A: I hope that we will never have to close more parishes. This proposal doesn't change the reality that there may be a parish someday that might need to close. Remember that a parish is responsible for its own financial obligations and has the benefit of its own financial assets. If a parish cannot support itself financially, the hope is that in a collaborative model it might more be able to do so, through sharing of staff resources, but more importantly through evangelization, being more effective and bringing people back to the community. When people come, there is more money in the community. Money follows leadership; parishes that have strong staffs that can help them, maybe they'll have more resources, maybe more people will come.
But of course maybe they won't, in a particular case. Of course, hopefully broadly they will, but if they don't, they don't. Then a parish may need to close; that's no different than it ever was. But the closing of parishes is neither the hope nor the goal of this plan. This plan is to try to avoid doing that, and we don't use the mechanism of closing parishes as the way of achieving the goal of the plan.
The mechanism of this plan is not changing parishes but changing the way that parishes are served and leaving the other aspects of the parishes intact, its buildings, its canonical reality, its right to exist, its financial assets, its financial obligations.
Q: What is the role of the pastor within the pastoral team?
A: The role of the pastor is defined canonically, and even if we had been inclined to change it, we can't! We have no capacity or inclination to change that.
The pastor will have all of the same autonomy that he had and all the same responsibilities he had. The pastor remains the critical player. One of the things that we heard very strongly from the consultation is that the assignment of the right pastor is critical to the functioning of the collaborative.
That being said, we want to support the pastor in the best way we can. We want to make sure he is supported with a strong team with whom he would wisely work very collaboratively, being able to delegate significant responsibilities to the members of that team. That in no way removes him from his final responsibility; but if a pastor has three parishes that he has to care for pastorally, that is all the more reason why he has to have a good administration team in place to deal with administrative things, all the more reason why he has to have good pastoral people on his team in order to help him take care of the pastoral needs of his multiple parishes.
One of the strong things about this plan is that it assigns to the multiple parishes, not just the pastor but the whole team and the councils as well, so that the pastor can work together with his one pastoral team and the councils at the parishes toward the one mission of the collaborative. He doesn't have to deal with 3 different staffs and 3 different councils, but rather it brings the whole of the team together into one team to work with the one pastor for the one mission.
Q: Can you explain to our readers what they might expect to see say, within the next 5 years?
A: First of all, we need to understand that all of this is dependent on whether the cardinal accepts this proposal.
If the cardinal accepts the proposal, what the proposal says is that sometime in the middle of 2013, we would establish the first 10 collaboratives; we would call this Phase 1 and they would be spread out, two in each of the five regions of the diocese. We would work closely with each of those collaboratives over the course of the following year in order to learn a lot from what their experience has been.
In the meantime, we would be trying to prepare more collaboratives to come on so that a significant number of collaboratives would begin in Phase 2; maybe something like 40 collaboratives would come on in the summer of 2014. That phase would probably last for two years. Then maybe in the summer of 2016 another significant number would come on, maybe 40. And then again, perhaps in the summer of 2017 or even as late as the summer of 2018, the rest.
So it's spread out, from the time the first collaborative comes on to the time of the last it could be as much as 5 years; but the whole thing, from the beginning of the training to the end of the last step is more like 7 years. There are collaboratives that are already expressing an interest in being in Phase 1 and we expect that there will be plenty more that will express an interest over the course of the next months. So we are not going to push anyone into Phase 1; we probably won't have to push anyone into Phase 2 either. By Phase 3 we may have to be working harder with some of the collaboratives to help them to be ready to come into Phase 3 and 4.
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