Together in Faith

The Road Ahead

"Straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13b-14)

Together in Faith 2 Pastoral LetterTogether in Faith, Phase Two has been a remarkable process, in both its breadth and depth. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council made its final recommendations to me after receiving plans from 40 local planning groups, with the cumulative involvement of approximately 1500 Catholics from throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit. The members of the planning groups considered data of all kinds, and were well-positioned to understand how this data fit with their own lived experience of the parishes and communities for which they were planning. So much collaborative discernment about the future of our Archdiocese has yielded not only a great deal of practical fruit, but has also given us greater wisdom about the needs of our people and how we can most effectively address those needs. This wisdom confirms the importance of our pastoral priorities and, together with those priorities, gives us a much clearer sense about how we need to move forward with our pastoral planning. This planning is not complete, but is, rather, an ongoing process of discernment about pastoral strategies for fulfilling our mission.

No matter how difficult the challenges we face, if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and trust the Providence of our heavenly Father, we can follow Christ into the future with the confidence that comes from faith.

Broadly speaking, we have learned a great deal about our need to discover creative new ways to organize our Church structures while remaining faithful to the divine constitution of the Lord's Church. As a result of the planning process, most of our parishes will be entering into more concrete forms of collaboration with neighboring parishes.

For some of our parishes, this will eventually lead to a period in which they may share a common pastor and eventually merge into one parish community. Decisions regarding the future planning steps for each parish in the Archdiocese are detailed in companion documents to this pastoral letter. Details on the next steps for all parishes, including the various local planning group proposals for responding to the pastoral priorities, are available here.

Together in Faith 2 Pastoral LetterHere I would like to identify an important connection between Together in Faith and our ongoing parish-based capital stewardship initiative Changing Lives Together, which is providing parishes the financial resources to help implement the vision of Together in Faith. Both of these initiatives have made use of outstanding lay leaders and produced leadership structures that present to us models of collaboration. We also need to consider creative new ways to organize a variety of institutions and ministries, particularly in the city of Detroit, where we all-too-often struggle to find the resources needed to advance our mission. Creative thinking and determination, by God's grace, will allow us to do his work in a way that is both faithful and sustainable.

The following are some other particular insights that have emerged as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council conducted their work in proposing Together in Faith, Phase Two:

Most parishioners do not experience the priest shortage, insofar as the level of priestly service offered today compares well with what was offered when we had many more priests. This is a great tribute to the generosity of our priests.

Every parish should support Catholic school education. Although not every parish is equipped to support its own Catholic school, we share a common responsibility for the formation of the next generation of Catholics.

Assigning a pastor to multiple parishes places undue stress on our priests. Together in Faith, Phase Two promotes new ways of forging relationships between parishes while recognizing, in some situations, a merger of two or more parishes is the best and only viable solution.

We need to make a firm commitment to appropriate levels of financial transparency and accountability. Transparency and accountability are vital for all of our parishes and institutions, especially insofar as they foster greater trust among the faithful and encourage more generous stewardship on the part of all Catholics.

Our local Church must not abandon the city of Detroit. The pastoral care of the city is the concern of the whole archdiocese. While we cannot afford to be complacent in the face of severely stressed personnel and material resources, we need to discover new ways to serve God's people in Detroit.

A number of our parishes need to make the necessary changes to become fiscally responsible. In some cases, this will involve considering new organizational models. To put the matter simply, we cannot fulfill our mission if we do not pay our bills. This is the wisdom, taken together with our pastoral priorities, that needs to shape our pastoral planning. This wisdom has shaped the decisions we have already made, and it must shape the direction we take in the future. No matter how difficult the challenges we face, if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and trust in the Providence of our heavenly Father, we can follow Christ into the future with the confidence that comes from faith. God is calling us "out into the desert," so that we might learn to love and trust in him more deeply than ever before. This deepened love and trust is the great blessing that lies ahead for us. Looking to the future, I would like to highlight two areas among those I have identified thus far in this letter, evangelization and priestly vocations.

Increased lay leadership is needed in parish administration in order to ease the stress our priests experience when trying to provide sacramental ministry as well as spiritual and administrative leadership in large parishes with increasingly challenging administrative demands.

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