Disciples in Mission FAQs
What is Disciples in Mission?
Disciples in Mission is the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. It was promulgated by Cardinal Seán in November of 2012. It was developed from a long process of consultation and deliberation, involving many thousands of people throughout the Archdiocese.
What has Cardinal Sean said about this plan?
“Parishes are the heart of the New Evangelization; they must be well staffed and financially sound so as to be effective in this mission. For this purpose, the pastoral plan groups the parishes of the Archdiocese into approximately 160 collaboratives. Each parish maintains its own identity in a collaborative. Each parish retains its buildings, its canonical rights, its financial assets and obligations. The collaborative, however, will have one Pastor who will work with one Pastoral Team, one Parish Pastoral Council and one Parish Finance Council. Together they will develop a pastoral plan for their local collaborative, focused on serving the needs of their parishes and advancing the mission of the Church. Joined together in a collaborative, our parishes will be better equipped to celebrate the Sacraments, provide religious formation for children and adults, respond to the pastoral needs of the sick and infirm and assist those in need of material assistance, through the lens of Evangelization.”
Will you summarize Disciples in Mission for me?
Parish-based evangelization works, and we can train for it, but we need strong parishes in order to do so. Disciples in Mission calls every parish of the Archdiocese of Boston to become a strong, stable, intentional, and effective center of the New Evangelization. In order better to focus our resources on evangelization, Disciples in Mission organizes the 283 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston into approximately 160 Collaboratives.
What is a Collaborative?
A collaborative is a grouping of one, two, or three parishes that work together for the goal of evangelization. A collaborative has one pastor, one set of assigned priests and deacons, and one Pastoral Team (including Pastoral Associates, Religious Education and Faith Formation leaders, Finance and Operations specialists, and administrative and facilities personnel). All of these work together for all of the parishes of the collaborative. The collaborative has one Pastoral Council, and one Local Pastoral Plan for evangelization.
The collaborative does not share money or bank accounts or other financial assets or obligations. If Parish A and B form a collaborative, and you put your money in your offertory envelope or give online for Parish B, it will go into the bank account of Parish B, not Parish A. If Parish B has obligations (debt, deferred maintenance, etc.) going into the collaborative, those obligations remain the obligations of Parish B alone, not Parish A. The collaborative is not a legal or canonical entity.It does not have a federal tax payer number. It does not have a bank account.It cannot own property.
Because the patrimony of each parish continues to belong to that parish, as well as the obligations of each Parish continuing to belong to that Parish, each Parish has its own Finance Council. However, since many costs are shared, the finance councils of all of the Parishes in the collaborative may often meet together.
A one-parish collaborative? In what sense is one parish a collaborative?
There are some parishes which, because of their size or their geography or the distinctiveness of their mission will not have a collaborative partner. But, in every other sense, these parishes will be collaboratives. They will still enter the Pastoral Plan in a particular Phase. They will still participate in significant training for evangelization. They will still write a Local Pastoral Plan.
Why are we doing this, and why are we doing it now?
We are dealing with what we have come to call our “four deficits.”
- We don’t have enough priests.
- We don’t have enough trained lay ecclesial ministers.
- We don’t have enough money.
- We don’t have enough people coming to Mass.
The first three deficits are directly related to the fourth. It is very tempting to try to make a Pastoral Plan which just addresses one of the first three. For instance, if we were to close a bunch of parishes, we would need fewer priests. If we cut way back on expenses and sold lots of property, we’d have more money. But no plan can outpace the rate at which the fourth, and most important, deficit is having an impact. In 1970, some 70% of self-identified Catholics went to Mass on a weekly basis. Now, about 16% of self-identified Catholics are at Mass on any given weekend. So, Disciples in Mission is basically a plan to address the fourth deficit. Without addressing that one, no plan can work.
You can say all that, but isn’t Disciples in Mission just a back door way of closing Parishes?
