(Letter from Bishop Kettler) Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, For the last three years, our diocese has been engaged in a pastoral planning process to strengthen parish life and revitalize our mission as baptized members of the Body of Christ here in central Minnesota. It’s a process that builds on the dedicated work of the missionaries and immigrant settlers who first planted and nurtured the seeds of faith in our area 150 years ago. And it looks ahead to the next decades as we strive for ever-better ways to proclaim the Good News of Christ and to be wise stewards of our parish resources.
I initiated this pastoral planning process for several reasons. The landscape of our diocese is changing. The overall Catholic population of our 16-county diocese has been declining over the last 30 years, and it also has been shifting. Our rural, western counties are shrinking in population, while our eastern counties, closer to the Twin Cities, are growing. We have a growing number of Latino Catholics, many of whom need spiritual and pastoral care in Spanish.
We also have fewer priests than we once did. We project that in about a decade, we will have fewer than 60 priests under age 70 to serve our current 131 parishes. We’re working hard (and I hope you are, too) to cultivate more vocations to the priesthood, but this will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future. I don’t necessarily view these trends in a negative light, and I hope you don’t either. They simply describe the current and future realities that we must address together. Our Church has faced many similar challenges — and certainly more severe ones — during its 2,000-year history. This pastoral planning challenge, in fact, presents us with opportunities to revitalize our faith, make our parishes more vibrant, and strengthen the Church for its mission for many, many years to come. I have said many times in meetings over the last few years that I didn’t initiate this pastoral planning process simply because we have fewer priests. All of the changes I noted above require us to think about “being Church” in a new way — one in which we rethink our traditional territorial parish structure so that we can be more effective in forming and sustaining disciples given these new realities. The goal of our process is to maintain a Catholic presence in all areas of our diocese. This includes ensuring that people have access to the Sunday Eucharist — the source and summit of our faith — within a reasonable distance from their homes. At this time, no churches are closing as a result of this process.
So, what does the way forward look like? Every parish in the Diocese of St. Cloud will be part of an Area Catholic Community comprised of two or more parishes in a given region. There will be29 ACCs spread throughout the diocese. These ACCs will be different than the “clustering” arrangements many of our parishes are currently a part of. Clustered parishes negotiate Mass times and shared bulletins but often think of themselves as independent from one another.
As part of an ACC, however, parishes will be called to new levels of collaboration and resource-sharing. Pastors will work closely with lay staff, deacons, volunteers and all the baptized from the ACC’s parishes to meet the area’s spiritual and pastoral needs. Our diocesan planning office and planning council will offer guidelines and suggestions for how ACCs might approach this, but in many ways the ACCs will only be limited by their own creativity. For example, a parish with a vibrant faith formation program or growing social concerns committee might offer this gift to the other parishes of the ACC. Parishes might come together to pay a just and living wage for a shared business manager.
Collaboration, not competition, is the key to the success of this process. Every person serving in a leadership position will need strong, ongoing formation appropriate to her or his role. One recent example of this is the lay leadership formation program in which our Latino brothers and sisters are currently enrolled. The program, which has about 50 people, is run in collaboration with the Institute of Pastoral Leadership at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is preparing future leaders not only for our Latino community, but for our whole diocese.
Everyone has a role in this venture. I am reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Every person in our diocese — from pastors to every person in the pews — has a part in helping to build strong faith communities that nurture discipleship. This plan has been finalized after much consultation with our pastors, the planning council and lay leaders, many of whom attended regional and parish meetings about the best way to move forward. I believe this approach will make our parishes stronger and more vibrant; in turn, this makes the Church beyond our parishes stronger and more vibrant. It helps us become a church focused on the mission of Christ, not simply maintenance.
If you haven’t already, you will be hearing more about this pastoral planning process from your pastor and parish. One of the next steps is for each ACC to form a planning council with members commissioned by the pastors of the ACC’s individual parishes. Formation days are planned in April and May for ACC council members to learn more about the vision for moving forward. If you have any questions, I invite you to contact your pastor or Brenda Kresky, our diocese’s director of pastoral planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 320-529-4611.
