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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 15, 2005 Issue 

Plans to lead parishes into the future approved

Bp. Zubik accepts and approves plans for models of the future

By Renae Bauer and Patricia Kasten

Parish Planning 2005
map showing 15 parish planning regions of Diocese of Green Bay
ABOVE: map showing the 15 parish planning regions superimposed over the counties of the Diocese of Green Bay.

Related articles in April 15
  Compass Web issue

• Additional parish planning info. on
  Diocese of Green Bay Web site

Bp. David Zubik of the Diocese of Green Bay has approved all 15 regional plans which will serve as five-year roadmaps for the Diocese's 182 parishes.

"I am pleased with the results," says Bp. Zubik. "I want to thank all of the parish leaders and diocesan staff who worked hard to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am confident that the Spirit is moving us to change. We are a changing Church and we are a growing Church."

Officially known as the Local Area Parish Planning Process, this collaborative process began in April 2004 when local parish leaders, parishioners and diocesan leaders reviewed a number of trends that will shape the future of parish life for the next five years. These trends include: changing populations, such as the growing suburbs and the growing Hispanic communities; the increasing need to collaborate with neighboring Catholic communities so that a wide-range of ministries are available to Catholics; and the decreasing number of priests and increasing number of lay leaders available to serve.

"The plan is to share resources so we are a stronger Church in the long run," says Mark Mogilka, diocesan director of Pastoral Services and Parish Planning. "For example, parishes that have been sharing resources with neighboring parishes are finding out that, by themselves, they couldn't afford a youth minister but by working with a neighboring parish they could. Together, new possibilities are emerging."

Points for parish use

To help implement the area plans, the Diocesan Planning Committee members developed six points for all parishes to use. The points are:

1. The plans are guidelines that can be modified, if needed.

2. The plans will be implemented as natural changes occur (e.g., retirement) in parishes.

3. Summaries of the plans do not replace the detailed plans developed by local planning committees. Both documents should be utilized during implementation.

4. The fruits of inter-parish collaboration should not be overlooked. Many worthwhile suggestions were developed by local area plans and are being pursued.

5. Whenever two or more parishes are linked, the equivalent of at least one full-time professional staff person should be hired to assist with the pastoral care and administration of these parishes.

6. Staff from the Diocese's Pastoral Services Department will meet with pastors and parish leaders to provide assistance in the preparation of parish communities for the implementation of these plans.

Planning for parish life with fewer priests has been an ongoing process in the Diocese since the 1970s, when the first special study to determine priest availability was conducted. Similar studies have been conducted approximately every five years since, and the Diocese intends to revisit this subject well into the future.

Determining priest availability is extremely important in making possible the continued celebration of Sunday Eucharist since this is the primary celebration for Catholics. While parish planning has been an ongoing process for more than 30 years, in the last decade, the issue of the declining number of - and increasing age of - priests became the central concern.

A major difference

While there are many similarities between the most recent planning process and the last one in 1999, there are differences.

"One difference," Mogilka said, "is that, when we did the planning process in 1999, we were projecting only one additional (priest ordination) every other year. But we have made progress in nurturing vocations. However, we're still only up to two ordinations a year."

He also noted that a new phenomenon is the number of priests continuing to serve in parish ministry beyond retirement age "is larger each year" with 17 priests over the age of 70 (priests' retirement age) currently serving as pastors. Still, Mogilka added, this service is "not enough to offset the retirements we're expecting."

Currently, 120 priests are serving 182 parishes. Mogilka said that projections show that number decreasing to 88 priests by the year 2010. In 1998, when the previous parish planning process began, there were 153 priests serving in parishes.

In contrast, the number of lay people and deacons assuming parish leadership roles has increased, both locally and nationally. The National Pastoral Life Center reported that, between 1992 and 1999, there was a 35 percent increase in lay pastoral ministers. Nationally, the U.S. Conference of Bishops' records show that 19 percent of U.S. parishes are served by a non-resident pastor. Many of these have a deacon or lay person serving as the leader of pastoral ministry.

Parish directors

Today, seven parish directors serve nine parishes in the Diocese. When the current parish planning process is fully implemented by 2010, that number is expected to increase to 15 who will serve 22 parishes.

Other changes projected by 2010 include:

• The reduction of parishes from 182 to a projected 161, of which 34 will not share a pastor with another parish;

• 36 parishes will share a pastor with one other parish;

• 54 parishes will share a pastor with two other parishes;

• 12 parishes will share a pastor with three other parishes;

• 15 parishes will share a pastor with four other parishes.

While these plans have been approved by the bishop, it is important to remember that not all changes will take place immediately. The plans will be implemented as the need arises, due to parish personnel changes. And since demographics change, the plans themselves may change. The process is adaptable as personnel and priest numbers change.

In fact, adaptation of the plans is already under way. Mogilka said several regional planning groups have chosen to continue the process, feeling that planning only until 2010 "was too narrow a vision." Therefore, three groups - Weyauwega/Waupaca, Oshkosh, and Neenah/Menasha - are continuing to meet and plan ways to share ministries and projects to 2010 and beyond.

map showing the 16 counties of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
ABOVE: map showing the 16 counties of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.

One example of taking the plans beyond 2010 projections is the Manitowoc area. The plans called for the current six parishes to be linked in pairs and be served by three priests. However, the parish members of the six parishes decided to look further down the road and merge as one large parish with several worship sites.

On July 1, St. Boniface, St. Paul, St. Mary, Holy Innocents, St. Andrew and Sacred Heart will become St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Fr. Dan Felton, currently parish administrator at St. Paul, will become the new parish's pastor.

"What's happening here," Mogilka said, "is the church is experiencing another transition, and the church has experienced many throughout its 2,000-year history. This is a clarion call to all the church, meaning all the people. The question isn't whether we'll serve but how we'll serve."

The Diocese is home to more than 376,000 Catholics. It encompasses 16 counties: Brown, Calumet, Door, Florence, Forest, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago.

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