From 1990 to 2000, the Archdiocese of Boston closed about 60 parishes. In 2004, we closed another 65, in a process called “Reconfiguration.” Those closures solved some of our problems, but they did not solve the core problem. Each year, in the Archdiocese, about 5000 fewer people come to Sunday Mass. That has been a steady decline, which began in the early 1980s. That is our basic problem. No form of Pastoral Planning can be effective which does not address that core problem. Since we believe that Parishes can be effective centers of evangelization, this is not the moment to close Parishes.
Disciples in Mission is a plan for growth, not a plan for downsizing. Indeed, it would be a very poorly conceived plan if it were intended for downsizing. We believe that we are going to need the space we have, because we believe that we are going to refill our churches and our Parishes and our seminaries.
It is possible to conceive of a Pastoral Plan that is a managed form of downsizing. Disciples in Mission is not that plan.
What are these “Phases” I hear about?
We can’t implement the Pastoral Plan all at once, for several reasons. First, support and training are a big part of the implementation, and we don’t have the size staff that would let us support and train everyone at once. Second, we are intent upon learning as we go, and want to be able to apply what we learn in the early Phases to what happens in later Phases. Third, priests have to move in order to make the collaboratives work, and this always causes some disruption in the parishes and in the Archdiocese. We can only move so many priests at any one time. Therefore, we expect to implement the plan in eleven Phases. Phase One began in June of 2013. It involves 12 collaboratives and 27 parishes. You can learn more about the phases here.
What do you mean by training?
Training is a key element to the implementation of the Pastoral Plan. We are not seeking to maintain the status quo – we believe that we need to move in a new, evangelization-centered direction. When any organization seeks to make a shift like this, it looks to training. We are doing the same thing.
Our training is in the areas of leadership, evangelization, and general topics (for instance, cost sharing among the parishes of the collaborative, the process for writing a Local Pastoral Plan, etc.).
Why training in evangelization?
“Parish based Evangelization works, and we can train for it, but we need strong Parishes in order to do so.”
Why training in leadership?
“Our baptismal call to discipleship is also a call to leadership. We are called to follow Jesus. Being a true follower of our Lord requires leading others to Him.”
“The Archdiocese of Boston [has realigned] some of its central ministry offices to support parish collaboratives, conceived as centers of the new evangelization in the pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission.” In addition to this realignment, the training in evangelization and leadership is meant to support collaboratives of parishes. Other support is available through the Office of Pastoral Planning for parishes not yet in official collaborative arrangements.
“Ultimately, the New Evangelization is not a set of strategies, not a set of bullet points which, if we can check them all off, we've "accomplished" the task. The New Evangelization is about one-on-one encounters, with people who are formed and trained in the art of witnessing to their faith, inviting their fellow Catholics back into a powerful and transforming love relationship with Jesus.”
What is a Local Pastoral Plan?
In some sense Disciples in Mission is a Pastoral Plan, but in some senses what it really does is to create a context for Pastoral Planning. The heart of the archdiocesan-wide implementation of the plan is the Local Pastoral Plan which each collaborative will develop. The plans are developed over a period of more than a year. Drafts of the plans are submitted for comment, and Cardinal Seán approves the final plans. The plans typically last for three years. At the end of that time, the parishes take a year to reflect and to rewrite their plans.
The Cardinal has asked Collaboratives to make Vocations a priority when writing their local pastoral plans. How do we begin to raise awareness in a prayerful, practical way in our parishes?
To assist collaboratives in the important evangelization work that they will be doing in their collaboratives and parishes, the Vocations Office has compiled some useful resources. The complete
list of over 20 detailed suggestions can be found at this link.
What is the Disciple Maker Index (DMI)?
Catholic Leadership Institute designed a tool to look beyond basic metrics such as number of baptisms, funerals, or weekly Mass attendance, to get a deeper understanding of a parishioner's engagement in the parish and faith life.
