Pastoral Planning Commission Proposal

Today, the Boston Pilot published a summary of the proposal by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, entitled, “Disciples in Mission.” This is the plan for a new parish staffing and pastoral leadership model in the Boston Archdiocese. The summary was released with a note stating, “each of the proposal’s recommendations involves detailed sub-recommendations that aren’t included below, so we encourage everyone to read the full proposal document.”

The full report is available online at BCI has read the full report and has plenty of comments to make, but we will hold back for this moment to just share the summary.

Part One: Recommendations for strengthening parishes for the work of the New Evangelization

1. That the 288 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston be organized into approximately 135 Parish Collaboratives, these collaboratives consisting usually of two or three parishes, but sometimes only one, and, in rare occasion’s four parishes.

2. That the formation of the parish collaboratives be phased in, with appropriate flexibility, over a period of five years.

3. That the parishes of each collaborative be assigned one single Pastor.

4. That the pastor form the staff members serving the parishes of the collaborative into a Pastoral Team.

5. That the multiple Parish Pastoral Councils of the parishes in a collaborative become one parish council to assist the one pastor in fostering pastoral activity and in guiding the mission of the Church in each parish and in the parish collaborative.

6. That, if possible in accord with the norms of Canon Law, the benefits and advantages of collaboration be extended to Parish Finance Councils, such that one finance council serves the one pastor to assist him in the financial administration of the parishes and the parish collaborative.

7. That the pastor, pastoral team, and councils of each parish collaborative participate in extensive theological and practical training for the New Evangelization.

8. That, given this major reorientation of the mission of the Archdiocese towards the New Evangelization, the staff at the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministry staff will also benefit from the training necessary to help them understand what the New Evangelization is, what their role is for the New Evangelization, and the ways in which the offices of the Pastoral Center should effectively assist the pastoral teams in strengthening the work of evangelization in their collaboratives.

9. That the parish collaboratives receive the support they need to become successful collaboratives.

10. That each collaborative be required to develop a pastoral plan for the collaborative within eight to twelve months of the inauguration of the collaborative.

11. That the Archbishop utilize multiple means of communication to introduce Disciples in Mission to the people and parishes of the Archdiocese as an important foundation for the mission of evangelization and to place this part of the plan in the context of the life and work of the Church in Boston.

12. That further work, coordinated by the Pastoral Planning Office (PPO), be completed on several particularly important issues that have been foremost in the Commission’s deliberations, including parish collaboratives; Catholic schools; staff transitions; religious institutes, religious priests, and other non-incardinated priests; non-parochial pastoral services; parochial vicars; and strengthening the roles of regional vicar and vicar forane.

Part Two: Recommendations for strengthening the work of the New Evangelization in parishes

A. Recommendations for Re-energizing Pastoral Leadership for the Task of Evangelization

1. That the Office of the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization (EVNE), the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) and the Pastoral Planning Office of the Archdiocese of Boston (PPO) come together in a partnership to provide the training required for the full implementation of Disciples in Mission.

2. That at the conclusion of Phase One of the implementation, the Archdiocese hire four staff members, the Pastoral Planning Training Team (PPTT). The PPTT will follow CLI through their processes, learn from them their methods and resources, and assume responsibility for the CLI portion of the training at the end of two years. In this way, CLI will “train the trainers” for Phases Three and Four and for ongoing training and support.

3. That EVNE, with the assistance of PPO, conduct an extensive consultation of the people of the Archdiocese of Boston, focusing on best practices for evangelization. This consultation will begin with a survey of the pastors and then have two additional rounds in the regions of the Archdiocese, making extensive use of technology to involve as many people as possible. The Catholic Media Group will provide technology support for this effort.

4. That the training itself have six stages in the first phase of implementation. Stage One will be for the Staff of the Pastoral Center and other Central Ministries Personnel. Stage Two will be for the Pastors leading the collaboratives. Stage Three will be for Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council membership. Stage Four will be for Pastoral Team members. Stage Five will be for each Pastoral Team. Stage Six will be for the Pastoral Team and several council members of each collaborative.

5. That at the completion of their training, each participant receive a certificate from the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization (TINE). Throughout the process, TINE will also provide team and council members with information about opportunities for ongoing formation and education.

6. That concurrent with the training program in the recommendations above, EVNE provide extensive programming for all of the parishes and people of the Archdiocese of Boston that does not fall within the structure of the training program, with a particular emphasis during the first year on events associated with the Year of Faith.

