Boston Pastoral Plan Indoctrination Process

Last week, Chancellor John Straub sent this email off to all employees at the Pastoral Center to inform them about the indoctrination, er, training process for implementing the new Pastoral Plan.  When you read the message, pull out a piece of paper and tally all of the mentions of why this is happening. Count the number of times you see references to an end goal that resembles helping bring people closer to God and the Catholic Church or to advancing the mission of saving souls. Additional BCI commentary follows the message.

 To all employees of the  Pastoral Center:

On January 16, 2013, we will be beginning Stage One of Training for the Pastoral Plan.  Stage One training is for the Pastoral Center.  In it we will learn some of the same leadership, management, and evangelization skills that will be taught in the collaboratives in their very extensive training program.

We will learn the same vocabulary, the same structures, and the same vision that they will learn.  Appropriately, we will lead the way in the training effort.

For each of us, the training will take eight days, spread out over seven weeks.  Each day of training begins at 9:00AM, and ends at 3:00PM.

There are five modules of the training program.

The Evangelization module, led by Bishop Kennedy and Michael Lavigne, lasts for two days.  You can choose [Wednesday, January 16 and Monday, February 4] or [Monday, February 25 and Tuesday, March 5]

The first of the Leadership modules, led by the Catholic Leadership Institute (and therefore called CLI One), will last for two days.  You can choose [Monday/Tuesday, January 28/29] or [Monday/Tuesday, February 11/12].

The second of the Leadership modules, CLI Two, will last for two days.  You can choose [Wednesday/Thursday, January 30/31] or [Thursday/Friday, February 14/15].

You need to complete CLI One before you attend CLI Two, so you cannot do CLI One in February and CLI Two in January.

The first of the General Topics modules will last for one day.  You can choose Thursday, January 17 or Tuesday, February 26.

The second of the General Topics modules will last for one day.  You can choose Tuesday, February 5 or Wednesday, March 6.

We ask you to please go to the following link to sign up for training as soon as possible:  – a confirming email will be sent when you have successfully registered.  If you have any questions, please contact Father Paul in the Office of Pastoral Planning (x5867,

Thank you,

John Straub

How many references to God did you find, or to carrying out the saving ministry of Jesus Christ?  That is really just one concern BCI has–it goes much deeper than this email.

Though we respect Bishop Kennedy and are sure he will do a great job talking about evangelization, that is about all we have some measure of confidence in right now.

Do most of the “new generation” of high-paid Pastoral Center employees and execs brought in under the McDonough/Hehir reign (e.g. Carol Gustavson, Terry Donilon, Mark Dunderdale, John Straub, Mary Grassa O’Neill,  etc)–who replaced the people who worked for the Church for lower pay because they loved Jesus Christ and wanted to advance the mission of the Catholic Church–even have the basics of Catholicism down? Are they bought into the mission of saving souls and that this is a vocation? Or is this just a good job for a sizable paycheck?

The reality, as recently shared by a BCI colleague is this: the ones with the power do NOT demonstrate that they care about the souls, and the ones who care about the souls are treated shabbily. Many of those who care about the souls have left or been pushed out, and those who remain that care are treated poorly.

How can you advance a pastoral plan in the face of this reality?  Does the archdiocese even have the right people on the ship in key roles?  Just in Pastoral Planning, we have a head of the office who allowed a Voice of the Faithful Chapter in his parish, and the newest addition to the office is from the same religious order as the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which the Vatican has criticized for a multitude of doctrinal problems. How can faithful Catholics trust in the plan, when there are obvious reasons to not trust the people in key leadership roles? Almost across the board, it feels like the people in the organization are woefully mismatched to the mission.

Does the archdiocese have the right fundamental structure–civil/legal, organizational and canonical–for pulling off this ambitious program?  No.

In the face of that, consider the following. Is it BCI, or does the tone of the Chancellor email and communication sounds strikingly similar to aspects of what Vladimir Lenin delivered in his 1920 Speech At The Third All-Russia Congress of The Russian Young Communist League.

… the youth will be faced with the actual task of creating a communist society. For it is clear that the generation of working people brought up in capitalist society can, at best, accomplish the task of destroying the foundations of the old, the capitalist way of life, which was built on exploitation. At best it will be able to accomplish the tasks of creating a social system that will help the proletariat and the working classes retain power and lay a firm foundation, which can be built on only by a generation that is starting to work under the new conditions, in a situation in which relations based on the exploitation of man by man no longer exist.