CLI writes, “This survey provides you [the parishioner] the opportunity to reflect on your own spiritual growth and provide feedback on the efforts of the parish to help you grow.” The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and consists of questions about life in the parish, such as "The parish helps me grow spiritually by offering vibrant and engaging Sunday Masses", or, by “making me feel welcomed and accepted”. Responses range from strongly agree to strongly disagree. It is parish-based more than personal, but does include demographic questions for context. (e.g. gender, age, household status). Responses are completely anonymous and CLI assures participants that “answers… will only be used to aggregate the survey information.”
Rather than relying on anecdotal information, collaboratives can discern priorities and set goals from a data-driven perspective. Results are shown in graph form for each question, and for comparison purposes, results are also given for other parishes of similar size, parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as national results.
There are a couple of things that the Disciple Maker Index is NOT. It is not an exercise in gathering information for the sake of knowing, and it is not a report card for the clergy or staff, or to judge the faith of the parishioners. Some of the questions may contain concepts that are new to some people: "In the past year I shared my personal witness story with another person.” Response choices range from daily to never. The survey can indicate areas for growth and this is where it will be of great value in preparing the Local Pastoral Plan.
What is Catholic Leadership Institute and what role do they play in all of this?
Catholic Leadership Institute, or CLI ( www.catholicleaders.org), has a long history of work with the Archdiocese of Boston. Well before the implementation of the Pastoral Plan began, many Boston priests were trained in leadership skills through CLI’s Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program, and many of our lay leaders were trained through Tending the Talents. CLI works directly with numerous dioceses throughout the United States and internationally, helping bishops to build diocesan teams, training parish leaders in leadership skills, and helping to develop strategic plans.
What is the long term plan for each collaborative?
We believe that it likely takes nine years for a collaborative to fully start up.
- Year One is for organization and training.
- Year Two is for writing the Local Pastoral Plan.
- Years Three, Four, and Five are for living out the first implementation of the Local Pastoral Plan.
- Year Six is to reflect upon and rewrite the Local Pastoral Plan.
- Years Seven, Eight, and Nine are for living out the second implementation of the Local Pastoral Plan.
We believe that by the end of Year Nine, the collaborative is now functioning strongly, focused on
evangelization, and has started to see significant increase in Mass attendance, and, harder to measure, a significant increase in the number of people who are deeply dedicated disciples.
There are now more phases than originally planned - It seems that the implementation of Disciples in Mission isn’t following its own plan. Are things not going well?
Implementing an archdiocesan plan of this magnitude was much more complicated than expected. In order to provide the greatest assurance of success, the process needed to slow down, not carried out in four phases as indicated in the original Disciples in Mission document. From the beginning, there has been a commitment that the Office of Pastoral Planning would closely monitor progress at each stage of implementation and after receiving feedback from pastors, and in consultation with appropriate Archdiocesan offices and agencies, would make necessary adjustments to the plan.
Can you share some of the difficulties that previous Phases have experienced as they have entered into the formal collaborative process?
In some cases, there was little or no advance preparation, and in some cases there was negative advance preparation – this has impeded the formation and development of the Collaboratives. Forming Pastoral Teams is a difficult process. Choosing the team for the mission rather than the mission for the team is necessary, but runs contrary to our desire to involve everyone and to maintain continuity. Even with the best “due diligence” and to prepare the new pastor for conditions of buildings and property in his new collaborative, there have been some real unexpected situations that have demanded immediate attention before the work of forming a leadership team or focusing on evangelization
What lessons have been learned by these parishes and the archdiocese?
It takes time to get it right. We have spread out the process and built in much more time for advance preparation We’ve seen the necessity to choose a good leadership team very early – the Pastor needs an excellent and trusted team around him who shares his vision. This also lets him delegate as much as possible. We expect that collaborative staffs, teams, councils, school boards, and key volunteers, will participate in the three “Forming ….” Workshops. What we have learned from existing collaboratives is that the whole collaborative benefits when as many people as possible participate fully and actively in workshops. The final lesson that we have all learned is that even if you are going to move slowly in some areas, have a PLAN about how to move slowly, and, we always encourages collaboratives to be creative!
