Sharing the Light

Sharing the Light 2011-2012

Together in Faith Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ about TIFII

  1. When did the first phase of Together in Faith occur and what were the results?
  2. Is phase two happening because phase one did not go far enough?
  3. What makes this a parish-driven planning process? How are the decisions being made?
  4. Is this just a process to justify the closing of more parishes? Why now?
  5. Are Catholic schools a part of this as well?
  6. Are parishes in the City of Detroit and the inner suburbs under greater scrutiny?
  7. Why does the Church continue to lose parishioners and close parishes? Why can't the Church bring Catholics back and recruit new parishioners?
  8. What are the fundamental financial concerns regarding struggling parishes?
  9. Is the Archdiocese collaborating with the City of Detroit to vacate areas of the City where relatively few people are located?
  10. What is the process for the second phase of Together in Faith?
  11. Is there a timeline?
  12. How will you measure the outcomes "the results" of the process?
  13. Is the Archdiocese waiting for the Together in Faith process to work itself through, or are interim decisions being made?
  14. The Archdiocese has started the Changing Lives Together fundraising campaign to strengthen parishes. Will this campaign save struggling parishes and schools?
  15. What is a clustered parish?
  16. Why would parishes be clustered?
  17. What is merging?
  18. How does merging differ from clustering?
  19. If parishes cluster, merge, or close, what happens to their assets, including their endowments?
  20. Will parish employees lose their jobs in a merger?
  21. What if a parish does not participate?
  22. How much of a factor is the shortage of priests in determining whether parishes stay open?
  23. What are the factors that determine whether a parish stays open?

1. When did the first phase of Together in Faith occur and what were the results?

The first Together in Faith planning process started in early 2003. Parishes and vicariates developed plans to collaborate on a variety of ministries including evangelization, youth and young adults, Christian service, lay leadership and stewardship and administration. Plans for clustering, merging, and closing parishes were drafted in 2005.

In 2003, the Archdiocese of Detroit had 303 parishes. Since 2005, the period in which the first phase of Together in Faith was implemented, 29 parishes have clustered, merged, or closed. The first phase of Together in Faith was intended to be in effect for five years after implementation and has always been envisioned as an ongoing process, rather than a one-time effort.

2. Is phase two happening because phase one did not go far enough?

The first phase of Together in Faith accomplished what was intended at the time and had an intended life cycle of five years. Some parish mergers that were planned in the first phase of Together in Faith were not implemented because certain parishes were able to remain sustainable entities.

Since the life cycle of the first phase of Together in Faith was ending, and with southeast Michigan¡¦s population and economy declining in the nationwide recession, many parishes, especially in Detroit, have experienced a continued loss of parishioners and financial resources.

Together in Faith phase one proved that the Archdiocese developed a sound regional planning process for managing parish resources amid continuing population losses and deepening economic challenges. As Archbishop Vigneron listened to consultative groups in the Archdiocese, he decided to build upon the first phase of Together in Faith and reinvigorate pastoral planning efforts. In 2010, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council — the primary lay advisory body in the Archdiocese — was reorganized to facilitate pastoral planning and advance the plans completed during the first phase of Together in Faith.

3. What makes this a parish-driven planning process? How are the decisions being made?

Parishioners affected by the decisions will make recommendations affecting the parishes in their planning groups. The Archdiocese is facilitating the process by recognizing the need to take action, by having a proven pastoral planning process in place, and by sharing data with all involved. Every parish will have the same information, and every parish is participating in the same process. All involved will see the recommendations, the refinements, and understand how decisions are reached.

Pastors in each parish are appointing parish representatives to participate in planning groups with neighboring parishes. Recommendations from those planning groups will be reviewed by another group of lay people, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, members of which were appointed in 2010 and share backgrounds in parish leadership and planning experience. After rounds of questions and refinements to plans developed by parish representatives, the APC will make final recommendations to Archbishop Vigneron.

