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This is the definitive collection of videos, articles and other information regarding Beacons of Light. Check back regularly for new updates as they become available.

Articles

Videos

Glossary

Baptism

Beacons of Light

Beacons of Light Guiding Principles

Bishop / Archbishop

Body of Christ

Canon Law

Church/church

Deacon

Diocese/Archdiocese

Discernment

Eucharist

Evangelization

Family of God

Family of Parishes

From Maintenance to Mission

Infrastructure

Liturgy

Lumen Gentium (“The Light of the Nations”)

Missionary Disciples

Mystical Body of Christ

Parish

Parish Leaders

Parochial Vicar

Paschal Mystery

Pastor

Pastoral Planning

Pastoral Planning Pathway

Planning Parameters

Subsidiarity

Synodality

Triune God

Universal Church

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Beacons of Light?

Beacons of Light is a process of comprehensive pastoral planning for our third century of faith in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The overall plan for Families of Parishes across the archdiocese will be completed by the end of 2021. The planning and implementation within each Family of Parishes, under the leadership of each pastor, will unfold over the next several years.

What is a Family of Parishes?

A Family of Parishes is a grouping of parishes led by a common pastor and characterized by collaboration and shared resources. A parochial vicar (or multiple parochial vicars) or retired priest may also serve a Family of Parishes.

Why is Beacons of Light happening now?

We have a responsibility to make the best use of all the means which God has provided us to pursue the sacred mission of the Church. To do this, parishes need to be vibrant, evangelizing communities that continuously draw parishioners and attract new members into a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, this is too often not the case because:

  • Religious practice has been declining in both the United States and in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. From 2010 to 2019, sacramental practice (including baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings) in the archdiocese declined by 23%.
  • Our current infrastructure and schedules were built for a different era. In many cases, our church buildings are grossly underutilized. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the average Sunday Mass is about one-third full.
  • Our resources are largely consumed by efforts to maintain the status quo and are spread too thin to be truly effective. In particular, our priests are stretched to the limit, and we will have fewer priests who can serve as pastors over the coming years. The number of archdiocesan priests available for assignment is projected to decline by approximately 20% over the next five years.

After careful consideration of these factors, along with input from the priests of the archdiocese, it has been determined that this is the time to act, recognizing that the status quo is no longer an option.

What is the timeline for Beacons of Light?

Fall 2020: Beacons of Light project launch announced. Data gathering from parishes and schools begins.

Winter 2020/21: Six principles of Beacons of Light are established. Design of parish planning process (including vision points and parameters) begins.

Spring 2021: Parish and school data is analyzed. Current reality is assessed.

Summer 2021: Families of Parishes modeling begins. Draft of parish planning process is completed.

Fall 2021: Draft models of Families of Parishes are published for comment. Parish planning process (including vision points and parameters) is finalized.

Winter 2021/22: Families of Parishes are finalized and announced.

Spring 2022: Pastors and parish leaders begin preparing for the parish planning process.

Summer 2022: Families of Parishes implementation begins. Each Family starts its parish planning process.

How is the archdiocese forming Families of Parishes?

The draft was created based on a comprehensive analysis of data and review by teams comprised of priests, Pastoral Center and Catholic Schools Office staff, and Archbishop Schnurr. Data was collected from the parishes and schools of the archdiocese, spanning the past 5 to 10 years on average but excluding the COVID-19 year of 2020. This data was augmented with demographic data provided by a consulting firm hired to assist with this initiative, and balanced against the pastoral considerations that affect life in our various communities. The data set includes:

  • Number of weekend Masses, including non-English Masses
  • Church seating capacity and Mass attendance records
  • Parish sacramental, faith formation and funeral records
  • Catholic households, both registered and unregistered 
  • Catholic school enrollment, student counts by grade and demographics
  • Parish and school finances
  • Projected number of priests available for assignment over the next 10 years
  • Chaplaincies such as hospital, prison, etc.
  • U.S. Census data and demographic trends including percent Catholic, age and ethnicity

How is Beacons of Light different from previous planning processes?

The previous planning processes resulted in “clusters” or “regions” of free-standing parishes under a common pastor. Beacons of Light intends to go further by supporting each newly formed Family of Parishes in becoming a fully integrated community of faith with the expectation of becoming, over time, one canonical parish.

Will churches close as a result of Beacons of Light?

Each Family of Parishes will begin by bringing parish staff and pastoral councils together. The pastor, staff and councils will discern Sunday Mass schedules and locations. The pastor and lay leaders will develop a plan for parish programs and activities with a long-term goal of becoming one community of faith. The disposition of all parish assets, including church buildings, will be decided within each Family of Parishes based on particular circumstances and opportunities. The expectation is that, over time, a Family of Parishes will become one canonical parish. With that expectation in mind, it is important to remember that a parish can be made up of a single church or multiple churches.

