Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 30, 1998
Priest explains process leading to parish restructuring
By FR. LARRY PEDERSON
Father Larry Pederson, pastor at Killam and a member of the committee which approved the parish restructuring recommendations, delivered this background report to archdiocesan Priests Assembly Nov. 17.
I think it is important to view the final report and recommendations of the Implementation Task Group within a context of what has happened in the past. It has been a history of dialogue and collaboration with Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, the priests and the people of the archdiocese.
Allow me to share with you some of the more concentrated efforts which have taken place in the past in regard to pastoral planning in our archdiocese.
In August 1980 a report of the task force commissioned by the archdiocese on lay ministry was completed. It foresaw then an increased rate of involvement in the Church by lay people to help the clergy in the mission of the Church.
A preliminary report on evangelization published in December 1986 and a subsequent report prepared for the Council of Priests of the archdiocese on May 17, 1988, saw a need for parish information and outlined ways to develop parish transformation to meet the needs of the future.
In October 1988, Msgr. Jack Hamilton prepared the document, Options Available, which presented options that could be chosen if circumstances forced amalgamation or alternate administrative models.
In November 1988, a sub-committee of the priests' personnel committee was formed to devise strategies regarding the closing or amalgamating of parishes and the redistribution of personnel. They produced a document entitled Models of Ministry that will shape the Church in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
The committee's initial task was to establish policies and procedures. The committee asked the priests who head each deanery to initiate dialogue at the deanery level and provide specific recommendations by March 1989. The regional and parish pastoral councils eventually became involved in the process.
In March 1989, Father Mike McCaffery presented the document entitled The Aging of the Diocesan Priests. The document looked back to 1968 and projected figures to 1998 concerning the number of priests in the archdiocese. It provided an overview of the archdiocese for a 30-year period with regard to diminishing personnel and parishes without a resident priest.
In April 1989, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) prepared a questionnaire package including several documents such as the ones by McCaffery, Hamilton, the priests' personnel committee and the letter by the archbishop regarding vocations. This package was sent to the regional and pastoral councils and encouraged them to develop strategies for the future.
In February 1990, the APC summarized the results of the questionnaire in a document entitled A Synopsis -- Amalgamation and Closure of Parishes -- The Shortage of Priests Issue.
In April 1991, the APC formed a subcommittee to develop guidelines for the archdiocese which could assist parish communities faced with the possibility of amalgamation or, in rare cases, closure. The subcommittee's final report was approved and accepted by the APC in June 1992.
In October 1992, the APC formed a committee to prepare a package of the final report for discussion at the regional and parish level.
The package, called Parishes in Transition, was sent out in November 1992.
After feedback, the Parishes in Transition made its final report in September 1994. It concluded many in the archdiocese were not prepared for change in parish status. Among many of the proposals, it recommended to provide a structure to continue the process. It was to be a collaborative and educational process.
After reflecting on this report, in February 1996, the Transformation of Parishes (ToPs) task group was formed at the request of the archbishop. ToPs was given a two-year term to develop a process to assist the archdiocese in making decisions regarding changes in its parishes' status.
The ToPs group's strategic plan was three-fold.
First, it was to create a parish profile of each of the 166 parishes and missions in the archdiocese. The parish profile was to be composed of two separate sources of information: a) parish survey b) parish statistics.
The parish survey looked at these essential aspects of parish life:
The parish statistics provided information on the amount of ministerial activity, parish membership and financial situation for each parish over a five-year period. (1992-1996).
The second part of the strategic plan of ToPs was an organizational work plan that had timelines as the committee had only two years to complete its mandate.
The third part of ToPs' strategic plan was a communication evaluation plan for all people in the archdiocese. Its focus was transformation of people. This plan involved 16 components and all were acted upon.
ToPs formulated its preliminary recommendations for restructuring and gave them to the archbishop in February of this year.
The process of releasing the preliminary recommendations to the priests and people and soliciting feedback for the final recommendations to be presented to the archbishop and the priests and people of the archdiocese was handed over to the implementation task group struck by ToPs.
The ITG with its own mandate and terms of reference endeavoured to bring the transformation of parishes to fruition.
To help with releasing preliminary recommendations, soliciting feedback for the final recommendations and formulating the final recommendations, ToPs recommended a full-time person be employed. The archbishop agreed and John Acheson was hired as coordinator of the ITG.
John has done a tremendous amount of work in a short time and has been a great help in facilitating the process with the regions, deaneries and parish councils.
The final recommendations are much more extensive than the preliminary recommendations. This is due to the process and feedback of the preliminary recommendations, a more focused view on the future and the creativity of many priests and people in the archdiocese. This hopefully reflects that a transformation has taken place.
From 1980 to 1998 the process included a forum of dialogue and collaboration with Archbishop MacNeil, the priests and the people and has resulted in final recommendations.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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