4. Is this just a process to justify the closing of more parishes? Why now?

Together in Faith phase two is a continuation of a pastoral planning process that the Archdiocese of Detroit initiated in 2003 through which every parish in southeast Michigan identified its pastoral needs, priorities, and developed baseline data on its financial health. Phase one of Together in Faith was intended to have a five year life, and resulted in some parishes developing a closer collaboration with neighboring parishes; some parishes determining emergency measures should their pastor become ill, take a new assignment or enter senior priest status; and some parishes determining that they should cluster, merge with another parish, or close.

Since the implementation of phase one, the economy has worsened, Michigan has experienced a population decline, and some parishes are struggling to maintain their ministries with many parishioners suffering job losses. The first phase of Together in Faith proved that collaborative planning by neighboring parishes maximized strengths and mitigated weaknesses among parishes participating in planning groups. Archbishop Vigneron has further emphasized the necessity for regional planning in the present economic climate as a means of ensuring resources are efficiently and effectively utilized by parishes in the planning groups.

There are no predetermined outcomes in this process. Four to five representatives from each parish in the Archdiocese are gathering in groups of parishes arranged by geographic proximity to assess data and consider resources as teams. Their recommendations will be reviewed this summer by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), which is comprised of 25 lay leaders from throughout the Archdiocese. The APC will provide feedback to the parish groups, which will refine their recommendations. The APC will conduct a final review of the parish group recommendations in November, forwarding the plans to Archbishop Vigneron for his review. Implementation will begin in January 2012.

5. Are Catholic schools a part of this as well?

Yes. Because Catholic schools with strong identities serving as vibrant instruments of evangelization are essential to the fabric of Catholic identity, strengthening parish support for Catholic schools is a primary objective of Together in Faith.

The 80 Catholic K-8 schools throughout southeast Michigan will soon be engaged in planning on a parallel track with the parishes, with four to five school representatives gathering in planning groups to study the relevant data. Some parishes have Catholic schools onsite that are closely associated with parish life. Some schools are regional, attracting students from parishes in wider geographic areas.

At several points this year, parish and K-8 school planning groups will meet together to discuss common data and to share their progress. A newly reconstituted archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Board is overseeing the planning analysis of Catholic schools. Their work will be done alongside with, and eventually incorporated into, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan that results from Together in Faith phase two.

6. Are parishes in the City of Detroit and the inner suburbs under greater scrutiny?

Every parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit is participating in the second phase of Together in Faith. The City Pastoral Planning Committee¡¦s process is proceeding simultaneously with the planning being done by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Catholic Schools Advisory Board.

The challenges of the Church in the City of Detroit mirror many of the challenges facing the city itself, primarily a continuing loss of population, eroding economic opportunities, and a legacy of racial divisions that continue to separate the people of southeast Michigan. The first phase of Together in Faith was intended to be in effect for five years after implementation in 2005 and has always been envisioned as an ongoing process, rather than a one-time effort. These facts prompted the Archdiocese to begin gathering demographic and planning data months ago from several organizations in the city. This data, now being shared with all involved in the Together in Faith process, includes geographically based population, employment, housing, and foreclosure trends,

Because every community in southeast Michigan has a cultural identity, the shape of parish life, along with all the other elements of Church life, reflects the communities in which parishes are located. While parishes are a principal focus for the Church¡¦s pastoral plan for her mission in the City, the parish plans that result from Together in Faith will reflect parish life as it is lived in the neighborhoods of Detroit and in every part of the Archdiocese.

The Together in Faith process encourages and facilitates ongoing exchanges of gifts already established between parishes in the suburbs, parishioners in the City of Detroit, and among all the faithful in the Archdiocese. As Archbishop Vigneron has stated,

Now, more than ever, the people of southeast Michigan need to see from us that the City of Detroit for its own good and for the good of us all cannot and need not be isolated. I need, we need, the world needs a plan that embodies and strengthens the connections the Holy Spirit has established and nurtures among all the Catholic communities in the area.

7. Why does the Church continue to lose parishioners and close parishes? Why can't the Church bring Catholics back and recruit new parishioners?