Is Beacons of Light led “top down” or “bottom up”?

The initial phase of Beacons of Light – the analysis of data and formation of Families of Parishes – is necessarily led from the “top down.” The subsequent phase – the planning for the future of each Family of Parishes – will be done at the local level by the pastor in collaboration with his staff and Family leaders.

What is the difference between a pastoral region and a Family of Parishes?

Many of the 210 parishes in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have been grouped together in pastoral regions since the early 2000’s. Pastoral regions have been led by a single pastor or, at times, multiple pastors have led parishes within a region with a plan to transition to a single pastor over time. While the original plans for pastoral regions did include occasional elements of unified ministry and parish life, the reality is that in most pastoral regions each parish has remained autonomous and there has been little collaboration between parishes. As one pastor noted at a meeting,  "the only thing my parishes have in common is me."

The plan for Families of Parishes is different. The parishes in the Family will have a common pastor and will be characterized by collaboration and shared resources. A parochial vicar (or multiple parochial vicars) or retired priest may also serve a Family of Parishes.

How are lay people involved in Beacons of Light?

There are two ways in the near term for every member of the archdiocese to be involved in Beacons of Light. The first is by praying for the success of the Beacons of Light pastoral planning process. The second is by staying informed about Beacons of Light, including participating in the public comment period concerning the Families of Parishes draft. All the faithful are encouraged to offer their feedback about the draft during the October 1-20 public comment period.

After the formation of the Families of Parishes, in July 2022, there will be more ways for people to be involved within their Family of Parishes under the leadership of their pastor.

When will the Families of Parishes be finalized and announced?

After Oct. 20, the conclusion of the public comment period, all of the input provided by priests, deacons, school leaders and lay faithful will be considered in order to finalize the Families of Parishes. Once finalized the recommended Families of Parishes will then be presented to Archbishop Schnurr by those who have guided the Beacons of Light process. The final recommendation will be the product of more than eight months of consultative work and numerous iterations. Upon the approval of the Families of Parishes the plan will be announced. The announcement is expected by the end of November.

Baptism

The first of the seven sacraments and the “door” which gives access to the other sacraments. Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist constitute the “sacraments of initiation” by which a believer receives the remission of original and personal sin, begins a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and is incorporated into the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Beacons of Light

A program of comprehensive pastoral planning for our third century of faith in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The overall plan for Families of Parishes across the archdiocese will be completed by the end of 2021. The planning and implementation within each Family of Parishes, under the leadership of each pastor, will unfold over the next several years.

Beacons of Light Guiding Principles

Six principles that have been discerned by the Beacons of Light leaders and approved by Archbishop Schnurr that will be the foundation of the pastoral plan each Family of Parishes will develop for itself. These principals are Eucharist, Church, Leadership, Stewardship, Evangelization, and Love in Action.

Bishop / Archbishop

A successor of the Apostles who has received the fullness of Christ’s priesthood. The bishop is the proper shepherd of the diocese entrusted to him under the authority of the Holy Father. An archbishop is the bishop of an archdiocese. “The diocesan bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him with legislative, executive and judicial power, in accordance with the law.” (Code of Canon Law, c. 391 §1)

Body of Christ

The human body which the Son of God assumed through His conception in the womb of Mary and which now is glorified in heaven. This same body and blood, together with soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ are really and truly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Canon Law

The laws (“canons”) which provide the norms for good order in the visible society of the Catholic Church. In addition to the laws contained in the Code of Canon Law, other laws issued by the Apostolic See and the laws particular to each diocese make up the entirety of the Church’s canon law.

Church/church

“Church,” when capitalized, refers to the Catholic Church, the faithful of the whole world united under the guidance and authority of the pope, the successor of Saint Peter. A “church” is a sacred building set aside for public worship. Each parish has at least one church. Each church has a title which cannot be changed after its consecration.

Deacon

A deacon is a man ordained for service in the Church’s ministry of charity. Deacons receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, as do priests and bishops. Deacons assist priests with various parish ministries. They are able to administer the sacrament of baptism, witness marriages and assist with both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Deacons also often assist with parish administration, catechesis and other duties. A permanent deacon may be married or single and is not a candidate for the priesthood. A transitional deacon is a man in formation for the priesthood, for whom the diaconate is a final stage before priestly ordination.

Diocese/Archdiocese

Also known as a “particular Church” or “local Church,” a diocese is a portion of the people of God, a specific community within the Catholic Church which is defined by geographical boundaries and typically entrusted to a bishop who serves as shepherd of this portion of Christ’s flock. An archdiocese is the major diocese within a province (which is a grouping of dioceses) and is led by an archbishop.

Discernment

The process of searching for a solution or making a decision that is in accord with God’s will through prayer and reflection. Prayerful discernment frees the mind and spirit from vested interests and distractions.

