Parish roadmap to join the mission of the universal Church — To become one with Christ

December 10, 2019

HOUSTON — In 2012, as the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston continued to grow in numbers and diversity, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo called for a roadmap to promote active involvement and collaboration by the faithful throughout the Archdiocese to achieve the mission of the Universal Church — to be one with Christ. 

The roadmap began that year with a plan formulated by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), a consultative body of 26 laypeople and members of the clergy that advise Cardinal DiNardo with pastoral issues facing the Archdiocese. The purpose of this Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan was to identify pastoral priorities, suggest initiatives, enhance Church communities within the Archdiocese, help their faithful collaborate and cooperate with other parishes, and become more effective evangelizers of God’s good news.

Once this plan was created, Cardinal DiNardo extended a call for each parish to create a Parish Pastoral Plan based on the direction provided by the pathways and objectives of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan.

“Each Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) works with its pastor to create a plan that addresses the current parish community’s spiritual needs and lays the path for how best the parish is going to achieve its mission, leading parishioners in furthering their call to Jesus and their ability to lead others to Jesus,” said Jim Barrette, secretariat director at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and executive officer of the APC. “In our Parish Pastoral Council training, we are able to leverage learning on the Archdiocesan level to assist parishes in their planning process. This includes best practices in gathering demographic data and in surveying their parish members for important feedback.”

The Secretariat for Pastoral and Educational Ministries, which oversees the PPC training, is a part of 60 ministries that are directly supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

Barrette, along with a professional consultant and seven highly trained volunteers called Pastoral Planning Facilitators, meet directly with pastors and PPC members to train them on best practices for member discernments and retreats, and assistance with pastoral planning and consultation. The ministry also provides two training workshops each year for pastors along with their council members to assist them in PPC development and in their planning efforts. Currently, 90 parishes have received some form of direct PPC training.

While not every council has fully developed its own Parish Pastoral Plan, they have utilized the training provided by Barrette’s team to address many unique and specific needs of their parishes while continuing to formulate the plan.

One example is St. Patrick Catholic Church, which has traditionally been considered a small, neighborhood parish with predominately Spanish-speaking members — one with a rich heritage of multi-generational Hispanic interaction. Many families that have maintained deep roots in the church still attend, but no longer live in the surrounding neighborhood.

“While we have not yet formed our Parish Pastoral Plan, we do feel the training has provided a great fount of information and eager cheerleaders in the process, which is such a huge blessing to us as we work on the plan to address our parish’s needs,” said Father Tom Hawxhurst, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church. “The Pastoral Council now has a shared vocabulary and concepts to work with. We’re like many places, a community of communities, which is a great blessing and provides many resources.”

Father Hawxhurst said while St. Patrick’s Pastoral Council’s members have gone through one full round of discernment and the council is very much in its infancy, with the help of the training, the parish has shepherded a food fair ministry, worked to maintain and expand some important traditions of the parish, and continues to work together to better meet the specific needs of this growing, diverse parish that lives both near and far.

Another parish that recently participated in the PPC training was Holy Family Catholic Church in Missouri City. Father Sunny Joseph, OSH, pastor of the parish, said his council received assistance with conducting a parish survey, as well as the discernment process of its council members.

“The survey helped us to get important feedback of our parishioners about our ministries, which has allowed us to assess, plan and set the pastoral priorities for our parish and to start new ministries responding to the need of our parishioners,” said Father Joseph. “The assistance with forming the questions of the survey and providing us with the census data was very helpful. We are in the process of making a pastoral plan for our parish assessing the survey results and input from different groups of our parish.”

Father Joseph believes prayerful discernment by the new Pastoral Council members has made a tremendous difference. 
“It helps a lot with the active participation of the parishioners and allows for a representation of different ethnicities of the parish and education of the vision and mission of parish pastoral council,” he said. “I do believe that prayerful discernment of parish leadership is very important since we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we do in our parish.”

Barrette said that with the help of staff, consultants, skilled volunteer facilitators and online resources provided by the secretariat, pastors are able to develop a Pastoral Plan that prioritizes efforts in evangelization and formation of disciples.

“These are directly related to the mission of every parish. DSF dollars provide for very high-quality demographic related information and analysis for each parish, and the option to utilize professionally prepared analysis of the annual parish report, as well as the professional consultation and training.”