Archbishop Vigneron calls all Catholics in the Archdiocese to engage in evangelization as their primary mission, flowing from their baptismal call. Evangelization is to preach and teach the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and thus transform society by personally understanding and implementing the concept that the "Gospel must be proclaimed." Catechesis is the education of children, young people, and adults in the faith of the Church through the teaching of Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way to make them disciples of Jesus Christ. Evangelization and catechesis are inseparable.

Together in Faith encourages parishes to build strong catechetical programs that support the work of evangelization at all levels and stages, thus sharing Christ in and through the Church. Welcoming, vibrant, and visible parishes with faith formation programs has proven successful in engaging Catholics estranged from the Church and helping them return to the sacraments and rejoin the parish community.

To bring clarity to these evangelization efforts Archbishop Vigneron has identified three goals:

Goal 1:
To re-engage, renew, and re-invigorate in all Catholics their baptismal call to enthusiastically share Christ in and through the New Evangelization, through which the individual¡¦s focus remains on the person of Christ and His message of salvation and eternal life. The "new" refers to new methods of proclamation, new expressions of the message -- a way of adapting the message to those who though they may have been baptized into the faith, have not been fully introduced to Christ and His message. The New Evangelization involves ensuring that the Gospel message has touched the ears and the hearts of all Catholics so they can go forth and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Goal 2:
To actively seek to restore unity throughout the Archdiocese by advancing Jesus' message of salvation through evangelizing those within as well as outside of the Catholic faith.

Goal 3:
To promote Gospel values in our society by recognizing the dignity of all people, the importance of the family, and Christian value advocacy.

Catholics active in the sacramental life of their parish community are called to reach out to their fellow Catholics, their neighbors of other faith backgrounds, and those who have never experienced Christian life to let them know they are welcomed and can experience belonging in the family of a Catholic faith community.

Any evangelization program begins with each Catholic individual understanding that they represent Christ, and that through baptism, all are made children of God and become brothers and sisters of Christ.

8. What are the fundamental financial concerns regarding struggling parishes?

Dozens of parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit are struggling with declining memberships, often with buildings and properties that consume more resources for maintenance than are allocated to support worship and ministry. Through Together in Faith, the Archdiocese has adopted a regional planning model with the objective of bringing financial stability to parishes and Catholic K-8 schools throughout southeast Michigan in efficiently maintained buildings. "We have to make decisions about allocating resources and holding ourselves accountable for what we seek to accomplish," said Archbishop Vigneron.

9. Is the Archdiocese collaborating with the City of Detroit to vacate areas of the City where relatively few people are located?

The Archdiocese has obtained demographic and other information from the City of Detroit and other sources that indicates the Catholic population in Detroit has declined exponentially with the general population losses in the City. While southeast Michigan will never be the same as it was 50 years ago, Together in Faith phase two is helping parishes and schools adapt to emerging economic realities and social dynamics in Detroit. The Church¡¦s mission in the City will be enriched by utilizing a sound planning process.

The Archdiocese is attentive to efforts by the Detroit Works Project, and has worked with the City and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments to obtain demographic and planning data to help inform the Together in Faith phase II process. The Archdiocese has also communicated with Data Driven Detroit and the NEXT Detroit Neighborhood Initiative on the same basis to connect with planning efforts in the City to understand what City neighborhoods might look like in the next five to ten years as well as what resources will be available in the neighborhoods. The Archdiocese is sharing all of this information with every parish in Detroit so parish representatives and parish groups have the best possible data to inform their discernment and base their recommendations.

10. What is the process for the second phase of Together in Faith?

The process started in January 2011 and implementation will begin in January 2012.

After months of data gathering and planning, Archbishop Vigneron accepted recommendations on January 10, 2011 to launch the second phase of Together in Faith. Parishes across the archdiocese are naming four to five representatives each to planning teams that will consist of five to nine parishes grouped by shared geography.

These parish representatives will possess a solid understanding of their parish¡¦s mission, values, hopes and dreams, sacramental data (numbers of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, etc.), outreach and formation activities, and financial information

These parish representatives will commit to attend every meeting and communicate the planning process to their parishes at every step in the process.

