Home Diocesan News New report shows progress on diocesan pastoral plan
New report shows progress on diocesan pastoral plan Print E-mail
Written by Pete Sheehan   
Friday, 02 June 2017 13:17

Two years after its promulgation the diocese has made substantial progress in implementing the Diocesan Pastoral Plan for Evangelization, according to a new report to the bishop.


Still, “much work needs to be done,” said Pete Schafer, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Pastoral Planning and the author of the report.


The report cites progress in the implementation at both the diocesan and the parish levels, including the training of parish leaders, a formation program for reaching out to the marginalized, greater collaboration among parishes and the growth of evangelization programs at the parish level.

“It’s encouraging,” said Schafer, whose office spearheaded the pastoral plan as released by Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., two years ago.

Father Nicholas Shori, who died last year, had coordinated efforts for the pastoral plan, which was released on Pentecost of 2015 after a few years of study and collaboration at the diocesan, regional, and parish levels.

The report focuses on eight areas of diocesan and parish life, as highlighted in the pastoral plan – Christian service, evangelization, family life, worship and prayer, discipleship, faith formation/catechesis, finances, and administration.

The report is available on the diocesan website, doy.org.

Schafer’s report draws heavily from the results of a survey of the 87 parishes in the diocese, for which 45 parishes responded.

One of the most significant accomplishments toward implementation of the pastoral plan so far, Schafer said, is the training of 14 parish leaders to serve in parishes where there is not a resident pastor (see related story).

Another notable advance, Schafer said, is the effort of the diocesan Parish Stewardship Office to offer programs for parishes in offertory giving, capital campaigns, and other stewardship programs, such as a revision of its “Tool Kit for Building Parish Communities.”

In addition, Schafer explained, the diocesan Office of Pro-Life, Marriage, and Family Ministry, the Office of Lay Ministry and Leadership Formation, and the social action office of diocesan Catholic Charities, in a joint effort, developed a program to train volunteers in outreach to marginalized groups.

The program, which focused on Mahoning County, trained a dozen participants from 10 parishes in working in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic settings, along with outreach to young adults, separated and divorced Catholics, the sick and the homebound, and people with same-sex attraction.

The program ran from October to April. A follow-up program is planned for Stark County parishes in the fall.

In addition, Schafer cited efforts by the parishes to collaborate more closely in shared ministries as a way to better utilize parish resources – as called for in the pastoral plan.

For example, Ravenna Immaculate Conception, Kent St. Patrick, and Kent State Parish Newman Center are combining resources to hire a youth minister for a “Route 59” combined youth ministry program. Campbell Christ the Good Shepherd and Youngstown St. Angela Merici also have combined youth ministry programs.

Two Canton parishes, St. Peter and the Basilica of St. John, are collaborating on a senior ministry with social, spiritual, and service opportunities for the group. “In general, many parishes are collaborating on RCIA, confirmation, and young adult ministry, as well as communal penance services,” Schafer said.

A couple of parishes, Mantua St. Joseph and Alliance St. Joseph, have also developed their own version of a pastoral plan for themselves, using the diocesan pastoral plan as a starting point.

Several parishes, including Columbiana St. Jude, East Palestine Our Lady of Lourdes, Canal Fulton SS. Philip and James, North Canton St. Paul, and Middlebranch Little Flower, have used the ALPHA program, an outreach program for inactive or non-church goers in the community.

A number of other parishes, such as Canton St. Michael the Archangel, Garrettsville St. Ambrose, and Girard St. Rose, have initiated evangelization and welcoming programs.

Other parishes have launched creative efforts, including outreach projects to serve the community. Uniontown Holy Spirit has a yearlong series on prayer through art, and Maximo St. Joseph has monthly prayer services.

“I’m encouraged by the progress,” Schafer said, “and I’m hopeful that the parishes and the diocesan offices will continue to use the plan to find ways to enhance parish ministries, reach out to those in need, and proclaim the Gospel.”

Parish leaders ready when need arises

With the completion of its parish leaders training program, the diocese is ready to assign non-priests as parish leaders should the need arise, reports Pete Schafer of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Pastoral Planning.

“We have 14 parish leaders from 13 different parishes in five counties,” said Schafer, who heads the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Pastoral Planning and the diocesan Office of Lay Ministry and Leadership Formation, which sponsored the training program that ran from last October to May.

“With the existence of openings at several parishes, we expect to be calling on one or more of the parish leaders to step in in the near future.”

Of those who completed the program “six are deacons, and there is one woman religious, three lay women and four lay men,” Schafer said. “Some of them have degrees in theology. Some have MBAs. Some own businesses, so they all have different strengths.”

As a result, if the need arises for a parish to function without a resident pastor, Schafer explained, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., will weigh the relative strengths of each person who has been trained, in relation to the needs of the particular parish.

Schafer said that he is pleased with the ability and the commitment of all who have been trained. “One facet that I didn’t anticipate was how much the group members supported each other and learned from each other.”

Considering that there are a few possible openings at parishes in the diocese, Schafer said, one of them could be appointed in that role in the near future.

“The bishop has indicated that he didn’t want people to be trained and just sitting around,” Schafer said.

Canon law allows for someone other than a priest to serve as a parish leader when there is not a priest available to be a resident pastor or administrator. The parish leader is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the parish including administrative and pastoral duties not reserved for a priest.

In such situations, a canonical pastor would be assigned to be present at the parish on weekends to offer Mass and hear confessions, perform other sacramental duties and be involved in the parish life.

The diocese saw the appointment of two parish leaders by the late Bishop James Malone in 1995. Humility of Mary Sister Maureen Smith and Notre Dame Sister Regina Zeleznik were parish leaders of Sebring St. Ann Parish and Rootstown St. Peter of the Fields Parish, respectively. During this time, Missionary of the Sacred Heart Father William Ellis was canonical pastor at St. Ann (followed by Pauline Fathers Matthew Roehrig and Jeffrey Mickler). Father Terrence Hazel was canonical pastor at St. Peter of the Fields.


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