FLOURISHING FAMILIES REGIONAL DISCUSSIONS CONCLUDED

September 19, 2023

Each of the regional Flourishing Families discussion meetings has concluded. The feedback gathered from these meetings is in the process of being finalized and will be submitted to Bishop Peter Muhich to be used to develop a long-term action plan for each region. Two pressing questions arose during the discussion: What can we do as parishes to shift from maintenance mode to flourishing, recognizing the resources we have? And, in the case of one less priest in the region, what suggestions might we make to the bishop to ensure our continued flourishing?

The delegates from each parish in the region gathered together over six months to evaluate various data from each parish. The data included the number of families attending Mass each week versus the number of families registered at each parish. They considered how many families participate in faith formation programs, how many catechists and volunteers each parish has, how many prayer groups and other gatherings of faith are active in each parish, and the numbers of participants in each. They also looked at how active parishes are in promoting vocations through parish programs and participating in diocesan events. The data included how many of the priests who have served our diocese over the course of our history have come from each region. The idea was to get an accurate picture of each parish to begin to talk as a group about how the regional “family of parishes” might answer the two questions above. The participants discussed how they could interact within their region and use their resources effectively to not only maintain the current programs and structures, but actually grow and flourish.

As chair of the Flourishing Families committee, Father Tim Hoag hoped that this process would help the bishop form a vision of how our parishes can flourish from the ground up. “Instead of the bishop imposing some sort of vision for the diocese disconnected from the input from his priests and the lay faithful, this process allowed representatives from each parish to review the data and make recommendations based on how real families would be impacted by any changes. The priests looked at the data and made their own plan as a starting point, but we really wanted the input from the laity in these regional discussions.” This information was used to develop a concrete recommendation that required agreement from the majority of participants involved in the discussions. The discussions included delegates from each parish including lay people, religious, deacons and priests. Upon receiving these recommendations, Bishop Muhich will work on the formation of a new Diocesan Pastoral Council composed of representatives from each region involved in these ongoing discussions. This council will review and implement any recommendations from these groups in collaboration with the bishop.

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Flourishing Parish Families Planning Process Moves Ahead

 Over the past year a committee of priests, deacons and laity have been busy organizing a strategic planning process for our diocese at my request. The committee has put together a great deal of information about what parish life looks like today as well as the challenges we face across the Diocese of Rapid City. With the assistance of this committee, pastors have held town hall meetings in their parishes to share this information with all of you. I hope you were able to attend one of these town halls.

The “Flourishing Parish Families” planning process is about to enter a new phase. I have asked pastors to choose two lay representatives from each of their parishes to engage in regional meetings to discuss how they can better work together to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them deepen their relationship with Christ and his church. 

The priority of this phase of the planning process is to find ways to grow and flourish. By creatively and intentionally finding new ways to share the faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can look forward to building up the church in western South Dakota. Our goal is to allow the Spirit to work more powerfully through us to renew the church in our time.

A second task of this phase of the planning process is for those regional meetings to generate recommendations for me about how we might work together if we have fewer priests able to serve the needs of our people. I sincerely hope that we will experience a growth in vocations and we have seen the number of seminarians grow in the last two years, which is a hopeful sign. But it is also good to grapple with how we might be able to proclaim the Gospel if we experience a decline in priests. 

I encourage you to speak to your pastor and your parish representatives so that they can hear your ideas as they do their work. I look forward to receiving the recommendations that the regional/deanery planning groups will make. I will then review them prayerfully and approve a strategic plan for the diocese which I will share with you.

Please pray that the work we are doing will please God and help us better proclaim Jesus Christ to those around us.

+Bishop Peter

 

Diocesan Strategic Planning Resources

Regional Gathering Representative Orientation Video

Diocesan Strategic Planning Presentation for Parishes

Governing Principles

1. We will remain open to change under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whom we believe is leading this planning process.

2. We will observe all applicable teachings, doctrines, and laws of the Catholic Church.

3. We will provide opportunities for all members of the parish to be aware of and involved in the process.

4. We will promote collaboration among well-trained lay leaders, deacons, and priests in parish leadership, while reserving the primary responsibility of ministry and administration to pastors according to the norms of law (cf. Can 515 ff.) which require parishes to be governed by pastors.

5. We will consider that parish a model which is materially self-sufficient, is capable of meeting its ministerial needs, equips lay leadership, promotes evangelization and vocations, and has vibrant faith formation.

6. Keeping attendance at Sunday (Saturday evening) Mass central to our planning, we will strive to balance the distance the faithful drive to attend Mass, the distance the priest drives to provide Mass, and the distances at which priests live from one another.

7. We will plan so that parish priests, as a norm, would neither say more than four Masses per weekend, nor be asked to serve beyond the age of seventy-five (75).

8. We will eliminate the unnecessary duplication of Masses for the convenience of the faithful if everyone can be comfortably accommodated in another/other Masses.