And so, in dealing from this angle with the tasks confronting the youth, I must say that the tasks of the youth in general, and of the Young Communist Leagues and all other organisations in particular, might be summed up in a single word: learn.

Of course, this is only a “single word”. It does not reply to the principal and most essential questions: what to learn, and how to learn? And the whole point here is that, with the transformation of the old, capitalist society, the upbringing, training and education of the new generations that will create the communist society cannot be conducted on the old lines…Only by radically remoulding the teaching, organisation and training of the youth shall we be able to ensure that the efforts of the younger generation will result in the creation of a society that will be unlike the old society, i.e., in the creation of a communist society. That is why we must deal in detail with the question of what we should teach the youth and how the youth should learn if it really wants to justify the name of communist youth, and how it should be trained so as to be able to complete and consummate what we have started.

I must say that the first and most natural reply would seem to be that the Youth League, and the youth in general, who want to advance to communism, should learn communism.

BCI really wants to see the Boston Archdiocese succeed with a new pastoral plan and get on the right path to saving souls via stronger parishes. But, the fundamentals still feel way off to us.  Maybe it is just BCI.  Other than the minor matters mentioned above, what do you think of the plans?

17 Responses to Boston Pastoral Plan Indoctrination Process

  1. jbq2 says:

    It is all about “behavior modification” and the Skinner Box.


    Attention on deck…..sorry, wrong group…..
    “Just Wondering”

  3. Still Horriffied says:

    Is it reasonable to assume that the reasons why and the goals of the “program” have been previously discussed and this email from Chancellor Straub is merely a sign up invite for the scheduled workshops??

    Absolutely agree that the email is devoid of any hint of the saving of souls, the justiciations for the program, or even Catholicism as we know it. In that, it is very weird and COLD. Not exactly the kind of inspiring communication one would expect for such an ambitious undertaking. Perhaps Chancellor Straub is more organizational, rather than inspriational, or just plain overburdened by all this.

    • Still Horrified, It could be that the program goals have been previously discussed and this is just a sign-up invite. Even so, for a high-ranking official like the Chancellor to send a message about such an important initiative that is devoid of mention about the mission of saving of souls is troubling.

      • Still Horriffied says:

        BCI, I absolutely agree. This missive is cold and devoid of even a hint of religious goal. I think the Chancellor is an organizational person, not a inspirational person. I guess the question should be does he NEED to be both? We all bring different “gifts” to the table. I think this was a purely “functional” email to get folks to sign up. Hopefully those people have been previously “inspired” by someone who has that talent.

      • A Boston Priest says:

        BCI, thanks for this excellent post and for continuing to chip away at the iceberg. I worked in business before becoming a priest and learned the difference between management and leadership. “Management” means “doing things the right way.” “Leadership” means “doing the right thing.” The RCAB has a lot of high-paid managers, but a scarcity of true leaders. For $200K+ a year, the Chancellor needs to be a leader and communicate, inspire and act like a leader. This email sounds like what you’d expect a lower-level administrator to send out. If this is the best the Chancellor can do to lead and inspire, we’re in even more trouble than I thought.

        ps. The tone does sound oddly sterile, cold, and socialist.

    • Anni says:

      I attended one of the sessions back in March, at St. Brigid in Lexington. The presentation was entirely about “managing” the new clusters and how the financial and other employees would function in the new parish clusters. We were shown Power Point after Power point of possible organization charts. The presenters were Father Evans from St. Julia and the Franciscan priest, whose name I have forgotten, who preceded Father Soper. When I came time for questions, the attendees seemed to focus on services and finances. I finally asked a question.

      “What about Mass? I haven’t heard one word about Mass! And what about daily Mass?”

      I was concerned about having one daily Mass per cluster, and that if it wasn’t in your parish church, many people, especially the elderly who do not like to drive, will lose daily Mass.

      I remember Father Evans’s response. He said they hadn’t thought about that yet!