B. Recommendations for Strengthening Youth and Adult Faith Formation for the Task of Evangelization

1. The commission recommends the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the Religious Education Task Force, which addressed the religious education of our youth in parishes and in schools, and the Committee to Study Lay Formation Programs, which addressed adult faith formation in the Archdiocese. (The reports of these two groups are attached as appendices to this pastoral plan).

2. That the archdiocesan offices responsible for implementing the recommendations from these 2 groups, provide an immediate report to Cardinal Seán that: identifies the recommendations that have been successfully implemented; and indicates the plans, timelines and needed funding to secure the implementation of the remaining recommendations.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The plan clearly reflects feedback from the consultation process. It has gotten stronger in the area of evangelization. At least there is no longer the “circular firing squad” concept where pastors are all automatically removed from their current roles. In the humble opinion of BCI, some aspects of the plan seem to have merit and some aspects do not feel totally baked. We will elaborate more separately, but for now we put this out and invite your thoughts.

42 Responses to Pastoral Planning Commission Proposal

  1. The minute I see this I rather throw it in the trash. All this is doing is to eliminate half the current amount of parishes. How is that going bring people back to church?

  2. Francois Tee says:

    They are trying. It shows the are listening and adapting as best they are able. Time will tell if the execution meets the goal

  3. Boston Blackey says:

    Why is Boston having so much trouble? here in New jersey (southern New Jersey) the parishes are lively almost every parish I know of has at least 3 active Deacons, one has 11. Financially parishes, with and without schools, take in more than $16,000 per week. At one point in time Boston was a beacon to the Church in the US. It makes me very sad to see what has happened to my home archdiocese. You can’t blame all of it on pedophilia.

    • Objective Observer says:

      This is because most towns in NJ have one or two parishes. Boston Archdiocese municipalities have an average of about 3.5 per, with some areas having 3-4 per square mile. The collaboratives, IF they can work, would make Boston more like other dioceses in terms of parish units per municipality.

  4. Plain Patty says:

    How much is this going to cost each parish? What is the total cost diocese-wide? What is the targeted ROI both financially and new evangelizaton? In other words how do we know what we are getting for the expenditures? In other words what is the accountibility and outcomes for all this disruption!

  5. bitsnbytes says:

    I hope some of the staff are converted as part of this plan.

  6. Lynne says:

    This is so sad… I would love for the Archdiocese of Boston to be a strong, vibrant diocese. All I can say is, the SSPX has a Mass in Woburn at 10 am and there’s a wonderful chapel at Still River, St Benedict Center (Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary).

  7. Stephen says:

    The 1,000 word summary starts with – a collaborative is three parishes, well actually in can be 4. But it also can be 2 especially when it is neither 3 nor 4 but never 1.

    Give me a break

  8. cHARLENE says:

    Wow……………very confusing to the average folk in the pews.
    I wonder how many will be left in the pews when this is all put into place 😦

  9. Angry Parish Council Member says:

    Last I checked, the SSPX had no canonical status on the Catholic Church and thus their ministries and Masses are not considered valid by the Magisterium. Do you folks who attend their services also go to a valid Catholic Mass elsewhere?

    As for all who are complaining about this pla, what would you suggest or do differently? I have attended many meetings of my parish council on this issue and don’t myself have any better plan to address the shrinking numbers of Mass-going Catholics and active priests.

    BCI, I for one would like to hear your opinion of the plan.

    • Lynne says:

      I’m looking for the information that gave me the impression that I could attend an SSPX Mass and that fulfills my Sunday obligation (and of course now I can’t find it!). I realize that I cannot go to confession there (even though they conveniently schedule it right before Mass).

      Why isn’t anyone asking how can they stem the mass exodus (no pun intended)? Why don’t they talk to soon-to-retire Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz in Lincoln, NE? He has consistently gotten more vocations than any other diocese. Actually, I know why they don’t, because they like Mass as it’s offered here.

      • Liam says:

        Lincoln has benefitted from what might be called a ghetto effect: in addition to those within its borders, it has attracted those disaffected or alienated from elsewhere. So it would not necessarily translate if every bishop became Bp Bruskewitz. Also, Catholics in the central Plains, not being as dominated by the culture of liturgical minimalism that prevailed for decades like Boston well before Vatican II, have a different cultural history with the liturgy, and it’s not readily translated to, say, eastern Massachusetts. The islands of liturgical quality in the RCAB appear to have been islands even long before the Council.

    • Stephen says:

      Dear, Angry Parish Council Member (APCM),
      The US Church has given away 3 $ billion due to wayward and sodomite priests and SSPX has no canonical status?!
      BWaaaaAA!! Good one! What modernist progressive told you that?

