Pastoral Plan aims to focus the future of our faith

September 18, 2012

HOUSTON — Three distinct Pastoral Plan Pathways, created to give focus to the faithful, are being publicly revealed this weekend by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.

The pathways are part of a comprehensive roadmap designed to move the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston towards a future that embraces a spirituality of communion.

They follow 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 steps necessary to reach this envisioned future.

“We have now put proposed pathways in place and shift from planning to doing,” said Ken Lepper, task leader for the Propose Phase of the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Planning Process. “This is where we can become more task oriented and we will have to come together as faithful to decide how best to implement these pathways.”

Lepper stressed, however, that the proposed pathways themselves are not action plans. “Actionable initiatives will be developed in the next phase, ‘Shepherd and Implement,’” Lepper said. “The (pathways) are focused statements in support of our desired future; prayerfully discerned from our current reality (as measured in the first two phases).”

Under the guidance of the Propose Phase Task Group, pathways were created to begin this implementation sequence of the pastoral plan.
As part of this implementation, individual parishes will identify what they are already doing to support the pathways and promote a spirituality of communion. Pastors and parish leaders also come together in regional meetings to share information. That information 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 the Chancery staff as they write action plans to support one or more of those objectives. 

“The overall methodology is that this is not one person’s work, but it has been discernment, prayer and listening and we can modify this process as we go if we find a smarter, better way to do it,” Lepper said.

Still, the goal remains the same — meet the future needs of the faithful and fulfill John Paul II’s creed that a spirituality of communion be the context and basis for all planning.

With that in mind, the Archdiocese and its Catholics will move forward knowing how important holy sacraments are in their lives, parishes and communities.

“These pathways give (Catholic parishes) enough focus so that they can create action plans for their faith community,” Lepper said.
The whole pastoral plan process and its purpose may be confusing for parishioners, admitted Father Clint Ressler, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Houston.

“I see these pathways and think of a family,” Father Ressler said. “Each family member is like a parish that could be self consumed and only thinking of itself or they can help one another and solve problems.”

Challenges vary from parish to parish, such as a need for outreach programs or youth initiatives. But pathways can encourage Catholics to work together in making life better for themselves and others, said Father Ressler, who also served on the Explore and Discern Task Group.

The Propose Task Force used key requirements for developing the pathways. First, they must support the spirituality of communion as described by John Paul II in 2001. Second, they must communicate clearly with the faithful. Third, they must support development of action plans for the next phase, “Shepherd and Implement.”

Proposed pathways were also measured against 11 elements and beliefs taken from the Explore and Discern phase, and from John Paul II’s “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” in which a spirituality of communion is detailed.

Those elements included love of God, love one another, demonstrate our love, Sunday Eucharist, listening to the Word, and Ecumenism, which encourages Catholics to foster dialogue with people of other faiths.

“When we came up with the pathways, we asked ourselves, ‘How do we measure in some manner that these in fact meet the needs of the faithful?’” Lepper said. “So we took these pathways and literally mapped them against these elements and said, “Yes, this does have depth and does meet our goal for meeting the needs of the faithful.”