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The promise of the new Pastoral Center

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When I scheduled my 2008 retreat more than a year ago, little did I know then how poignant and timely the theme of the retreat -- Transitions, Times of Hope -- would become.

Last month, as I began the prayers and reflections of the retreat, I found the central administration of the archdiocese and myself on the verge of a major transition. To be frank, my thoughts and experience were more of transitions as a time of challenge, and, for many, a time of anxiety, rather than as a time of hope. But as Bishop Arthur Serratelli led us through the Book of Samuel, he helped the priests on retreat to more deeply understand and appreciate the reality that God’s people always face great challenges, but if we focus on God’s presence with us, then, now and in the future, we can face transitions with hope, gratitude and courage.

At the end of June, the transition I am referring to will happen. The central administration of the Archdiocese of Boston will make the move to our new Pastoral Center in Braintree. As sad as we will be to leave the Brighton property, which represents so much of our heritage, we are hopeful of the promise of the future, and we are trusting in God’s providence. Our prayer is that this move be, not simply a relocation, but the dawn of a new day, as we realign our resources to meet the needs of the 21st century.

This new day begins with a change in the name of our work location. The central administration office in Brighton was known as the chancery because it was where the administrative tasks of the archdiocese took place. While effective administration is critical to our success, it is a means to an end, not the end itself. Our reason for existence is our pastoral work, the saving ministry of Christ. With this move, and by naming our new location the Pastoral Center, we emphasize our commitment to serve and guide, in providing spiritual and pastoral care.

Housing our offices and ministries (now scattered in a half a dozen locations) under one roof will allow us to be better coordinated and to serve the archdiocese in an enhanced way. We are at an important time of transition. The model of ministry we have become accustomed to, which depended on the assignment of several priests per parish, will no longer serve us. Today’s model demands that we be more strategic. We must use tools, such as pastoral planning, to help clergy, religious and laity strengthen parish life. We must enhance faith-formation opportunities for all ages. We must provide first-rate clergy-support services while encouraging lay leadership. Our reorganization, which is a large part of this transition, emphasizes these priorities, for example, in the creation of two new secretariats: 1) Parish Life and Leadership and 2) Faith Formation and Evangelization.

Accomplishing our mission requires that we be good stewards of our financial resources. The sale of the Brighton property to Boston College helps us tackle a substantial financial debt and contributes to our ability to maintain fiscal responsibility.

As with any change, there are sacrifices. I know that many employees and visitors face longer commutes to Braintree and that leaving the Brighton campus will be difficult for many. I have spent 13 years of my life on the Brighton campus. Like many colleagues, I will miss the beauty of the campus, and I will cherish the memories of what has been accomplished for Christ and his Church by all those who have served so faithfully through the years. Those who work and minister in Brighton brought the Church in Boston through the darkest chapter in our history, and they did so with grace and courage. From these sacrifices, past, present and future, comes great opportunity -- to better serve our parishes, schools, hospitals, cemeteries and our social and pastoral agencies; to energize the faithful; to pass on the faith to the generations that come after us.

God gives us what we need to continue his ministry. We take courage in the assurances of Samuel: God will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones (1 Sam 2:9). As we open the doors of the Pastoral Center on June 30, we pray for the wisdom to use those resources wisely, the courage to approach the dawn of this new day with love and hope, and the guidance to fulfill the promise of the Pastoral Center.

Father Richard M. Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston

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