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.