members: extra members (for instance, a board member from a parish school) who may not be part of the core team, but who attend meetings to offer input in specific areas;

* Pastoral liaisons: parish contact people who alert planning group members about meetings and information;

* Coordinating committees: parishioners who arrange for meeting space, audio-visual equipment and the like. (KB)

What's in parish profiles?

Parishes throughout the Albany Diocese are completing profiles as part of the "Called to be Church" process.

The profiles will contain:

* location (urban, suburban, rural etc.);

* area population, recent growth/decline and racial makeup;

* nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, colleges and other institutions served;

* whether the parish has a mission church;

* parish staff and leadership;

* the number of parishioners/statistics on Baptisms, funerals etc.;

* Mass schedules and recent changes;

* ministries, committees, other activities and outreach;

* faith formation program information;

* financial information; and

* a list of property, cemeteries and schools. (KB)

Prayer services planned

Here is the prayer for the commissioning of local planning group representatives (to be said during parish liturgies on Jan. 6-7):

"Ever-living God, you gather us together...to carry the Gospel of Christ to all people. Bless these representatives to our local pastoral planning group.

"Let your Spirit enlighten their minds, and guide all their actions that they may be renewed in faith, united in love and bring to fulfillment the work of your Church to your greater honor and glory.




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