Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that you had a blessed Christmas season with your families.
As another year begins, I want to take this opportunity to give an update on the Diocesan Visioning Process which began last May. The purpose of this process is to help set a clearly defined course for ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City for the next three to five years.
As you recall, I attended thirteen listening sessions across the diocese during the summer, listening to you as you shared what you believe we are doing well as a diocese that helps you grow in your faith and relationship with the Lord, areas of focus you would recommend for the next few years, and things which you would like to see accomplished within the next two years for more effective ministry and pastoral care throughout the diocese. The purpose of the listening sessions and receiving your feedback was to give voice to the Diocese of Rapid City and allow your voices to assist in shaping the future of the church in western South Dakota.
At the conclusion of the listening sessions, I created an Envisioning Team made up of thirteen leaders from across the diocese, both clergy and lay, whose responsibility is to work together to create a “Diocesan Priority Plan” that will lead us into the future with a clearly defined direction. To begin this lengthy, challenging, but invigorating process the first meeting was held in late August 2015 and the work continues today. With the assistance of Catholic Leadership Institute, the team began its work by considering the data collected from the listening sessions and looking at trends and demographics as a way to scan the environment to help determine what our priorities might be.
Over the course of the past four to five months, this leadership team has prayerfully discerned a vision and priorities for the diocese for the next two to three years. We have carefully defined our mission (why we exist as a diocese) that will serve as the foundation of the five-year vision (where we are going as a diocese). The Envisioning Team has not only identified core values that will guide how we conduct ourselves as a diocese, but has carefully discerned three major priorities that will guide and direct our ministry over the course of the next two years.
There is still much work to be completed before the “Diocesan Priority Plan” is shared with the whole diocese. It is a real work in progress as we determine specific goals for each of the three priorities. It is my earnest hope that the plan will be completed in the next two months so that we can share the great fruits of the work of this team. When the Priority Plan is completed it will then be communicated to everyone through many different means. A communication plan is currently in progress.
One would ask why we need to take on such a process. Isn’t what we are already doing enough? It is always good to take time to reflect upon all the good things we are doing and all the things we should be doing. The last time a process similar was undertaken in the diocese was the Synod of 2002, completed thirteen years ago. It is always good for any organization to look at itself and what it is doing to determine if the priorities are in alignment with its mission; to discern where it wants to be in five years and how it will get there.
When we think about a vision for the diocese, it must be aligned with the mission of Christ and his church. The document from the Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World states: “The Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered the world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served” (Gaudium et Spes, The Church in the Modern World, paragraph 3).
This Envisioning Team has spent much time carefully discerning and creating a vision and priorities which align with the mission of Christ particular to the Diocese of Rapid City. I am deeply grateful for their efforts and want to thank each of them for their diligence and great assistance in this process. I am very excited about what has been done so far and look forward to the completion and implementation of our priority plan. The hard work that is being put into this plan will create a healthy, vibrant, diocese for years to come with great intent on building the Kingdom of God.
It is my hope that more detailed information about the plan will be provided in next month’s West River Catholic. But in the meantime, I would ask for your prayers for the fruitfulness of this important work.
May this New Year 2016 bring you many graces and blessings!