As the pastoral planning initiative Beacons of Light moves forward, Catholic Telegraph writers are meeting with its leaders, including Father Jan Schmidt, to bring you the most up-to-date and accurate information on what is happening, describe how decisions will be made and provide clear descriptions of what to expect. This article series on Beacons of Light will appear in every issue of The Catholic Telegraph. Please visit beaconsaoc.org to sign up for the free monthly Beacons Update newsletter.
“If we are to be the Church as Christ intends, we must understand that ‘status quo’ can have no place in our vocabulary.” – Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, “Letter to the Faithful Concerning Beacons of Light”
This powerful quote from Archbishop Schnurr’s July letter concerning Beacons of Light has ringing implications for our archdiocese. It also gives great insight into why Beacons of Light is happening and why it is happening now.
The process of looking at where we are, where we have been and where we are going is not new to the Beacons of Light core team. It was the first step of the journey.
In the fall of 2020, as the archdiocese prepared to celebrate its 200th anniversary, the Beacons of Light core team, under the leadership of Father Jan Schmidt, began reaching out to parishes and collecting data to understand the existing state of affairs in the parishes and parish schools of the archdiocese.
The team worked with PartnersEdge, an industry- leading consultant in data analysis and diocesan planning. Together, they collaborated with parishes to develop an understanding of the whole diocese: its population, infrastructure, births, deaths, sacraments, finances, schools and much more. From this wealth of data, they created an extensive “Current Reality Report.” The team presented this information to archdiocesan leaders throughout the summer and has made the report available to the public on the Beacons of Light website (beaconsaoc.org).
With a better understanding of the current state of the archdiocese, the Beacons of Light core team began drafting the archdiocesan pastoral plan. An important step in this process included soliciting input from archdiocesan leaders, deans, pastors and even other dioceses who have undergone pastoral planning processes in recent years. Each new step in the process was scrutinized, feedback solicited and adjustments made. The plan timeline was established and published on the Beacons of Light website.
The planning is not over. “Beacons of Light is a living, breathing process,” said Father Jan Schmidt. “A big part of this is being able to adjust the plan when necessary. We have a timeline and process in place, but we are able to change certain aspects of it at this point based on feedback.”
So what’s next? One of the most personal and impactful aspects of Beacons of Light will be released at the beginning of October: a draft of the grouping of parishes into about 60 Families of Parishes will be made available to the public for the first time. The draft will be available at beaconsaoc.org Oct. 1-20 for the faithful of the archdiocese to provide comments and feedback.
Just as our personal journey toward holiness is not over until we get to heaven, the Church’s mission is never “finished.” The Great Commission is ongoing and never completed. There will always be more souls to save, more friends and family to evangelize and new circumstances to assess and respond to. As Archbishop Schnurr so rightfully points out, the “status quo” isn’t acceptable. Our goal isn’t to maintain, but to move forward, striving for personal holiness in response to God’s mission for the Church.
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