      I finished with the comment that Mass, and especially daily Mass, have long been the source of vocations, both from young people who could attend Mass and those of us who pray for priests and vocations every day at Mass. I said “Unless every person in the Archdiocese has access to daily Mass at a church that is within a reasonable distance your attempt to label the reconfiguration as a “new evangelization” is going to fall flat on its face”. I got no response, but after the presentation, when many of us were socializing, a number of laypeople came up to me and thanked me for my comments. Only one priest spoke with me. I don’t remember his name. He said that i didn’t understand how difficult it was for parishes to celebrate daily Mass!

      Note that I did not say daily Mass in every parish. I did say that we needed to have access to daily Mass. Years ago when clusters were first brought up during the first round of parish closings, I made a proposal at a regional meeting that parishes coordinate Mass schedules and also publish Mass schedules for nearby parishes in their bulletins. Why should two parishes four miles away have identical Mass schedules? Take turns – every other week perhaps – saying a 6 pm Sunday Mass. Why are all the Saturday Masses in an area at 4 pm? I got shot down, and one priest told me that the pastors were afraid of losing money in the collection basket if parishioners attended another parish occasionally. I had another proposal. If you have a group of parishes in an area that shared Mass times, and I attend Mass at a parish not my own, if I put my parish envelope in the basket it would be transferred to my parish. A priest got up and said “If it is in MY basket it is MINE”.

      I am dismayed at the chancellor’s email because it seems to indicate that it will be all about training for leading these groups and organizing the parish councils and fincoms and ministers and deciding what rectories to sell. It’s not about Mass at all.

  4. Way to go, BCI! Nailed it right on. By the way, the chancellor really should be a priest, not a layperson, but their are not too many orthodox priests in Boston, and the few remaining orthodox priests don’t even want to step foot in the “Pastoral Center.”

    Also, I have written my second letter this calendar year to the Holy Father and the Papal Nuncio about the crisis in Boston. Click my name above to view it on my blog (as of 12/12/12 it’s the most recent post).

  5. Chris says:

    As someone whose parish was the target of a hostile takeover by the ultra-lib pastor on the other side of town during a merger 5-6 years ago, I really fear the consequences of these new clusters. In my case, a third of the local people fled to parishes in neighboring towns. The “united” parish filled its ranks with out-of-towners and is a haven for dissent. I don’t trust the chancery. The old pastor in the larger parish — taken over — was told neither one of the existing pastors in town would stay, a new priest would come it. They lied.

  6. Mary Reilly says:

    They can’t even give the courses a name? “CLI One” and “CLI Two”? I imagine these will teach the new “vocabulary’ like PST and all of the new bureaucratic organizational and financial structures. I wonder if the evangelization class will teach Pastoral Center folks what Catholics believe and how to pray and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

  7. […] Archdiocese of Boston Not Concerned in Saving Souls? – Boston Catholic Insider […]

  8. 509jrb2301 says:

    We were all scandalized to learn during the last decade that the Archdiocese put the welfare of its institutions above its mandate for evangelization. With this new pastoral plan it doesn’t look that much has changed. I fear it is a prescription for disaster and would not be surprised attendance at mass will drop below 10% in five years. Perhaps Bishop Kennedy can rescue from disaster. Let us hope, let us pray. Still an academic approach to the problem does not give much hope when the need is for an ascetical approach.

    A huge problem for us is the Cardinal’s refusal to do his job. He talks, and then turns the problems to others. Our priests desperately need to be corrected for their liturgical abuses, the rump faith they preach, the heresies the allow to flourish. That is the Cardinal’s job, and he is not doing it. He’s coming to be known as the cowardly Cardinal of Boston.

    The Catholic Church has a long history of dealing with crises. Pope Pius XI prayer and penance, especially a penance leading to the Sacrament. I shall be more encouraged when I hear language like this coming out of Brooks Dr.

    Even though we are being betrayed by our bishop and leaders, we must not let discouragement prevent us from fostering the new evangelization by prayer and penance.

    Keep up the good work for Christ

  9. Stephen says:

    “a tragedy of almost Biblical proportion”
    Biblical proportion?
    As of today there has been 527 homicides and 2,597 shootings
    in Chicago this year.

    Is our dear Cardinal only concerned with the murder of white children? Take a good look if you dare:

    Do your job and keep you brown robe away from my gun.
    Gun ownership will never be sin.

  10. BettyDraper says:

    Terrific article in Boston Magazine. (Resurrection)

    Why stop there? How about an interview with Bill O’Reilly??

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