Peter Garcia

Peter Garcia

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This article is the second in a series covering each of the six foundational principles of Beacons of Light, the pastoral planning process of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“Let us be witnesses. Let us radiate Christ.” With these words, Archbishop Schnurr challenged the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Catholic faithful to embrace the call to make Christ present in the world.

In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis proposes a vision of the local parish as a “center of constant missionary outreach.” The Beacons of Light pastoral planning process gives each parish an opportunity to embrace this vision.

What does it mean for a parish to be a center for missionary outreach?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “center” with multiple meanings. One is “a facility providing a place for a particular activity or service.” We might visualize a healthy parish this way, imagining a church campus bustling with activity every day of the week; a one stop location for all spiritual and communal needs. However, an evangelizing parish is much more than that.

This alternative definition is a better consideration: “A source from which something originates.” Viewed through this lens, the Church, primarily in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, is the origin of missionary activity that radiates outward to all the world. Pope Benedict XVI uses nuclear fission to illustrate the connection between the Eucharist and mission, in that each time we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, He sets off a transformation in us that cannot be contained, but radiates outward. It transforms the world around us as we become more empowered to be witnesses for the Gospel and heroically love our neighbors.

To truly radiate Christ to the world, Families of Parishes must first have missionary initiative toward each person in their parish boundaries. In his Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis expresses great hope in the parish institution because of its potential to be flexible, adaptive and creative with evangelizing efforts. It must choose “a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (Joy of the Gospel, 27).

Beacons of Light affords precisely this opportunity for each Family of Parishes to “transform everything” by striving for these six goals: 

  1. Missionary Discipleship: The Family of Parishes will implement a simple and clear evangelization process that ultimately equips and commissions missionary disciples, in every stage of their lives, for personal apostolates and vocations.
  2. Grounded in Discernment: The pastor, staff and lay leaders prioritize prayer, formation and discernment, both for themselves and the faithful,  so that they allow the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide their evangelization efforts.
  3. Family Partnership: Because the family is the primary place of evangelization for young people and parents are the primary educators of their children, families are well-supported by the parish.
  4. Prioritize Adult Formation: Priority for forming the faithful in evangelization and catechesis is directed toward adults, who can share that knowledge with others and use it in forming their children’s faith at home.
  5. Effective Schools: As an essential parish ministry, the parish school fulfills its purpose to be an “effective vehicle of total Christian formation” for young people and their parents.
  6. A Culture of Vocation: Families of Parishes will prepare individuals to discern and embrace their vocations by helping them recognize and respond to God’s unique call for their lives.

By embracing these six goals, Families of Parishes will become vibrant centers for missionary outreach and true beacons of light.

By Melanie Speicher, article originally published in Sidney Daily News . View original article here.

Family is taking on a new meaning for Catholic congregations of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

According to Jennifer Schack, director of media relations for the archdiocese, a comprehensive pastoral planning process is underway through the Beacon of Light. The plan calls for the establishment of Families of Parishes to be formed thoughout the 19 counties in the archdiocese.

Schack said comments about the Families of Parishes will be accepted until Wednesday. The goal is to finalize the draft which is being created and to announce which churches will be in each Families of Parishes in late November.

The planning and implementation within each Families of Parishes, under the leadership of each pastor, will unfold over the next several years.

“In February/March we’ll announce the priest assignments,” she said. “In July 2022, it will go into effect.

“There will be 60 Families of Parishes for the entire 19 counties of the archdiocese,” she continued. “There are 109 pastors today. In July there will be 60 pastors.”

Some of the decrease in the number of pastors can be attributed to retirements, she shared.

“As the pastors move into retirement, the young are not going to become pastors. The number of pastors is going to be down significantly over the next few years,” said Schack.

And now is the time to continue bringing the congregations into one parish through the new program.

“The goal of the Families of Parishes is that they (churches) will come together for one mass schedule. There will be one parish council serving one community. We’ve been working toward this for a number of years.

“It will be up to each parish to support the pastors to lead them to one parish.”

Each Families of Parishes will be led by a common m pastor and share resources available in each church.

Schack said the Families of Parishes will be sustainable for decades to come. The archdiocese is hoping that churches will be filled during the weekly/daily masses.

From 2010 to 2019, sacramental practice (including baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings) in the archdiocese declined by 23%.

The first phase of Beacons of Light involved gathering and analyzing parish demographic, sacramental, financial, and school data and trends. In addition, priest availability was analyzed and projected.

The Beacons of Light is 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.

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. A parish can be made up of a single church or multiple churches.

“It will take time for everyone in each Family of Parishes to work together,” said Schack. One of the expectations is for the parish to move to holding one large festival instead of one per church. Smaller events, such as an ice cream social, could still be held at each church.

“The Family of Parishes will make that decision for their group, ” she said

Schack said they have received more than 4,000 comments about the Beacons of Light and Families of Parishes. Each comment has been read and recorded for review.

Shelby, Auglaize, Darke and Miami counties are all part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Melanie Speicher

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