How can the lessons learned in earlier phases help parishes as they prepare for their collaboration?
Advance preparation is critical. We encourage all parishes to begin working toward the time when they will be officially in a collaborative, even if that is several years away. (click here for Advanced Preparation suggestions).
We’ve been preparing and my parish is looking to being in a collaborative soon – maybe the next phase. What should we be doing now?
First, and always, pray. Ask to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout this process. There is no doubt that being in a collaborative is hard work; things don’t always go smoothly. But, parishes that prepared well are doing well – there is an excitement about working together to share the Gospel and bring people closer to Jesus Christ. Collaboration unleashes a holy energy! It all begins with prayer.
Each person – clergy, staff, and parishioners – must be committed to his/her own prayer life and
participation in the sacraments. Bringing parishes together for social events as well as spiritual and formation opportunities is a good way to get to know your neighbors. Parish pastoral council and finance council members from the parishes should meet, as should parish staffs. The beginnings of formal collaboration can be stressful – change and transition often is. Being prepared to expect the unexpected is key.
If your pastor would like the Pastoral Planning Office to come out and meet with your Parishioners, Councils, and Staffs, as part of your preparation, please have him contact Father Paul Soper at [email protected] Again, we encourage parishes to consider the practical, concrete, suggestions for preparation available at www.disciplesinmission.com/advancedpreparation.
What is Pastoral Planning?
"The mission of the Archdiocese is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pastoral Planning is the process we use to make preparations to carry out that work. Pastoral Planning is a critical tool in helping us understand our task today and work together to manage the resources available to meet the needs of the people of God. Needed at all times, it is particularly important as we cope with demographic and other major changes.”
I’m hearing about Collaboratives, Pastoral Planning, and Disciples in Mission, everywhere except in my parish! I’m curious - what should I do?
The first thing you can do is pray (always) and resolve to deepen your own relationship with Jesus. Every baptized person is called to be a disciple – a follower – of Jesus Christ, whether your parish is in a collaborative or not. Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette, Wisconsin, gives simple advice, “Be a friend of Jesus. Make a friend. Introduce your friend to Jesus.”
Try to speak with your pastor – gently, respectfully, asking if he has a sense of when your parish will be entering into a collaborative phase. Honestly express your thoughts and your hopes for the parish. If possible, offer to help organize a social event or prayer opportunity with your neighboring parish to bring people together.
The Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support offers all-day workshops in evangelization and leadership on a regular basis. These are open to everyone, whether your parish is in a collaborative or not. You don’t have to be sent or sponsored by your parish, just register and come! (and bring a friend – or two). Participants will experience different forms of prayer from the Church’s rich tradition and will learn practical evangelization, discipleship, and leadership skills.
The Office of Pastoral Planning is always happy to come out to meet with the Parish Councils and Staff, and open meetings with parishioners, at your pastor’s invitation. He can contact Father Paul Soper at [email protected] to talk about what will be helpful.
What is the New Evangelization?
The New Evangelization is the Church’s call for us to go out and evangelize, that is, to share the Gospel, with baptized Catholics who may have heard the message of the Gospel before but need to hear it in new ways in order to be able to embrace it.
The message of the Gospel is also called the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is to say that God entered the world through Christ, who suffered and died for our sins and rose from the dead, to ensure for us the promise of eternal life. That is God’s saving promise, which is why we sometimes refer to the Gospel or Good News as the Story of Salvation. Sometimes we call it the kerygma, which is a Greek word for proclamation, because we think of this Good News as the most important of any and all possible proclamations.
The New Evangelization is about reaching out to those who have heard this Good News. It is bringing that message forward with new ardor, new methods, and new expressions, so that the people of this age are able to hear the gospel with fresh ears, and, we hope, commit or renew their commitment to being intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
We would suggest that the Second Vatican Council was a missionary council, an evangelizing council, which started the movement of the Church towards a New Evangelization. Pope Paul VI continued encouraging us all in this direction when he wrote a document called Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly called for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict provided the framework for how we should engage in this New Evangelization, and Pope Francis is an example for all of us in how to live it out.