The parish representatives and parish groups will be formed in January with initial meetings and reviews of data starting in February. The archdiocesan Department of Parish Life and Services is facilitating the process and is providing staff liaison services to the APC.

11. Is there a timeline?

January 2011

  • Parish and K-8 school planning groups formed
  • Pastors, parish and school leaders to name four to five representatives from each parish and each K-8 school to planning groups

February-July

  • Planning groups meet, study, reflect on parish and school gifts, data and statistics, create draft plans, assisted by a facilitator at every meeting

July-August

  • Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) reviews draft plans, responds to planning groups with clarifying questions
  • City Pastoral Planning Committee (CPPC) reviews draft plans from Central Region parishes (those in the City of Detroit), shares comments with the APC
  • Catholic School Advisory Board (CSAB) reviews draft plans from all K-8 schools, shares comments with APC

September-October

  • Planning groups refine plans based on input from consultative bodies

November

  • Final plans submitted to Archbishop Vigneron

January 2012

  • Implementation begins on plans approved by Archbishop Vigneron

12. How will you measure the outcomes "the results" of the process?

The sacramental and other markers regarding the success of Together in Faith include:

  • Increased attendance at Sunday Mass on a parish-by-parish basis
  • Frequent and devout celebration of the Sacrament of Penance-Reconciliation
  • Parishes that serve as "schools of prayer," especially personal prayer rooted in the Sacred Scripture
  • Financially stable parishes with active participation in evangelization, youth and young adult ministry, Christian service outreach, with the engagement of lay leadership, in parish stewardship and administration, including financial management

13. Is the Archdiocese waiting for the Together in Faith process to work itself through, or are interim decisions being made?

Together in Faith is a key element of an effort led by Archbishop Vigneron to stabilize parishes and Catholic schools in southeast Michigan as well as the Archdiocese itself. Shortly after he arrived in 2009, the Archbishop appointed a commission of priests and lay leaders to assess all of the assets, liabilities, and cash flows of the Archdiocese and its related entities. The Archbishop appointed a separate task force to access Archdiocesan Central Services operations.

The financial commission concluded that there was a lack of clear financial responsibilities in the Archdiocese. The Central Services Task Force concluded that the Archdiocese and its parishes needed to promote greater accountability and transparency.

The financial commission also concluded that the Archdiocese had to change its practice of making loans and otherwise subsidizing struggling parishes that have no plan to reduce expenses, increase parishioners, and generate resources.

By the end of 2009, more than 70 of 264 positions were eliminated from Archdiocesan Central Services, amounting to a 29 percent reduction of the workforce. Archdiocesan employee benefits and pensions were reduced and employee cost sharing on health benefits was implemented.

The Archdiocese is continuing to reform its financial management practices, implementing measures to reduce spending and conserve cash. The Archdiocese is also assessing subsidies to all non-Central Services entities, completing the refinancing of its debt, and ensuring it has adequate cash reserves to weather the economy.

14. The Archdiocese has started the Changing Lives Together fundraising campaign to strengthen parishes. Will this campaign save struggling parishes and schools?

The Changing Lives Together capital stewardship initiative is currently in a pilot phase involving 18 parishes in four counties. These parishes are determining their most pressing parish needs, putting a price tag on those needs, and launching parish-based fundraising to meet those needs.

Changing Lives Together, like Together in Faith, is a parish-based effort. The Changing Lives Together discernment process of setting parish pastoral priorities, the engagement of parish lay leaders, and the involvement of all parishioners aligns with the Together in Faith process. Other waves of parishes will engage in Changing Lives Together in 2011 and beyond. All parishes will be assigned to a wave by early February 2011.

Seventy percent of the funds raised through Changing Lives Together will remain in the parishes to address parish-determined priorities.

As was accomplished in the first phase of Together in Faith, neighboring parishes will assess their resources and needs in collaborative planning groups through phase two of the Together in Faith process. Some may cluster, merge, or close through the process. Together in Faith and Changing Lives Together are powerful pastoral planning and stewardship development mechanisms now being implemented on parallel tracks to help restore parishes to financial stability and position them for future growth in ministry.

