As I mentioned in the last article, it is projected that by the year 2020 the Archdiocese will have 134 diocesan priests in active ministry and will have nearly 200 parishes, as well as other ministries that are staffed by priests (most especially St. Francis de Sales Seminary). As you can see from the numbers it will be, literally, impossible for that number of priests to minister to that number of parishes on a 1-1 ratio. Because of this, the Archdiocese has assessed the locations and sizes and needs of the parishes and developed a model of parish ministry and priest assignment that will help ensure that priestly ministry is present and active at each of our parishes. The way to do this is with a plan that clusters the parishes of the Archdiocese into clusters of from two to six parishes. There are some parishes which, due to their size, geographical location, specific population or because they are served by religious order priests that will remain as “stand alone” parishes. These “stand alone” parishes will not be actively clustered with other parishes and will continue to be served on the model which we have known over these past years of one or two priests being assigned to that parish and that parish alone. There will be approximately 30 of the parishes which will be considered “stand alone.”
Of the 170 parishes that remain, they will be “clustered” together with nearby parish(es) and have one pastor assigned to both of them. It is important to realize that this does not mean that parishes are being merged – each parish will maintain its individual identity, while working together and having the same priest assigned to them. This will be a significant change for most of the parishes in the Archdiocese, they will still have their “own” priest, but he will be shared with another local parish. Depending on the sizes of the clusters and the availability of priests it may be possible for those clusters to also have an Associate Pastor assigned, so while two clustered parishes may have two priests ministering in them, they will share the same pastor and associate pastor. Furthermore, there will be a reliance on the continued ministry of our senior priests, those who have retired from full-time ministry, but continue to assist with the sacraments. It is their generosity of continuing to serve forty, fifty, even sixty years after their ordination that will help to mitigate some of the challenges and changes which will flow from this plan.
Along with the 2020 Plan, the Archdiocese is beginning to work on the unfolding of the plans which resulted from the Archdiocesan Synod which was held over Pentecost in 2014. These various areas of focus will result in the Archdiocese and parishes working to take the goals and vision laid out at the Synod and put those goals into action.
In next week’s article, I will take a look at what this 2020 Plan means for our parish looking forward.