      Check again. SSPX sacraments are Valid but not licit.
      I could point out countless illicit practices in out diocese every week. Our Pope Benedict XVI lifted the erroneous SSPX excommunication of JPII. Benedict has also been prudently encouraging the Latin Mass.

      I was going to go to my local Parish Council meeting but I had laundry to do!!

      P.S. why so angry?

      PPS, What ever happened to the Old Evangelization?

      PPPS. You still the one who gets to clap the erasers?

      • This is in response to several commenters. First, we ask that readers keep their comments pertinent to the main topic of this post, which is about the Pastoral Planning initiative in the Boston Archdiocese, not the time/locations of the SSPX Masses or the canonical status of SSPX.

        That said, to put the issue of SSPX to rest, for the record, here is what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in July 2009 in *Ecclesiae Unitatem*:

        4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment to favouring the *repair of all fractures and divisions* within the Church, and to *healing a wound*that is ever more painfully felt within the ecclesiastical structure, I decided to remit the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained by Msgr. Lefebvre. In making that decision my intention was to remove an impediment that could hinder the opening of a door to dialogue and thus invite the four bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X to rediscover* the path to full communion with the Church*. As I explained in my Letter to Catholic bishops of 10 March this year, the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline, to free individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and *until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status* in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

        We respectfully ask that any further discussion about the canonical status of SSPX be held at some other more appropriate venue outside of BCI.

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        Sorry, BCI, I didn’t read your reply to Angry before I posted.

        Nonetheless, I would ask that my synoptic refutation of his errors should stand.

      • Angry Parish Council member says:

        No modernist progressive told me SSPX has no canonical status. Unless you consider the same Pope who has been encouraging TLM to be a modernist progressive. He wrote in 2009 in APOSTOLIC LETTER “MOTU PROPRIO” ECCLESIAE UNITATEM:

        “it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

        I’m equally angry about countless illicit practices in this diocese, but last time I checked, two wrongs didn’t make a right.

      • Jack O'Malley says:

        Angry PCM,

        I haven’t the time to instruct you in the basics. But consider this: Orthodox priests celebrate valid sacraments. They have no canonical standing in the Church. Start from that and begin to learn. Read more. Write less.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Angry PCM,

      You really should learn more before you expatiate on matters beyond your ken.

      FSSPX Masses are valid but illicit. They fulfill the Sunday obligation. No priest or bishop of the FSSPX is excommunicated. They are canonically irregular. They don’t have faculties for the sacraments of Penance of Matrimony.

      So temper your anger and check again. You are misusing words you don’t understand.

  10. Angry Parish Council Member,
    You asked about the opinion of BCI regarding this plan. We have mixed thoughts and it will take more time than available immediately for us to share our opinions. But suffice to say, we do believe the Boston Archdiocese has to do something different.

    We cannot staff all of the parishes today with individual pastors. The end of the 2011-2012 academic year saw a fair number of St. Johns’ seminarians leave. There is no published evidence that the Catholics Come Home initiative yielded any measurable lasting result in increased Mass attendance

    Is this the best plan and approach? We do not know. We have many questions similar to those others have posted publicly:

    -Is there any similar precedent anywhere else like this we can look to that suggests it will succeed?
    -Where exactly did this new target number of parishes come from?
    -Are pastoral assignment decisions to be made by a committee (Voice of the Faithful style) sitting around a table?
    -Given the governance issues BCI has been documenting for more than 2 years, who will make the key central decisions? Who exactly will lead and drive the execution?
    -What will this whole plan cost to implement–both for individual dioceses and the archdiocese?
    -Will Canon Law permit one Parish Council and one Finance Council for the combination of multiple parishes into one collaborative?
    -Is there any solid plan to catechize Pastoral Center and parish staff and form them in the faith? Who will do that and how will it be done?
    -How will this bring fallen away Catholics back to the Church?
    -What will happen to the empty rectories?
    -How many churches and parishes will ultimately close? What will happen to those properties–will they be sold off and forever gone, or is there a better way to at least keep owning the properties?
    -How long will this ultimately take?
    -Why is so much emphasis placed on the concept of the “New Evangelization” as coined by Pope John Paul II? BCI gets that evangelization may need to be “new in fervor, new in methods, and new in expression” as we respond to new threats to our faith and religious freedom and take advantage of new means of communication. But it is not entirely clear what is wrong with just plain “evangelization.”

    We could go on further, but must pause here for now.

    • Liam says:

      Even without clustering, many rectories should be closed and sold/repurposed. Parish priests should not live alone for very long: considering a single rectory per vicariate forane. It does mean that priests will not be so proximate to their church as currently, but most priests in the Boston area would still be way closer to their flock than priests in much of the flyover country, as it were.

