As we move forward into the future with a network of parishes, our organizational structure will need to be adjusted. Here is where we would like to be by July 1, 2021.
A Church Organizational Structure that:
Is Capable of Serving More Than One Parish with One Pastor; has a Centralized Office with the Same Workflow for Weddings, Baptisms, Funerals, and the Other Sacraments Such as First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation.
As mentioned before, the Archdiocese is preparing for 30 fewer priests in the next 10 years. Honestly, I’m not sure if we are prepared for the next three years wherein which several new pastors will be needed to replace some big shoes at some rather big parishes throughout our Archdiocese.
Currently, we manage okay here with two parishes and three priests. It is quite the luxury actually. As we adjust to the changes ahead, we could certainly rely on more help from volunteers. This is already an option we currently take advantage of and are grateful for. But volunteers still need to be managed and given direction. Rogue ministers, ministries, and groups are not usually healthy ingredients for a church that wants to grow. A more viable and scalable option for us is create one robust ministry team of staff. The job of the church staff is not to do the work of the ministry but to equip others for the work of the ministry.
A centralized office does not necessarily mean a physical location. Rather, I’m talking about one organizational chart with clear lines of communication and responsibilities. We currently have two organizational charts and I’m at the top of both of them. I manage, but not well.
Has The Minimum Number of Priests Required To Meet The Needs of The Regular Mass Attendees On The Weekends
Pre-Covid, between the two parishes, we had approximately 1,100 people attending Masses on the weekends. With six Masses between us, our church buildings are capable of accommodating over 3,900 people. Here’s the math. St. Joan of Arc Church can hold about 500 people and with three Masses, that equals 1,500 people. The 2019 weekend total Mass count for St. Joan of Arc was 529. St. Thomas More can hold over 800 people and with three Masses, that equals 2,400. Its 2019 total weekend Mass count was 582. Our two churches are 7 minutes apart. Both churches are also seven minutes or less away from other churches that have plenty of empty seats available. In this much more mobile society of ours, we have to do a better job of scheduling Masses according to regional needs and priest resources rather than convenience and personal preference.
A priest can say up to four Masses between Saturday evening and Sunday night. While this is permitted in this archdiocese, I do not believe four Masses a weekend is ideal for the long-term health of the priest. Throw in a few baptisms, a funeral, and a wedding and you’re going to have a grumpy, worn out priest on your hands. Add in the fact that more and more people are leaving the faith and the priest feels overworked and helpless to do anything about it. It’s a perfect blend of bad news and discouragement.
Has Priests Living in the Same Residence When Possible
We have a great group of priests serving in the Archdiocese and while we like each other, our fraternity is diminishing. Part of the allure of diocesan priesthood, at least for me, was to be part of a band of brothers on mission together. I think it’s why Jesus sent his first disciples two by two and St. Paul never traveled alone. Ideally, if we are going to recover this sense of missionary brotherhood, men will need to sacrifice the false luxury of living alone and learn to pray and break bread together again as the early Church modeled for us. I also believe seeing priests who are happy and enjoying healthy friendships with one another is key to attracting more vocations to the priesthood.
Shares the Same Mission, Has Aligned Visions, and Executes Similar Strategies for Discipleship Growth
Mission answers the question, “Why does this parish exist?” It only makes sense to have the same mission at every parish in the network since all Christian churches basically have the same mission, which we received from Jesus Christ, “Go and make disciples.”
What is vision? “In addition to mission buy-in,” Tony Morgan says in his book The Unstuck Church, “everyone needs to clearly know where they are going. That’s the vision. The vision has to be specific and measurable.” What I’m describing here in this letter is an organizational vision that will affect all the parishes in the network. We will begin articulating a pastoral vision for each parish in 2021. While each parish should have its own vision of a preferred future, those visions will need be aligned with an overall vision for the network of parishes as well as aligned with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Vision to be One Church, Encountering Jesus, Equipping Disciples, and Living Mercy.
The strategy clarifies how the mission and vision will be accomplished. Alpha, transcendent liturgies, and hospitality are examples of some strategies for growth.
Has One Name Under Which All Communications Flow, as in One Website, Email and Calendar Platform, Bulletin, etc.
Essentially, this is just naming the network or cluster of our parishes and making it easier for communications both internally and externally. This doesn’t mean creating a new corporation or dissolving our current corporations. All the parishes will remain intact but will be part of something larger than themselves – this network, which could use a name. Internally, I use the name “Midtown Catholic” to organize my folders on my computer and email. I don’t know if that’s the best name. It is geographically limited and not everyone agrees our parishes are located in midtown. “Resurrection” is another name that gets thrown around a bit. Believe it or not, there are no Catholic parishes in our archdiocese named Resurrection. This name could possibly signify the rebirth of the parishes. I’m open to any suggestions. We’ll keep tossing ideas around in the parish councils and keep listening for your suggestions.
Let’s bring all of this to prayer. When things are out of our control for better or for worse, we have to trust God is doing something, that He’s a part of it in some and He is asking something of us in the midst of it.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Jeffrey P. Lorig