May the Holy Spirit bless our efforts to renew our mission to be Christ’s heart of mercy, voice of hope and hands of justice, now and far into the future. Sincerely yours in Christ, +Donald J. Kettler Bishop of Saint Cloud
To Learn More about the St. Cloud Diocese Area Catholic Community Planning... click hereplanning.stcdio.org/
Area Catholic Community Planning Council Our Area Catholic Community (ACC) Planning Council had its first meeting on Thursday, April 25th. Each ACC is asked to form a planning council to brainstorm together about how we can evangelize, strengthen our discipleship, and help build up the Kingdom of God in our midst. We are blessed with four vibrant parishes; St. Benedict (SB), Seven Dolors (SD), St. Martin (SM), and St. Anthony (SA). Along with St. Catherine’s Oratory (SC), Mother of Mercy Senior Living (MoM), and the vibrant Holy Family School (HFS). The ACC Planning Council is a liaison to our parish pastoral councils, as such it serves an essential role in keeping us all connected and working together. Optimism and excitement are evident as we build close relations and welcome one another into our respective families. Please continue to pray for a good spirit of cooperation and be looking for updates. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8th at 7pm.
The members of yourACC are: Jim Rehkamp (SA), Joe Adrian (SA), Lisa Jensen (SA) Charlene Lahr (SB), Curt Thelen (SB), Michelle Friedrichs (SB) Mary Jo Schlick (SM), Bob Kalthoff (SM), Karen Pundsack (SM & SC) Toni Hudock (SD,) Rod Gerads (SD), Sheela Arceneau (SD) Mark Knapp (MoM) and Maria Becker (HFS) Ex Officio Members: Fr Edward Vebelun, OSB, Fr Julius Beckermann, OSB, Fr Greg Miller, OSB and Rhonda Dingmann Diocese Representative: Brenda Kresky
Area Catholic Community Planning Council The 3rd Area Catholic Community (ACC) Planning Council met on Wednesday, May 22nd. Each parish brought a list of their strengths, needs and opportunities for improvement within the “7 Elements of a Vibrant Parish (ACC)”. During the next several meetings there will be open discussions on each of the elements, which are: WORD, WORSHIP, COMMUNITY, SERVICE, LEADERSHIP, STEWARDSHIP and EVANGELIZATION.
This week’s discussion focused on WORSHIP and seeking possible shared celebrations as opportunities to worship together. Our Faith Formation Leaders continue to seek ways for collaboration, and Bulletin Editors hope to have bulletins combined by January 1st of 2020.
The final topic of discussion was focused on finding a common identity for our Area Catholic Community. There were two suggestions brought to the table: -AAAMC Catholic Community (acronym; St Anthony, Albany, Avon, St Martin and St Catherine). -Pax Christi Catholic Community (Latin for The Peace of Christ: a core Benedictine Value which represents all of our Benedictine Parishes).
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 13th at 7PM.
Area Catholic Community Planning Council The Planning Council Met Thursday, June 13 and discussion focused on COMMUNITY and how we can build relationships within our catholic community, such as:
Cross promotion and support of each parish’s events – reach out with a personal invitation when possible
Welcoming New Members – once we have welcomed 15 new members, we will combine our directories
Bring our Pastoral Councils together – plans are underway to schedule a joint meeting by this fall
Create a common identity and name
While all parishes will keep their current, individual identities, let’s work together to create one which represents each of the parishes and our combined uniqueness.
Do you have any ideas or suggestions for a Name for our Area Catholic Community? We would love to hear them! Submit your suggestions before August 5 in the marked drop box near your church entrance. The individual who submits the chosen Area Catholic Community Name will win $100! In addition to having your name and phone number listed, the new Area Catholic Community name will need to meet three (3) criteria: 1) Be Distinctive of our community ; 2) Religious Significance 3) Creative.
NOTE: The Area Catholic Community does not meet the identity of all, so we are going to have a contest to find a name that resonates with each of the communities. The parishes in the Community are St. Anthony of St. Anthony; St. Benedict of Avon; Seven Dolors of Albany; St. Martin of St. Martin, including the Oratory of St. Catherine in Farming. Be creative and HAVE FUN! Not only do you win $100, but you will have bragging rights to the name of the community, which is a huge deal!