  11. Jack O'Malley says:

    The solution to the problems of Amchurch and the Archdiocese of Boston is clear:

    1. Abrogate the USCCB and all other bishops’ “conferences”.
    2. Eliminate the Masonic mass and restore the TLM.
    3. Repeal the 1983 CIC.
    4. Restore the Tridentine catechism.
    5. Laicize the sacerdotal and episopal sodomites forthwith.
    6. Ship Cardinal O’Malley (a.k.a. Cardinal “Seán”) off to an eleemosynary mission in darkest Mohammedan Africa.
    7. A few other measures not covered by the crap in the “pastoral planning proposal”. TBSL as I revive from my religious ennui.

    • Stephen says:

      I don’t know if I should dump Gatorade on you or carry you around in a chair, thanks for your wisdom.

    • Jack O'Malley says:


      Thanks for the compliment — I once had gatorade dumped on me but I was coaching youth soccer at the time. I didn’t do anything – the kids did it all. We lost the next round. I was waiting for the tar and feathers!

  12. Lazarus' Table says:

    Orthodoxy –doctrinal, liturgical, ethical– will all be on the back burner for the foreseeable future. The archdiocese is in “Institutional Survival Mode”, energies will be expended in trying to keep local franchises at least open. There isn’t a superabundance of ministers –clergy or lay– so alot will be overlooked. To be sure, there will be/are extraordinarily faithful, talented and creative priests and laypeople sincerely intent on doing the work of the church in Jesus’ name. But these are the exceptions that will prove the rule. “Father” will be less visible and available –you’ll have a better chance of seeing the poor man on the highway travelling between his parishes– will tire more quickly and die younger. These poor men will feel the need to be more self-protective against the manipulation of the Institution and ‘loopy’ parishioners who are probably found in every parish. We will now have to find within that which once sustained and educated us in the faith in the parish.

    • Stephen says:

      As a child relatives showed me the hovel under a bridge, covered by shrubs that the Holy Sacrifice of the Alter was offered by a Priest with a bounty on his head during the ‘troubles’ in Ireland. The rosaries ground into the soil by the boots of soldiers and stories of babies plucked with pitchforks from bassinets. Orthodoxy –doctrinal, liturgical, ethical all remained intact.

      Your image is a joke.

      “Institutional Survival Mode” is a nauseating bureaucratic quasi-catholic embarrassment perpetuated by enemies of the Faith and church professionals.

      Bring on the bankruptcy.

      Pray for good Priests.

      • tryingtofigurethisout says:

        what is a joke is you and your alter ego jack thinking you are ” the enlightened “…you are just as bad as the wayward leftist “catholics ” in the mold of sister simone….you are heretical and when proven with evidence that proves your rants untrue , ie your statement about the sspx and it’s cannonical status, you simply ignore….don’t bother responding to this because your rantings are not worthy of a response… i am glad though the BCI pointed out your bad info on the SSPX .. just because you really really want something to be true , doesn’t mean it is

      • BCI asks that readers refrain from attacks back and forth at other readers. You can respectfully disagree with someone else without attacking them or calling them or their opinions “a joke.”. There are a couple of readers here who are the worst offenders. If you disagree with someone else, just say you disagree. If you have facts that justify your disagreement, offer them. But please treat comments here as you would hopefully treat a personal live conversation with someone you do not know. Otherwise your comments will be moderated.

  13. Objective Observer says:

    The plan assumes competent people in leadership for evangelization, and a sound financial footing for RCAB to pull it off. I am not convinced that RCAB can assure us of either at the moment.

    Many dioceses have implemented this kind of plan, but they have done so only by beginning with extensive lay formation. To make the plans, announce them and implement them, and then announce a plan for formation assumes that the people, having learned of the plans, will be eager to support them by giving time and energy (not to mention money) to these formation efforts.

    Has RCAB put the cart before the horse? Given the five-year plan, wouldn’t there have been time to provide the formation program to parish planning and finance council members, then let them help recommend the collaborative options?

    When RCAB says it is paying for something, it means WE are paying for it. There isn’t some magical pot of money from which RCAB draws — it’s our donations that fund all the salaries and expenses of the central administration.

    Is it time for one other adjustment to take place as part of this collaboration? Is it time for the civil body of Corporation Sole and its finance committee to be dissolved, and for a new civil structure to replace it? We wish for religious freedom from our government, and yet we do not expect fiscal accountability of the civil structure of the archdiocese. Corp Sole is one man, one vote. Period. And that man, for good or ill, is accountable for every act to which he affixes his signature.

