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Pastoral Planning

Disciples in Mission -- Phase 6 pastor orientation

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... pastors that are just starting in a collaborative always find it helpful to hear the experience of a "veteran" pastor.

On June 14, there was an orientation meeting for Phase 6 pastors. Most of the pastors that were present have not been a pastor in a collaborative, so it was important to give them an overview of the process, focusing specifically on the tasks that need attention in the first two years in a collaborative. This meeting is an opportunity for the priests to meet with the Collaborative Support Team (CST) from the Pastoral Center, who will assist them in a variety of ways over the coming years. Some of the tasks the pastors and CST work on are questions on staffing, property concerns, finances and program concerns. An area of importance that the CST helps with is writing the local pastoral plan. These plans generally begin to be worked on at the end of the first year of the collaborative.

Before getting into those details about what lies ahead, pastors that are just starting in a collaborative always find it helpful to hear the experience of a "veteran" pastor. Father Joe Mozer, the pastor of a Phase 3 collaborative was invited to speak at this orientation session. He serves the parishes of St. Mary's, Wrentham and St. Martha's, Plainville. Also present at the meeting was Father John Sheridan who had been pastor of a Phase 1 collaborative in Middleboro, Lakeville and Rochester. Beginning this month, Father Sheridan is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Chelsea/Everett and St. Mary's, Revere. Both priests shared information that they thought would be helpful to their brother priests. I would like to highlight some of the important points that they addressed.

Father Joe began by saying that growth took time and effort and it was really in the third year of being a collaborative that he began to see some tangible signs of growth. Starting out required retooling staffs and councils which he achieved with the support and assistance from his CST. Throughout the first two years, Father Joe said he never lost sight of the importance of evangelization as a top priority.

In year three, Father Joe's parishes began implementing their pastoral plan. One of the goals in their plan was to get 70-100 adults involved in small groups. He was proud to say that with their first year of implementation, they have already achieved this goal. The way they achieved that goal was by initiating the Christ Life program. Parishioners responded positively and the good news is that there are tangible signs that people are growing in faith.

Speaking personally, Father Joe told the priests that he has always been faithful to his prayer life and has felt a strong relationship with Christ. However, staying faithful to the process of Disciples in Mission with its emphasis on evangelization and sharing faith has helped Father Joe renew his reliance on the Holy Spirit. As he continues to implement his collaborative pastoral plan, he has seen firsthand the power of the Holy Spirit at work and is confident that the Spirit will continue to change people's lives.

Father John Sheridan approached being the pastor of a collaborative with the mindset that this was a new moment for him and for the parishes. He told the pastors they need to think in new ways and consider doing things differently. Be open to see what might happen rather than what was, or what was done previously. Father John said that by keeping open and willing to change, he felt liberated. He said that even though there were issues that needed time and attention, he was still able to enjoy building relationships and helping people come to know Christ better.

Father John offered some practical tips to the pastors. Take time to get the right people around you. For instance, hire a great finance and operations manager. Hire great administrative staff. Hire a pastoral associate who can be helpful in implementing the local plan. Establish a collaborative office. You and your staff need to be willing to let go and trust the process; to think outside the box and use words like, "could we," "maybe," "certainly." The last two reminders Father John gave the pastors were: "We are doing the impossible -- let's do it!" and "You don't go into these assignments alone." Amen!!

Please keep these priests and their collaboratives in your prayers. Beg the Holy Spirit's inspiration!

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