It was with a sense of solidarity that the priests of the Saint John Diocese gathered with some lay people to look at and discuss the models to revitalize the diocese.The meeting, which took place at Villa Madonna Retreat House on February 20th and 21st, is part of the process of revitalization & realignment of the diocese that began in January 2016.
The meeting, facilitated by Matt Manion of the Catholic Leadership Institute, was attended by 40 priests of the diocese and 11 lay persons who had served as members of the work groups for the process.Eighteen lay people and nine priests were chosen from the three regions of the diocese: Miramichi, Fredericton and Saint John, to sit on the regional work groups.
The work groups met monthly from August to November in their respective regions, for a full day’s work.They looked at the trends identified in the Disciple Maker Index Survey.They also examined factors affecting the life of our parishes, including: demographics; pastoral life and activity; people resources (priests and laity); finances and the physical condition of properties.Their aim was to come up with 2 to 4 possible models for realignment of parishes in their region.The models were then assessed by accountants for their financial viability and any positive outcomes.
The priests were presented with the proposed models for realignment. There was a great deal of information to absorb. The discussion of the proposed models recognized that realignment will mean fewer parishes.But the main goal of realignment is to bring new life to our churches. It would also mean that there would be more people at Mass together, and more human and financial resources to build communities that are renewed, with more life and parish activity.
The vision of a revitalized parish is one of full churches on Sundays, faith development for people of all ages – children, youth, young adults, middle-aged and seniors.But we’re aiming for more than Mass on Sunday.Realignment gives us a great opportunity to realize that we are disciples of Jesus, and to act like it, by sharing the Good News.With more people and financial resources, these more active parishes could provide much better support for faith development and sharing, outreach, and pastoral care.
The process of revitalization is ongoing.In April and early May, there will be a series of regional gatherings, open to the laity, to get their feedback on how best to revitalize and realign our parishes and our diocese.We’re looking for a renewed church for the Diocese of Saint John, one that is filled with hope for present and future generations.
Pope Francis has told us that the vision of the Second Vatican Council was one of constant renewal and that local churches, dioceses, and parishes are ever called to live as communities of missionary disciples of Jesus.In in 2013 The Joy of the Gospel, he said: The parish is the presence of Church in a given place, a setting for hearing God’s word, for growth in Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.In all its activities the parish encourages and forms its members to be evangelizers, sharers of the Gospel. (Evangelii Gaudium 28)