Faith Alive process continues
Consulting firm seeks response to recommendations
By Heather Chrudimsky
To read the complete report from The Reid Group and to comment on it by e-mail go to the diocesan website, www.gbdioc.org, and click on the Faith Alive icon.
from Oct. 20, 2006 issue:
Editorial -- Take time to comment on Faith Alive
Still time to comment on the proposal
from Sept. 22, 2006 issue:
Faith Alive taps support for working together
Listening sessions show that parish leaders want to work
together on schools, ministry
from Sept. 15, 2006 issue:
Faith Alive calls for more education, ministry collaboration
Green Bay parishes and schools would work together more
Sidebar: Faith Alive Feedback
Sidebar: Parishes in the Faith Alive Project
from Mar. 17, 2006 issue:
Cooperation plan work begins
Parishes, schools, diocesan agencies join in the effort
from Feb. 3, 2006 issue:
Life after GRACE: Work starts soon
Work will begin on finding ways to cooperate on efforts
Sidebar: Bishop outlines future actions
Positive reaction greets decision
Bishop heartened by the sheer number who got
involved in discussion
from Jan. 27, 2006 issue (article posted 1/30/2006):
Unified Green Bay school system plan delayed
No schools to close for 2006-07 unless parishes ask
from Jan. 6, 2006 issue:
GRACE comments from individuals, parishes compiled
Process continues this week
from Dec. 9, 2005 issue:
Bridging the Gap by Bishop David Zubik --
Bridging the Gap: G-R-A-C-E
This is a time for exploration and for collaboration
from Nov. 25, 2005 issue:
Plan released for unified Green Bay system
Proposal would close three schools, consolidate two
and form one K-8 school system
Sidebar: Green Bay school proposal
Sidebar: Schedule for action
from Nov. 4, 2005 issue:
Release delayed on school planning report
Proposal for consolidating the Green Bay area schools
into a system due after Thanksgiving
from Sept. 2, 2005 issue:
GRACE subcommittees form
Proposed plan for a unified Green Bay Catholic school
system continues to advance
from July 8, 2005 issue:
Unified Green Bay Catholic school system under study
No decisions have been made
from June 24, 2005 issue:
Groups ponder schools' future
Proposal considers ways to guarantee the financial
solvency of Catholic schools
Over the past several months, diocesan leaders and The Reid Group consultants working on the Faith Alive project have made it clear that comments from parish leadership and parishioners were crucial in making the process work.
That's why The Reid Group, a Seattle-based consulting firm hired by the diocese to head up the Faith Alive project for collaboration in Green Bay schools, religious education and parish ministries, has extended the feedback deadline by two weeks - until Oct. 31.
John Reid said they have received some feedback through the Green Bay Diocese's website - where the full recommendation is posted for review - but they would love to see more.
"As consultants we have made our preliminary recommendations, now we are interested in gathering comments from those involved," Reid said.
Maureen Gallagher, also a consultant with The Reid Group, said strong collaborative Catholic Day Schools come into existence when pastors, principals and parents work together and continually ask questions to further enhance the plan's effectiveness.
Last week, Reid Group consultants were in Green Bay meeting with pastors, pastoral ministers, principals, religious educators and youth ministers, plus evening sessions for parish representatives, to gather information on the strengths and weaknesses of the preliminary recommendations released last month and suggestions for changes.
Our Lady of Lourdes principal Sue Sands attended the principals' meeting last week and said the preliminary recommendations are a good starting point.
"Some areas need more work and some are pretty well addressed as they are written," Sands said.
Sands said she is excited about the future of Catholic education in the Green Bay area.
"Change is difficult for people, but I feel that we need to make every effort to work together in order to offer the families in the area the opportunity to have a quality, well-rounded education for their children based on our Catholic identity as well as strong academics. I am also encouraged to have all parishes participate in this for schools as well as religious education programs, youth ministry opportunities and adult faith formation."
The evening listening sessions for parish leaders were at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Bernard and St. Francis Xavier in De Pere.
Fr. Dave Pleier, pastor of St. Bernard Parish on the east side of Green Bay, said the sessions allowed leaders from clustered or neighboring parishes to get together and respond to Faith Alive.
"I liked the progression of the meetings - from specified area ministries to a more broad-based parish representation," Fr. Pleier said.
Reid said the informal, yet carefully orchestrated sessions were well attended and very constructive.
Becky Kaye, president of the Holy Cross Parish, Bay Settlement, Board of Christian Education, has two children - one of whom attends Catholic school.
Kaye said she was a bit skeptical at first of the listening session, not knowing if the concerns would be acknowledged, but said after reviewing the Faith Alive preliminary report on the diocesan website, she was pleased to see that suggestions from the listening sessions were discussed and considered.
"Everyone had a chance to meet in small groups and come up with things we liked about the report and things we had concerns about and write them down," Kaye said. "Based on the last meeting, I am confident that this information will be reviewed carefully."
Kaye said they had a chance to answer questions and The Reid Group gave them a phone number where they can leave a voice mail with their feedback.
"I really feel like we are on the right track," Kaye said. "I feel the process has been thoughtful and timely. I appreciate the listening sessions. They are led well and they do a great job at explaining the thought process behind the recommendations and addressing concerns honestly and openly."
Fr. Pleier said he "was very impressed with the candor, passion and enthusiasm of all those gathered for not only the continuation of Catholic education in our area, but for its growth. I have no doubts that we can best achieve our goals by working together rather than in competition with one another."
Kaye said the three primary concerns she gathered from comments and concerns brought up at the meeting were: the plan focuses only on day schools; how can a parish/school keep its autonomy and personality; and the cost-based tuition structure recommended.
Reid stressed that the preliminary Faith Alive recommendations go beyond day schools to support all parish ministries, including adult faith formation, Catholic day schools, prayer and worship, religious education for children, vital outreach, pastoral care, evangelization and stewardship.
"Bp. David Zubik has continued to stress that Faith Alive is meant to strength all church ministries - first we create vital parishes and therefore create vital Catholic day schools," Reid said.
"I think they (The Reid Group) made a pretty good case for how it does not (focus just on day school," Kaye said.
After hearing the thought process behind a cost based tuition model though, Kaye said she still feels it will deter too many from getting a Catholic education and will delay the return of young families to the church.
Looking back, Kaye said that had the tuition been higher, even with the cost-based tuition process, when she was deciding whether to send her child to Holy Cross she might have sent her child elsewhere. Which is why she believes the cost-based tuition may discourage parents from sending their children to Catholic day schools.
"I understand the need to have the church spend its funds on a number of things," Kaye said. "I understand we need to limit the percentage that goes to Catholic day schools, but I think we need to remember that the schools are likely bringing many families back to their faith and the young families and their children are the future of the Catholic Church."
Reid said that if his firm's final recommendations, which are scheduled to be given to the diocese on Nov. 17, are adopted, he doesn't foresee the system in place until July 2007. He anticipates a five-year implementation plan, including a tuition formula change over three years, and a parish subsidy implementation over five years.
"This is a process," Reid said. "If our recommendations are accepted, tuition for the 2007-2008 will be set by pastors and principals of each particular parish, mindful of the process."
Reid said the final recommendations will include much more specific details.
"I look forward to a gradual evolution and eventual embrace of a unified system in the metro Green Bay area," Fr. Pleier said.