15. What is a clustered parish?

Clustered Parishes have one priest serving as pastor. The priest may live at another location and be the pastor of more than one community. Clustered parishes remain financially independent, although if a staff position or a ministerial program is shared, the cost is shared as well

16. Why would parishes be clustered?

The clustering of parishes and the collaboration of parishes within vicariate boundaries will enable a more effective expression of Church through the sharing of human and capital resources and the coordination of ministerial activities.

17. What is merging?

Merging involves joining of two or more parishes into a single new parish. The newly merged parish may consist of one site or one for worship and administration with another site for an alternate purpose (such as community outreach or social ministry). Merged parishes may have multiple worship sites such as a church and a chapel. The new parish has one parish pastoral council and one finance council.

18. How does merging differ from clustering?

Clustering involves two or more parishes remaining somewhat independent and sharing a pastor. Clustering can also be an interim step in a merger process.

19. If parishes cluster, merge, or close, what happens to their assets, including their endowments?

Regarding sacramental records (baptisms, first communions, confirmations, and so on), one site in a parish planning group where merging or closures are involved is designated as the main church of worship and as the administrative site. The sacramental records of all the parishes in the planning group are brought to this site. The membership records from the other parishes are consolidated to form a new parish list.

Historic documents are sent to the archdiocesan archives, following guidelines for the preservation of archival material.

Regarding sacred objects at sites to be shut down and not used by the newly merged parish community, a worship environment committee is formed by the newly merged parish to determine which significant sacred objects the new parish should retain, and how the items will be incorporated into the main worship site. Remaining items to be disposed of will adhere to the Archdiocesan guidelines regarding the disposition of sacred objects. The archdiocesan Office for Christian Worship assists parishes with this transition.

With respect to fiscal matters such as assets (including endowments) and debts, the archdiocesan Office of Parish Support Services will assist parishes during this transition. In a merger, the new parish acquires all assets and liabilities of the parishes from which it was formed. Pre-merger discussions determine building needs and use, staffing, and budgetary requirements. All finances are consolidated into a new archdiocesan Loan Deposit Program account. In January, new envelopes are distributed to the consolidated list of registered members.

20. Will parish employees lose their jobs in a merger?

Some jobs may be eliminated and new positions may be created. Discernment in this regard is done through the Together in Faith process to determine what is needed for ministry in the new community. New job descriptions are written to reflect the ministry needs of the parish. The pastor makes the final decisions regarding staffing of the new parish community. Archdiocesan central service departments assist pastors and staff during these transitions.

21. What if a parish does not participate?

Lay people participating in the parish planning groups will make recommendations to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council regarding all of the parishes in their respective groups. Parishes that do not fully engage in the process or whose representatives fail to attend meetings or communicate with their fellow volunteers or parishioners will miss an opportunity to maximize the potential of their parish community.

22. How much of a factor is the shortage of priests in determining whether parishes stay open?

The priest shortage is a factor, but not a make or break decision point regarding the future of a parish. Population demographics, parish finances, and the physical plant of parish properties are the more immediately relevant issues. The Archdiocese is assessing how and where priests are currently assigned to best support parish life in response to the needs of the Catholic population and the demand of pastoral activities.

23. What are the factors that determine whether a parish stays open?

Parish representatives are engaging in a collaborative reflection process that is guiding them in their deliberation as they develop plans with neighboring parishes. They will start with broad considerations such as detailing the core values and key factors that describe the vitality and essential, life-giving qualities of their parishes, as well as determining the five most inspiring hopes and dreams for the future that would most enhance parish vitality.

They will then get into more a more detailed analysis of the internal and external circumstances that affect parish ministry. Objective data on population demographics, housing stock, and area economic measures will be considered. Internal data on parish membership, sacramental life (such as mass attendance, numbers of baptisms, confirmations, and weddings), finances, and the conditions of parish physical plants will be assessed. The answers to these reflections and assessments of data will determine the recommendations made by the parish planning groups to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.