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message, and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on offering again the Gospel to Baptized Catholics who have experienced a crisis of faith. The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
How and why do we evangelize?
We evangelize, first and foremost, through the example of personal prayer and witness in our lives. We do it because God asked us to do so when he said, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
If we truly believe that Christ is with us, is present and active in our lives, then our lives should reflect that. When we care for each other, for our children, our neighbors, for those in need, and for strangers, we believe that we are demonstrating God’s love for us. We celebrate the power of Jesus alive among us through the sacraments of the Church, personal prayer, and through remembering and proclaiming his actions and recognizing their power at work in our lives.
We share this example and message because God’s promise of salvation is offered to everyone. Jesus Christ, as our Savior, freed us, or saved us, from sin and death. We evangelize because we want everyone to be free of sin and death and to feel the joy and happiness that is closeness to Christ, and to each other through Christ.
Please tell me more about evangelizing – it is important.
Our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, is the core of the New Evangelization, through which we teach “the art of living” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). The New Evangelization is an invitation to a life of discipleship with Jesus and a participation in the Kingdom of God. It seeks to call back our Catholic brothers and sisters who have fallen away from the faith in a effort to rebuild the Church with new ardor, new expressions, and new methods. “The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel.”
“Ultimately, the New Evangelization is not a set of strategies, not a set of bullet points which, if we can check them all off, we've "accomplished" the task. The New Evangelization is about one-on-one encounters, with people who are formed and trained in the art of witnessing to their faith, inviting their fellow Catholics back into a powerful and transforming love relationship with Jesus.”
Father Robert Barron, an author, speaker, and theologian, offers us ways in which we can share in this mission and become new evangelists. The following are some examples from his Word on Fire video commentary, which can be found at www.wordonfire.org:
1. Cultivate intimate friendship with the Lord through prayer and the Eucharist.
2. Be filled with ardor - be on fire - filled with enthusiasm for Christ.
3. Know the story of Israel and the role of Jesus Christ in fulfilling God’s promises.
4. Know the culture - a secular culture - and know the glory of God fully alive.
5. Know the great tradition - God’s revelation unfolding across space and time.
6. Have a missionary heart - a hunger and passion to save souls.
7. Get to know the new media - learn it and use it, get on the cutting edge.
What does an Evangelizing Parish look like?
Everything a parish does should be focused on the goal of evangelizing and making disciples. That is, sharing the message of the Gospel and bringing people closer to Christ. That is why parishes exist - they are meant to be active communities moving closer to Christ through all that they do, and most especially through the sacraments. An evangelizing parish is a parish that engages parishioners and non-parishioners, invests time and resources in them, and invites them into closer relationship with Christ.
To engage in this work effectively doesn’t mean you should present this program and not that program. It means that you should encourage active, engaged, and intentional discipleship in all that you do as a parish. This process must be grounded in Christ and must make explicit use of His name and the story of His life, death, and resurrection.
It should mean that personal prayer and witness leads to an increase in open and active discipleship, and in open and active processes of forming intentional disciples. That is, an environment that encourages and fosters disciple–making and growth in discipleship. What we are saying here is that an evangelizing parish looks like a place where people know and love Jesus, speak openly of their relationship with Him, and serve each other living in the light of that love.
This one goal, evangelization and discipleship, should pervade parish activities – hospitality and fellowship, faith formation, the promotion of vocations, liturgical and sacramental life, and service and charitable endeavors.
What is a witness talk?
A witness talk is a brief testimony of “a personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). The talk is usually given in the form of a short story, by a disciple who has encountered the living Jesus, has been transformed in His love and grace, and is compelled to intentionally share in Jesus’s saving mission with others. Through prayer, participation in the sacraments, and study of scripture, a Christian disciple can deeply examine how Jesus has moved and is present in his life, thus preparing himself to give witness to “anyone who might ask him to explain or defend his faith and hope in Christ” (1Peter 3:15).
