Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 18, 2000
Diocese to revamp deaneries, RPC's
Archdiocesan council discusses ways to change regional bodies
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
After launching a restructuring of its parishes, the Edmonton Archdiocese is now embarking on the transformation of some of its intermediate organizations.
Deaneries and regional pastoral councils (RPCs), organizations deemed somewhat ineffective due to a lack of a clear distinction between their roles, may undergo a complete transformation sometime next year.
This may include new boundaries and a new organizational structure for RPCs as well as a clear delineation of roles for both deaneries and RPCs to avoid repetition of agendas and to improve their effectiveness.
Or it could involve the amalgamation of deaneries and RPCs into one solid organization in a given region or simply the creation of an entirely new structure.
John Acheson, the man who led the transformation of parishes, spoke about the need to transform the two entities at the Dec. 9 meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC).
His plea for change was heard. In January, he will meet with the APC executive to discuss new, more natural boundaries for regional councils.
Currently there are 10 RPCs and six deaneries in the Edmonton Archdiocese. If Acheson's proposal is implemented, there will be 15 RPCs, the reason for the increase being that some RPCs are too large geographically and will be split into smaller units.
Acheson is the author of Cooperative Evangelization, an April 2000 discussion document containing recommendations on how to reorganize deaneries and RPCs. The report, prepared at the request of the Council of Priests, was considered by the priests' council in September and has been sent out to deaneries and RPCs for reaction.
In some areas, Acheson said, there is only a deanery which functions as both RPC and deanery. In other areas there are associations of pastoral workers but no deanery and no RPC.
In other areas there are deaneries with only priests and RPCs with only lay parish representatives. Acheson also spoke of an area where there hasn't been an RPC meeting for two years.
But he said change means strengthening the RPCs if the APC is going to keep its legitimacy. "If you take the RPCs out of (the scheme) the whole premise on how the APC functions has to change because you would no longer be representing the parishes."
Currently, the majority of the APC membership is made up of RPC representatives. The archdiocese-wide council, which also has members of the councils of priests and women religious, meets regularly with Archbishop Thomas Collins to discuss pastoral matters.
Collins agreed on the need for change, saying, "the key is to find an effective structure that will work. It's important to get this intermediate type of structure going."
It's unclear what type of structure that will be as the archdiocese will have to sort through dozens of suggestions before making a final decision. As written feedback handed out by Acheson at the meeting shows, deanery and RPC members are divided on what should be done.
"RPCs should be abolished," says one proposal, further suggesting that parish councils in each region meet at their own initiative.
"We believe that RPCs and deaneries should be one body," says another comment.
"RPCs should be doing everything that the deaneries (or associations of pastoral ministers) are currently doing," reads another comment. It also suggested deaneries are obsolete and should be abolished.
In Cooperative Evangelization, Acheson notes that while there has been great hope placed on the "significant role" RPCs might play in the transformation of parishes, there have also been repeated references to the perception that RPCs are ineffective.
This has lead to suggestions that they be dropped as one of the organizational structures of the archdiocese.
One major organizational issue detracting from the effectiveness of the RPC is the lack of any clear distinction between the role of the RPC and the role of the deanery. There is also a lack of distinction as to the membership of the two organizations.
Acheson proposes to keep both organizations with a clear role and mandate for each one. He says membership on the deanery should be strictly limited to priests and the deanery should deal only with those issues unique to the social, spiritual, continuing education, economic, and psychological needs of priests.
He contends RPCs provide an excellent vehicle for cooperation among parishes and therefore should be strengthened. RPCs, he says, need to deal with "issues of substance" and be recognized as decision-making bodies.
Membership in RPCs should be wide open to include all pastors in a given region, two representatives per parish pastoral council, representatives of small Church communities and staff employed in leadership roles.
Acheson told APC members if they didn't deal with the issue now, they could face another report within two years. His report on the issue is the third in the past 10 years.
Father Joseph Wroblewski of Fort Saskatchewan said the RPC structure "is more essential than ever" and should be kept. "It's the natural flow from the parish pastoral council, the regional to the archdiocesan. That's the flow and that's the way it should be."
In an interview, he said the Vegreville West RPC, to which his parish belongs, will be divided in two - the Fort Saskatchewan cluster of parishes and the Vegreville cluster. The two areas have little in common and will function better separated, he said.
As for deaneries, "canon law says they must exist and they will be there to discuss priestly things like the priests' pension fund," Wroblewski told the WCR.