    Is it time the structure reflected a civil leadership body of bishops, priests and lay faithful who are personally liable and accountable for the civil undertakings of the Archdiocese? Has the 19th century fiction of Corporation Sole run its course? Archbishop Williams asked for the Corp Sole form from the legislature. He exhibited remarkable wisdom in his selection of those who advised him, and in the execution of diocesan fiscal affairs. HIs successor, Cardinal O’Connell’s, fiscal abuses are well documented. Every ordinary since has either overbuilt, overspent or at least been manipulated by those who sought personal gain from dealings with RCAB. Could it be time for the fiscal and civil reins to be held in more than one hand? And could it be that changing the way parishes are run is the ideal time to recommend a change in how the fiscal and civil structure of the diocese is run?

    How many more base salaries over $160,000.00 (with benefits and employment tax contributions that’s actually right at $200,000.00) can WE afford to pay? And how many more conflicts of interest can the Archdiocese of Boston afford to pursue?

    • Boston Pastor says:

      Objective Observer has hit the nail square on the head. The points offered merit very serious discussion by those in the Pastoral Center, which I should note is not always known for being “pastoral.” I am especially concerned about the lack of lay formation as a foundation for the new pastoral plan – and the sources such as RENEW International the Cardinal has employed for other efforts supposedly targeted at faith formation. The content is wishy-washy and group-think at its best and has near-zero catechetical value. Will he turn to these same ineffective sources once again for an effort this important?

      BCI, may I humbly suggest that you also return to the issue of the inflated six-figure salaries for lay executives? Has any progress been made?

  14. Stephen says:

    Please hit me again harder.
    For clarification; I do not claim to be enlightened. I was unclear
    in my attempt to point out the irony that the SSPX is considered the absolute lunatic fringe when we have active homosexual priest in our midst.

    The SSPX Mass is valid. The issue of sacraments of Penance of Matrimony is admittedly news to me. Regarding these: I have gone to confession with them and gotten excellent spiritual direction. Re: Marriage, thanks to Catholic Boston marriage really isn’t what it used to be anyway –

    Don’t hate me help me.

  15. Stephen says:

    I noted on the RCAB Events calendar there is a safe driving class being offered on 9/20 and no mention of “40 Day’s for Life” kick-off on the 26th.

    “The Plan” is a sham.
    RENEW is a very EFFECTIVE tool of the modernists.
    This from the Oath against Modernism;

    “I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source.”

    RENEW is quite intentionally about – a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths- This is exactly what the booklets are designed to foster. They do so very effectively.

    Blind sentiment (or a diabolical disorientation if you’d rather) is what allows the RCAB to facilitate and support save-driving (certainly not without merit) and to ignore “40 Days for Life”. The Modernist intellectuals and their progressive sheep are creating a new church based on a new vision. It’s not Catholic even if they really really want it to be.

  16. Marie says:

    Good morning!

    A wee bit of off track thinking, if I may. So, remember how, once upon a time, statistics showed that large families were a thing of the past and how statistically there would only be 1.5 children born to the the average family and how they closed schools and how they got purchased for pennies on the dollar and those developers converted them into apartments and condos and office buildings and how families, in fact, had larger families and how cities and towns had to build schools and did not have the money. Remember? Well, as it relates to closing churches, perhaps it is time to pause and rethink church closures and put pastoral planning on hold and learn from that past. What if there was a wife and what if she was a disciple and what if…………….

    • anonymous says:

      What if Marie just solved the vocation crisis?

      • Boston Pastor says:

        Great idea. But is there conclusive evidence that’s taking place in Boston, or is expected to take place?

    • Stephen says:

      Your comments represent the unauthorized use of common sense. This display of intellect has disqualified you from any decision making positions within the RCAB.

      Please go back and review the 5-year plan to institute the new vision. Please pay close attention to the PPTT as well as the CLI and TINE. Note also well the EVNE and the PPO. When you are cognizant of the plan and are fully collaboratised make sure you have a bucket big enough to carry all the CRAP.

      Dear Lord, Preserve the sacraments until this modernist heresy fades into history.

  17. Marie says:


    I just cannot get the hang of this new “Initial Cap” Language. What exactly is CRAP?

    Seriously, collaboration is sadly lacking and disjointedness seems prevalent and suspended animation seems the norm. And, I am sincerely miffed because there are six churches in Quincy all are walk-to and the Catholic faithful of Squantum are left high and dry and their’s, Mary Star of the Sea, is/was probably the most walked to church in the city. Sorry, my frustration is showing.

    Looking forward to BCI comments and sharing their opinion(s).

  18. […] last post, where we gave a high-level summary of the new Disciples in Mission” Pastoral Plan, generated […]

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