Many walk in the first night unsure of their role and the task before them. But within a couple of sessions, I see the individuals transform into a team.
In January 2013, the Archdiocese of Boston partnered with us at Catholic Leadership Institute to implement Disciples in Mission. As a partnership, we have been engaged in leadership training across the entire archdiocese -- the archdiocesan staff, Collaborative pastors, parochial vicars, pastoral staff, finance and parish councils, and pastoral plan-writing teams. I've had the opportunity to work in each of these areas of Disciples in Mission and have seen the impact each component has had in the archdiocese. From my perspective, the most meaningful area I've supported has been the collaborative writing teams that envision and create a local pastoral plan for their collaboratives.
I've seen many parishes and dioceses go through this process. I have served on the team of Catholic Leadership Institute for eight years and have spent the majority of this time travelling across the country to support pastors, parishes, and dioceses walk through the process of creating a vision and plan. Prior to joining the CLI team, I worked in parish life as a director of faith formation and youth minister.
That is why my experience with you in the Boston collaboratives has been so meaningful. In this archdiocese, a pastor is asked to gather 10-12 people to serve on a writing team, which meets for a 12 to 18-month period. We recommend that the team includes representatives from each of the parishes in the collaborative, and more specifically, that it includes representatives from the parish council, finance council, school board, and parishioners. Each collaborative team participates in leadership and evangelization training prior to the writing process, reconvening at various points during the writing process. The teams are ultimately tasked to prayerfully discern the creation of a local pastoral plan. My role is simply to serve as the facilitator for this process, to provide direction, and to keep the teams on track. Archdiocesan staff provide ongoing support to the collaborative across all areas of collaborative life -- pastoral planning, evangelization, vocation, finance, and administration. The archdiocesan staff attend the writing sessions to provide support during the writing stage of the plan, and are subsequently available after the teams are dissolved for ongoing, practical support.
Although each collaborative team comes from a unique context, they all begin with similar approaches. I see individuals that are committed to creating a pastoral plan that will support the collaborative, though each person approaches the task with a different set of opinions. Many walk in the first night unsure of their role and the task before them. But within a couple of sessions, I see the individuals transform into a team. I see them wrestle with priorities, challenge each other to think in new ways, let go of assumptions, and dream about the future of their collaborative. By the end of the process, each collaborative has articulated one unified plan. It's not an easy process -- but that is because each person wants to ensure that what's decided upon is what is best for the collaborative.
At Catholic Leadership Institute, our purpose is to provide bishops, priests, deacons, and lay persons in the Catholic Church with pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their confidence and competence in ministry, enabling them to articulate a vision for their local church, to call forth the gifts of those they lead, and to create more vibrant faith communities rooted in Jesus Christ. This is the driving force behind the apostolate's 25 years of leadership development, training, and support for the Catholic Church. We are blessed to have supported more than 16,000 bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders to maximize the potential God has given each of them to build His kingdom here on earth.
LUCILLE SMITH IS VICE-PRESIDENT, EPISCOPAL AND CLIENT SERVICES OF THE CATHOLIC LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE WITH 30 YEARS OF SERVICE IN THE CHURCH.