BRAINTREE -- To better enhance communications between the Archdiocese of Boston's Braintree headquarters, the Pastoral Center, and local parishes and schools, the Office of Pastoral Planning has launched a parish liaison program.
Under the new program, a parish liaison team has been assigned to each of the archdiocese's five regions (Merrimack, North, South, Central, and West). The team will act as a local resource to parishes within each region, helping them address pastoral concerns while also serving as an additional point of connection between the parishes and the archdiocese.
Currently, each team consists of a finance and operations manager and a pastoral associate local to each region, who will retain their parish positions in addition to taking on the additional responsibilities of serving as a parish liaison team member. They will serve a two year term, and are to receive a small stipend from the archdiocese.
The teams "can help to communicate back the fact that there are issues, and they can help us look at broader issues in the parishes. Most importantly, probably, they can help us to communicate mission," said Father Paul Soper, cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of the Office of Pastoral Planning.
"We need to constantly be communicating mission, and that's done much better by a person who's there, who can be helping to support mission," he said, speaking to The Pilot March 28 with Sister Pat Boyle, CSJ.
Sister Pat, associate director of the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning, said "the two-way communication is extremely critical."
"Especially as we move forward, we want the people on the local level to be catching, so to speak, the direction that the archdiocese is moving," she said. Now that the archdiocese is halfway into Disciples of Mission, its pastoral plan to formulate parishes into collaboratives, "more understanding of that mission of evangelization is key, and it must drive (parishes') work and mission on a local level."
The teams will hold at least four meetings a year with the archdiocese that can be occasions to discuss concerns or issues and relay information. Regional finance and operations managers and regional pastoral associates will also each hold a minimum of six monthly meetings a year to share information and encourage discussion.
The creation of the parish liaison program was partially by results from a 2017 survey conducted by the Pastoral Planning Advisory Board (PPAB), which indicated that pastors of parish collaboratives felt that more communication between themselves and the archdiocese, particularly the Office of Pastoral Planning, would be beneficial. Father Soper noted that the program was also spurred by "a desire to activate local structures of leadership."
The program, though starting small, has the potential to grow, said Father Soper.
"If this structure works, there is plenty of room to engage other leadership in the parishes in faith formation, in family life, in ministry -- those sorts of roles that exist in many parishes," he said.