Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan to embrace a ‘spirituality of communion’

September 4, 2012

HOUSTON — A comprehensive roadmap that helps to shape the future of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will be one step closer to reality when the Archdiocese unveils the Pastoral Plan Pathways to the faithful sometime in September.

Specifics about the pathways — three in total — are outlined in an upcoming video created by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, who will explain how Catholic people and parishes in the Archdiocese can move towards a future that embraces a spirituality of communion.

Introduction of the pathways come on the heels of a yearlong, four-phase process that Cardinal DiNardo and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council put into motion in order to make sure the Church grows along with the next generation. The goal is to develop the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and then implement the steps necessary to reach this envisioned future.

As part of the planning process, Catholics from a 10-county region came together for group listening sessions to answer questions about current experiences and hopes for the future of the Archdiocese. Those answers were then passed on to the Analyze and Prioritize Task Group, charged with analyzing the information and creating a “current reality” document.

The current reality document went to the Explore and Discern Task Group, which created a vision for the future of the local Church through prayerful discernment. 

Under the guidance of the Propose Task Group, these steps to the future, or pathways, begin the implementation sequence of the Pastoral Plan, said Mary Grace Landrum, Facilitator for the Planning and Implementation Oversight Groups.

“People in the Propose Task Group asked, ‘How do we get from our current reality to our desired future?’ and that’s where the word ‘pathway’ comes in,” Landrum said. “It’s kind of like a bridge and the term chosen reflects our efforts to walk along a path.”

After the three specific pathways are publicly revealed, the implementation process begins with identifying what individual parishes are already doing to support the pathways and promote a spirituality of communion.

In step two, pastors and parish leaders will come together in regional meetings to share those activities with one another. By step three, information from regional meetings will be used by the Integration Task Group to create objectives to support the pathways.

Finally, the Archdiocese will publish a plan that guides parishes and chancery staff as they write action plans to support one or more of those objectives, Landrum said. A tracking task group will monitor progress on action plans and celebrate successes.

“The idea is that if we are truly living out the pathways, we will become recognized as a people who are practicing the spirituality of communion,” she added.

Prayerful discernment and the spirituality of communion are two driving forces behind the creation of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, said Jim Barrette, Director of the Secretariat for Pastoral and Educational Ministries and Executive Officer for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which is spearheading development of the plan.

“Prayerful discernment with future direction was the context of the whole plan,” Barrette said. “From that, we also reflected on other readings. John Paul II gave this address in 2001 and in there was a paragraph about a ‘spirituality of communion’ and how it needs to be the context and basis for all planning. This was a pastoral plan, not a strategic plan.”

In that John Paul II address, he encourages Catholics to think of their brothers and sisters in faith as “those who are a part of me,” enabling people to share each others’ joys and sufferings and attend to their needs.

He goes on to state that “A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God…but also a gift for me.”

In addition, a spirituality of communion means “bearing each other’s burdens and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”

John Paul II concludes by noting that “unless Catholics follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.”

With this philosophy in mind, Barrette said he is hoping the Archdiocese and the faithful go forth with unity, organization and an awareness of the importance of the holy sacraments in their lives, churches and communities.

“The idea is to come together in unity and take action,” Barrette said. “However, that unity doesn’t flow from taking action, it flows from our sacramental life and this whole process is taking that connection to sacramental life and trying to give some direction to action.”

One key point, Barrette noted, is that the Pastoral Plan will be evaluated along the way to determine its effectiveness.

“We will be reassessing the plan periodically along the way and after five years we will decide how to continue,” Barrette said. “It’s a renewing process of planning.”

Having a plan in place is important because it acts as a guide to an ultimate goal, said Gabriela Karaszewski, the Director of Religious Education at St. Jerome Church in Houston and also a member of the Explore and Discern Task Group.

“A plan is important because we need to be guided by something and we didn’t have anything before,” Karaszewski said. “The Pastoral Plan is based on a spirituality of communion and it guides individuals, it guides the churches, it guides families, lay ministers and pastoral workers, and it encourages collaboration between parishes.”

Throughout Catholic churches, the basis of a spirituality of communion should already be in practice in some form. Parish members, for example, are expected to help their brothers and sisters and work within the community.

“So why is this different than what we already have in place?” Karaszewski asked. “The fact is that this spirituality of communion already exists in churches and it already lives in churches. We are just raising the awareness on how to live it.”

In addition, the Pastoral Plan is making sure that everyone is one the same page and working towards the same goal.

“This is what we want and how we are going to get there is part of the implementation stage,” Karaszewski said. “One more beautiful aspect is that we will be sharing ideas with other parishes, sharing talent, facilities and other human resources. That already happens, we just want to raise awareness that this will happen even more.”