Phase IV is small -- five collaboratives, nine parishes. Deliberately making this phase a small one allows Central Ministry staff to provide the attention that beginning collaboratives need, while at the same time, continuing to support nine Phase III collaboratives who are working to finish their local pastoral plans that are due in June. And, the Pastoral Center staff is always ready, willing, and able to continue assisting Phase I and Phase II collaboratives.
Back to Phase IV. Merriam Webster defines liaison as, "one that establishes and maintains communication for mutual understanding and cooperation." Guess what? Disciples in Mission has liaisons! One of the many things that Pastoral Planning has learned since Disciples in Mission began in 2013, is that it helps if there is one contact person in each collaborative who can be the point person. The position was established for earlier phases and, as is standard procedure for us, it has been tweaked along the way. This past fall, the five people, recruited by their pastors to be the collaborative liaison, came to the Pastoral Center for an orientation meeting. Most, but not all, are part of the staff in their collaborative but liaison responsibilities are above and beyond whatever their staff position requires.
Liaisons have been asked to spread the word in their collaboratives about the series of workshops that collaborative staffs, council members, school boards, local plan writing team members, and key volunteers are counted on to attend. The workshops, open to all parishioners, can be a great help in making the transition from a maintenance to a mission mode of being. To that end, the workshop "Forming Leaders..." provides practical advice to hone the leadership skills of the participants and help staffs and councils understand the dynamics of being part of a collaborative team. The collaborative model is new and the "Forming Collaboratives..." workshop, geared mostly toward staffs and councils, deals with, among other things, the function of the separate finance councils and the nuanced function of the new collaborative pastoral council. As has been said before, all of this is built upon the pillars of evangelization and responding to the universal call to holiness topics that are treated in the Forming Disciples workshop.
All of this requires great coordination. The liaison helps enroll, communicate and follow-up with the participants from the collaborative, fields questions, and disseminates pertinent information. Having the liaison assume these tasks is an enormous help to the pastor who has so many items on his "to do" list as the collaborative starts up. Beyond communication within the collaborative, the liaison is a conduit between the collaborative and the archdiocese. If a workshop is taking place at the collaborative, the liaison arranges the setup of the space, makes sure that the heat/ air conditioning is functioning, has the audio visual equipment ready, and handles any catering needs. At times, the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) requests names or email addresses for a project; the liaison assists with this. CLI are our partners in ministry from Philadelphia who facilitate the leadership workshop, the local plan writing process, and pastor and parochial vicar training.
Currently, liaisons are busy on two fronts: encouraging workshop participation and facilitating the smooth roll-out of the Disciple Maker Index. The Disciple Maker Index (DMI) is a survey tool that allows parishioners to reflect on their spiritual growth and discipleship. The first step in preparing for the DMI was the collection of parishioners' email addresses. Liaisons managed this process, sending the addresses to CLI. The survey, which opened Monday, Feb. 6, could then be emailed directly to the parishioner's inbox. Parishioners have one month to complete the survey. For parishioners who didn't receive the DMI directly, collaboratives will publish a link to a secure website where the survey can be completed online. And, yes, it is the liaison who will make paper copies of the survey available for parishioners who prefer to take it this way. Finally, the hard-working liaison collects the completed paper surveys and sends or brings them to the Pastoral Center where the information will be recorded and added to the online results by CLI. The pastor, leadership and writing teams will receive the report for their parish when they begin the process of writing their local pastoral plans. Phases II and III found this information very helpful in determining priorities of the plan.
The liaison is often the "unsung" hero or heroine, the behind the scenes person who "establishes and maintains communication for mutual understanding and cooperation." We give thanks to these generous people.
For more information about Disciples in Mission, visit the website at www.disciplesinmission.com.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS EVANGELIZATION ASSOCIATE, OUR LADY OF GOOD VOYAGE SHRINE.