A witness can be shared in any number of forums- from an impromptu discussion in an elevator with a stranger, to a group of friends at an informal dinner party, or even at a Parish’s confirmation class. It is also important to remember that although Christians are called to share their witness verbally, our actions should also reflect our Christian character. Christians should commit and conform our lives to Christ daily, through the spiritual and corporeal act of mercy, for “by this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
In a world where scientific proofs and technological advancements can bring matters of the faith into question, many Christians are resistant to share their witness with others because they cannot prove it. However, a witness talk is not about proving anything. It is about a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus- one that requires, shares, and fosters faith. No one can argue another person’s own personal experience.
Pope Saint John Paul II explains, “those who have come into contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him” (Novo Millennio Ineunte) and in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In order to engage, invest, and invite people to discipleship, the New Evangelization echoes Christ's call and commissions the Church to give witness to Jesus Christ and His work in the world with new ardor, methods, and expressions. As Saint Paul tells us, "We are Christ's ambassadors" (2 Cor. 5:20), and God is using us to evangelize His people and testify to His Love.
The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love
This document, a talk given by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, provides a detailed description of what the new evangelization is and how to live it out.
What are the Seven Great Qualities of a New Evangelist?
This short video with Fr. Robert Barron describes the basic principles of participation in the New Evangelization.
What does the new evangelization mean for life in our parishes?
"Ultimately, the New Evangelization is not a set of strategies, not a set of bullet points which, if we can check them all off, we've 'accomplished' the task. The New Evangelization is about one-on-one encounters, with people who are formed and trained in the art of witnessing to their faith, inviting their fellow Catholics back into a powerful and transforming love relationship with Jesus."
What does Pope Francis say about the New Evangelization?
"A Synod of Bishops gathered in October 2012 to discuss The New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith. Pope Francis wrote his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) in response to the work of that synod. In this document, Pope Francis speaks at length about the work of evangelization to which the Church is called at this time."
What is Evangelization?
Evangelization is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is joyfully proclaiming the promise of salvation, our freedom from the bonds of sin and death, attainable through Jesus Christ.
We hope to convert individual people and society as a whole to belief in Christ, to encourage people to respond in faith to Christ's offer of salvation, through experiencing the powerful message of the Gospel alive and active in those of us who believe.
"There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed." -Go and Make Disciples
What is the Good News of Jesus Christ?
The Good News of Jesus Christ, the message of the Gospel, is that God entered the world in Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for our sins and rose from the dead, to ensure for us the promise of eternal life.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is the story of Christ's life, death, and resurrection; the faithful response of the Christian community; and the promise of eternal life Jesus gave us.
The promise of eternal life is God's saving promise, the promise of our salvation. That is why the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, is sometimes referred to as the Story of Salvation.
The Good News, the Gospel, is also known as the Greek word Kerygma, which means preaching or proclamation. We believe that the preaching and proclamation of the Gospel is so important that we refer to it as the Proclamation, the Kerygma.
How Do We Evangelize?
We evangelize through the example of God's love that we are to each other in our daily lives. Our support for each other, our love for each other, and our faith in each other serve as an example and witness to the power of God's love. God is alive today and loves us. When we care for each other, for our children, for our neighbors, for those in need, and for strangers, we believe as Christians that we are demonstrating God's love for us.
We celebrate the saving power of Jesus alive among us through remembering and proclaiming his actions and recognizing their power at work in our lives.
"In daily life, family members evangelize each other; men and women, their future spouses; and workers, their fellow employees, by the simple lives of faith they lead. Through the ordinary patterns of our Catholic life, the Holy Spirit brings about conversion and a new life in Christ." -Go and Make Disciples
Why Do We Evangelize?
We evangelize because God asked us to do so. He wants us to share the message of the promise of salvation with everyone because He offers that promise to everyone. Jesus, more than a good person or a great teacher, is the power and wisdom of God who came to live among us. Jesus is our Savior because he saves us from our sin and from death. We evangelize because we want everyone to be free of sin and death.
