planning for the future
Planning for our future
Life is change, but Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Few communities have had such dramatic change as ours over the course of a hundred years. In the early part of the 20th century, there were thousands of small family farms dotting the landscape throughout our 15 counties. Large families, often recent immigrants, toiled together to bring forth a harvest. Working the land provided a good living for many people and farming stayed in families for generations.
Now, we are blessed with technology that has eased the backbreaking labor of farming and that has fundamentally changed our communities. Farms are much larger but need much less labor. Families are smaller. Young people move to bigger cities to seek jobs. One constant: new immigrants continue to come to our area to find economic opportunity and a better life for their children.
These demographic changes have had a profound impact on our parish communities. Many parishes have very few young people as members. This reflects in part the demographics of our region as a whole. When people turn 18 and graduate from high school, many move elsewhere to establish careers and families of their own.
Another change: far fewer men are entering the priesthood now than in the past. In 1957, there were 98 priests in the Diocese of New Ulm, now there are 37 priests. In the next five years, ten of those 37 priests will celebrate their 70th birthdays. It is hard to maintain the energy to pastor multiple parishes when you are in your seventh decade or beyond.
There are other societal pressures as well - some external and some internal. Here, as throughout much of the world, popular culture encourages a turning away from spiritual life to a secular one focused on the things of the here and now. The abuse of children in the Church has also influenced many people's decisions regarding what role the Church plays in their lives. This has had an immeasurable impact on the number of vocations and on involvement in parish life.
We can't pretend that changes aren't happening. As Vatican II made clear, we as the Church on earth must be aware of the sign of the times and respond. Church leaders must see these signs and ensure that throughout the changes, the spiritual and pastoral needs of the local community continue to be met.
That is what pastoral planning the Diocese of New Ulm attempts to do. The Faithful are essential in this planning process. All across the diocese, lay members of parishes are working to keep their local parishes sustainable through their time, talent and treasure - and helping ease the transition when changes must be made in parish communities through mergers and closings.
We can do this in a Christ-centered way. We can respond through the lens of the Gospel to the incredible change happening all around us. You, together with clergy and religious, are the Church in this part of the world. Working together we can build hope in a strong and vital future.
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
fourth plan for parishes
The Fourth Plan for Parishes is the chief guide for pastoral planning for Catholics in the Diocese of New Ulm. The 293-page document was composed between 2008 and 2013 by the Committee on Parishes.
After explaining the interrelated roles of the ministerial priesthood and the royal priesthood of the baptized, the document examines the care of souls in parishes from the perspective of priests and laity. Regarding priests, it provides background data and suggests strategies on how the diocese can provide a pastor for each of its parishes. Regarding the faithful, it inaugurates a series of discussions at the parish and Area Faith Community levels. These discussions will help determine whether there are sufficient numbers of parishioners in each parish to fill the various roles and functions properly entrusted to them for a vibrant faith community, and whether they have sufficient financial resources to provide for the ongoing needs of their parish.
Please see the printable handout Continuing to Plan for Our Future for an update on implementation of the Fourth Plan for Parishes.
When was the Fourth Plan for Parishes written? How long will it guide pastoral planning in the diocese?
The Fourth Plan for Parishes was promulgated by Bishop John M. LeVoir on May 15, 2013, the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer. It will remain in effect until 2020 and beyond.
Are there any resources that I can use to learn more about the Fourth Plan for Parishes?
Yes, there are. They include columns written by Bishop LeVoir for The Prairie Catholic, a study guide prepared by Fr. Anthony Stubeda, and a series of articles for The Prairie Catholic. You can access them below.
You are also invited to visit the Office of Pastoral Planning page on the diocesan Web site.
What if I still have questions? Whom can I contact for more information?
Bishop John M. LeVoir's columns for The Prairie Catholic
A study guide prepared by Fr. Anthony Stubeda
Articles in The Prairie Catholic