Eucharist

The principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The Mass renews the paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church. The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. The Holy Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments of the Church and completes Christian initiation.

Evangelization

Fulfilling Christ’s instruction to share the Good News and make disciples through our words and actions. “The evangelizing efforts of the baptized are not simply focused on those who have not heard of Christ. They are also directed toward our brothers and sisters who no longer join us around the Lord’s table. Furthermore, the baptized disciple of Christ is also continually evangelized through ongoing renewal of faith and living out that same faith.” (Living as Missionary Disciples, p. 6)

Family of God

A way of understanding the Church as the communion of all the faithful, united by virtue of their baptism and organized around the distinct characteristics of prayer, Eucharist and companionship.

Family of Parishes

A grouping of parishes led by a common pastor and characterized by collaboration and shared resources. A parochial vicar (or multiple parochial vicars) or retired priest may also serve a Family of Parishes.

From Maintenance to Mission

Focusing the attention, resources, and activity of parishes and parish schools on the mission given us by Jesus Christ: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). This will require Families of Parishes to find ways to minimize the amount of time, energy and money currently consumed by temporal demands.

Infrastructure

The collective physical structures and property in our archdiocese – church buildings, school buildings, office buildings, rectories and real estate, including parking lots, grounds, etc.

Liturgy

In its original meaning, a “public work” or service done in the name of or on behalf of the people. Through the liturgy Christ our high Priest continues the work of our redemption through the Church’s celebration of the paschal mystery by which he accomplished our salvation. The liturgy unfolds through the official public prayer of the Church (e.g. the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, the celebration of the sacraments).

Lumen Gentium (“The Light of the Nations”)

One of the principle documents of the Second Vatican Council, known as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Lumen Gentium has two purposes: to explain the Church’s nature as “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men” and to clarify the Church’s universal mission as the sacramental means of human salvation.

Missionary Disciples

Individuals who follow Jesus Christ in and through His Church, striving to share the Gospel message and draw others into a more intimate relationship with Jesus.

Mystical Body of Christ

The Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ whose head is Christ and whose members are the faithful, an image of concurrent unity and diversity.

Parish

A stable community of the faithful constituted with a church or group of churches within a diocese. Its oversight and care are entrusted to a pastor as its shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop. “The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 28)

Parish Leaders

Those members of the parish faithful who collaborate with the pastor to help inform and guide the parish to best fulfill the evangelizing mission of the Church. These leaders could include parochial vicars, deacons and members of the laity (employees or volunteers), each according to their proper roles and charisms.

Parochial Vicar

A parochial vicar is a priest assigned by his (arch)bishop to a parish or Family of Parishes to assist a pastor in the care of the faithful. The Code of Canon Law defines the office as follows: “Parochial vicars are priests who render their services in pastoral ministry as co-workers with the pastor in common counsel and endeavor with him and also under his authority.” (Code of Canon Law, c. 545 §1)

Paschal Mystery

Christ’s work of redemption accomplished principally by His Passion, death, Resurrection and glorious Ascension, whereby “dying He destroyed our death, rising He restored our life.” The paschal mystery is celebrated and made present in the liturgy of the Church, and its saving effects are communicated through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which renews the paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church.

Pastor

The pastor is the proper shepherd of the parish or parishes entrusted to him under the authority of his (arch)bishop. He is an ordained priest responsible for the ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, with the cooperation of other priests or deacons in the parish and the assistance of lay members of the faithful.

Pastoral Planning

A process by which a diocese, parish or Family of Parishes evaluates its current situation and resources, prayerfully discerns God’s will for the future of that community and crafts a plan to move toward that future.

Pastoral Planning Pathway

The process, based upon the Beacons of Light Guiding Principles and consistent with the Planning Parameters, that will bring together the leaders of all parishes within each Family to create a plan specific to that Family’s unique circumstances and opportunities.

Planning Parameters

The common expectations for all Families of Parishes. These will specify those items that all Families must or must not do as they come together.

Subsidiarity

A foundational principle of the Church’s social doctrine affirming that decisions should be made at the most proximate or local level to those whom they affect. “The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1883)

Synodality

A way of living the faith in a permanent manner at every level – in the parish, in the family and at the peripheries. All members of the Church, laity in addition to clergy, are to be engaged in this way of living. Synodality describes the journeying together of the People of God toward the New and Eternal Jerusalem.

Triune God

A central doctrine of the Church, stating that there are three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – in one God. Sharing the same divine substance, the three divine Persons are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstanstial. They are due co-equal glory and adoration. This doctrine is commonly expressed as that of the Most Holy Trinity.

Universal Church

The Universal Church is the community of the Christian faithful incorporated into the life of Jesus Christ through baptism and sent out to continue His mission to the whole human race. The Church is “the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ's Body.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 752)

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