"Becoming like us and accepting our human nature, he addresses in himself, in his death and resurrection, the brokenness of our lives. He suffers through our sin; he feels our pain; he knows the thirst of our death; he accepts the limits of our human life so that he might bring us beyond those limits." - Go and Make Disciples
"Taking on our death as Savior, Jesus was raised to life. In Christ, all can come to know that the sin, the coldness, the indifference, the despair, and the doubt of our lives are overcome by God's taking on our human nature and leading us to new life. In him, and him alone, is the promise of resurrection and new life." - Go and Make Disciples
Where will the priests in my Collaborative live once it has been formed?
That is a local decision, to be made by the local Pastor once he has been appointed. We strongly encourage all of the priests of the collaborative to live together in one rectory, and we further encourage that that rectory not be an office site, but recognize that this may not be possible in every collaborative.
My children currently go to Religious Education Classes at a particular parish. Is that going to change, or will it stay the same?
That is also a local decision. Most collaboratives do not make changes to their Religious Education Programs in the first year. A few of them combined their Confirmation Programs,
but left the others in place in order to get time to watch and learn. Going forward, some collaboratives may choose to make Religious Education changes more quickly. Sometimes, each parish will still have a program on site, but the programs will be more integrated into each other, in terms of format, curriculum, and leadership.
Can you tell us more about Religious Education Program changes?
The task before the Church is to form Catholics who are willing to communicate and share witness of the faith to others, both young and old. Many parishes do so by relying heavily on faith formation programs for children and youth. However, as the collaboratives move through the Disciples in Mission pastoral planning process in light of the New Evangelization, the necessity for a renewed focus on adult faith formation and potentially significant changes to the means of formation of children and youth will likely become clear. We hope to support collaborative parishes in their attempts to meet the faith formation needs of the parishioners in their communities. In particular, we encourage them to offer a variety of opportunities that will encourage people of all ages to grow in their relationship with Christ both personally, and communally.
The Pastor, Pastoral Team, and Councils will work with parishioners in order to decide what programs are most effective in responding to the faith formation needs of the collaborative. Strong consideration should be given to the charisms and character of each parish within the collaborative. Ultimately, the manner and form in which these programs are offered depends on the leaders in the community, and should be utilized as a means of building up the Catholic Church in the mission of Christ through cooperation and faith.
This could call for a number of different scenarios, for example, one parish within the collaborative might be designated as the “home church” for the collaborative’s Confirmation programs; requiring each Confirmation candidate from any parish within that collaborative to register there. Or, it might simply call for each parish to offer their own religious education or Confirmation schedule of classes and allow for any candidate within the collaborative to participate in the program that is most convenient for his or her schedule. The latter approach might call for the parishes within the collaborative to settle on a uniform program and offer it on one evening of the week per parish. This might aid in an effort to offer a flexible variety of options for a larger community.
Once the youth have been evangelized, prepared, and formed to be initiated into the Catholic Church, the parishes within the collaborative may decide to celebrate the Sacraments of Christian initiation as a collaborative, in larger ceremonies at one of the parishes. Or, the collaborative might decide that each parish should host their own, smaller liturgies, based on the parish schedule, participation from the community, and clergy availability. However the collaborative pastoral team chooses to approach and configure the faith formation programs, the group must keep in mind that we are all called to be disciples in mission, and we must lead by example.
What will happen to the Mass schedules?
The schedules of Masses in parishes across the collaborative will likely need to be adapted to account for the ability of the available priests to say all of the Masses and travel between parishes as needed. The pastors, taking into account the advice of their staff and councils and the needs of their parishes, will work to create a schedule of Mass times and locations that takes heed of the needs and history of each particular parish within the collaborative and make that information available in both the weekly bulletin and on the collaborative website.
