Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Pastoral planning effort encourages Catholics to ‘Know, Love & Serve’
the Inland Register
(From the October 17, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)
“Wake up! Wake up! You have to serve today! The people of God are waiting for you at church. Jesus is counting on you!” With these words, which reflected a memorable time in a child’s young Catholic life, Herb Dierks joined a chorus of voices which urged the faithful in the Diocese of Spokane to engage in a year-long pastoral planning process, “Know, Love & Serve” (KLS).
A member of an organizing committee of clergy and laity, Dierks, a member of St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley, challenged the more than 325 priests, deacons, Religious, and lay representatives from all the parishes in the Diocese of Spokane who gathered at Spokane’s Red Lion Inn at the Park on Sept. 27 for an afternoon workshop which explored the why’s, how’s and wherefore’s of the parish pastoral planning process.
He urged the faithful to claim responsibility for their mission. Listing the amazing contributions of the Catholic Church in the history of the world and even its present impact on the local community, Dierks expressed his hope as a layman that the KLS process would cause Catholics in the diocese to take pride in their Catholic heritage and “come alive again.”
Dierks said that the expectations of the pastoral planning process should not focus on an explosive manifestation of God’s power. “Such things come in the shallow thrill of entertainment and pyrotechnics,” he observed. “Yes, the KLS process should be blessed with surprises – that’s the way God works – but our hearts should be open to the silent whispers and nudges we don’t expect.
“The change we should expect in our Diocese may not be found in altered programs. The big change that we should expect is much more profound: a change of heart.
“We must be faithful to the promise we have made to God to be faithful to the way of the Gospel,” Dierks said. He cautioned against cynicism – even despair – born of a lack of enthusiasm, energy and personal commitment, and called the participants to be witnesses to hope and promise.
“In the seasons and rhythms of our culture and modern day, it is time to be proud of who we are as Catholics,” Dierks said.
His comments were offered in the context of a final prayer service led by Bishop Cupich at which the participants in the KLS kick-off event were charged to evangelize their parish communities and were sent forth to call their people to a time of appreciating the past and discerning God’s guidance for the future.
Dierks’s comments echoed remarks made earlier by Bishop Cupich in welcoming the gathering and formally inaugurated the task which lay before it. He, too, called the participants to a new awakening:
“You are summoned to be agents of an internal awakening among the People of God, leading them to a renewed awareness that the Spirit of God already has been at work in their lives and in the world around them.”
The bishop spoke of the parish leadership teams who would surface the stories gleaned from the faith journey of their fellow parishioners and set those stories in writing, to be included in the reports they would present as an integral part of the KLS process – not unlike the evangelists who wrote the four Gospels.
The coming celebration of the diocese’s centennial dovetails with this pastoral planning process, said Bishop Cupich. Knowing the history of parishes and opening hearts to the work of the Spirit will lead to a moment of “listening with awe, surprise and edification” to the work of God’s presence, he said.
“This ‘Know, Love & Serve’ process is a fresh moment for our diocese – just as the election of Pope Francis is a fresh moment for the universal Church,” said Bishop Cupich. “While not ignoring the difficulties of the past, this is a new moment for all of us.”
Keynote speaker Mark Mogilka of the Diocese of Green Bay joyfully told KLS participants they now had “opportunities for virtuous action,” not problems. (IR photo by Eric Meisfjord)
Mark Mogilka, Director of Stewardship and Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., was the keynote speaker at the event. As a nationally-recognized expert in the design and execution of pastoral planning initiatives, Mogilka outlined the purpose of pastoral planning. Instead of following a popular planning process which identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (sometimes referred to as SWOT) in relation to an institution’s needs, he called the diocese to engage in “multiple opportunities of goodness.”
During his presentation, Mogilka frequently quoted Pope Francis. Among the Holy Father’s words Mogilka shared: “Dare to have fabulous plans. Do not be afraid to dream.”
“You have no more problems,” said Mogilka. “You have opportunities for virtuous action…. This process invites you to take co-responsibility for the mission of the Church.”
Mogilka spent the majority of this presentation explaining what he called the “nuts and bolts of the planning process.” His remarks expanded on materials contained in a Parish Leadership Resource Manual prepared for the occasion by the KLS coordinating committee.
The process calls for each parish to engage as many of its faithful as possible in a two-part process Mogilka titled “Appreciative Inquiry.” The first phase of the process is to ask in some concerted fashion that parishes discover and identify its strengths. Parishioners are then led in a phase of inquiry which challenges them to “dream,” discerning where God may be calling them to grow and mature as communities of faith.
Parish leadership will spend this autumn and early winter putting into practice the elements of the KLS planning process, engaging the faithful in meetings, surveys and group gatherings in January and February, 2014. By March 1 of next year, each parish will submit a summary report to Bishop Cupich which testifies to the strengths and dreams of the parish. In April 2014, members of a special Leadership Summit will study each of the reports to identify common threads of inspiration and need.
The pastoral planning process will culminate in the publication of a Diocesan Pastoral Plan by Bishop Cupich in June 2014. The plan will offer a set of goals to the parishes to address over the next five years. Their efforts will be supplemented by an annual gathering of parish leaders to focus on some element of the Plan.
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