Some collaboratives may have enough support from assisting priests that significant changes are not required. Some collaboratives may find more significant changes are necessary. Pastors, their councils, and pastoral teams will likely take into account parish survey data, Mass counts, and parish financial realities. We trust our pastors to be aware of and sensitive to the particular charisms, circumstances, and needs of each parish within the collaborative and do their best to minister to each in the truth and light of the mission of the Church.
I have heard that once the Collaborative forms, all of the current staff has to resign. Is that true?
That is not true. The Pastor has to resign, but usually, the resignation doesn’t take effect until June, when the Collaborative is inaugurated. The current pastor may apply to be the pastor of the collaborative if he wishes. The Parochial Vicars and Deacons are, as always, open to reassignment. Pastoral Councils and Finance Councils always are re-formed when a new Pastor comes. But the staffs do not have to resign. That being said, we need, going forward, to choose our Team for our mission, and not our mission for our Team. It will certainly be necessary, in most collaboratives, for some staffing changes. When possible, it is hoped that there can be horizontal movement for the staff, so that they do not lose their jobs, but that may not always be possible.
Should our collaborative have a social media presence? Should we, as individual Catholics, evangelize using social media?
Yes, absolutely. While it certainly is not true that every Catholic uses social media, many do. Every week, about a quarter of a million Catholics go to Mass in the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston. Many of them have Facebook accounts. If all of them were to post to Facebook that they have just come home from Mass, we would take a very good step toward changing the popular concept that no one goes to Mass anymore.
What would be key elements of a website for an evangelizing parish?
If a parish needs to engage, invest, and invite in people to work towards the goal of evangelizing and making disciples, then the website needs to be engaging, it needs to make the invitation explicit, and it needs to demonstrate the parish’s investment in its people.
Mass times, contact information, directions, locations, and connections to communication channels need to be easily accessible without too much searching, swiping, or clicking. When we say communications channels, we mean however your parish chooses to communicate regularly – be that through a weekly bulletin, e-mail newsletter, calendar or list of events, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, text or phone alerts, a parish app for smartphones and tablets, or anything else you find works well in reaching people.
Speaking of smartphones and tablets, your website should be designed so that it is attractive and easy to obtain information no matter what device someone is using to view your website – be that computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Pictures and videos are great ways to engage and invite visitors and demonstrate your parish’s investment in the community. "In many cases, it is necessary to obtain the prior written consent of an individual to use such person’s photograph or other likeness on a website. Should you have any questions in this regard, please contact the Office of the General Counsel of the Archdiocese." Please see the Archdiocesan social media guidelines for more information.
Written descriptions and invitations are good, too, but they need to be easy to understand, easy to find, and brief enough that people feel comfortable taking the time to read what you have written.
While we’re suggesting all of these wonderful things you should have on your website, we should say that you also don’t want to have too much on any given page of your website. We wouldn’t want it to appear cluttered or to have people find it overwhelming. Links for more information are good, but that information needs to be there and be up-to-date. Also, it shouldn’t be too confusing to get back to the main page or find the basic information which everyone wants from any other page.
Since the page needs to be updated frequently to reflect the life of the parish, whatever software or web-based platform you have should be easy to understand and easy to use. If it is too confusing to understand how to update the website, or simply too difficult to accomplish, then the site probably won’t be updated as often as it should be.
What should I read in order to understand all of this better? We have five books we would recommend:
- The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis
- rebuilt by Michael White and Tom Corcoran
- Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell
- Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly
- Divine Renovation by Rev. James Mallon
How do Parish Services Consultants support Disciples in Mission?
Parish Services Consultants act as dedicated consultants in particular regions, a dvise on financial and operational matters, act as liaisons between the collaboratives and other departments within RCAB, help build strong Pastoral Teams and Councils, provide resources and tools for budgeting for mission, and provide training specifically for Finance and Operations Managers.
How do Finance Councils work in a Collaborative?
The role of the Finance Council is to assist and advise the pastor of the parishes of the collaborative in the administration and finances of the temporal goods of the parishes. Each parish will need to have its own Finance Council, with minutes kept at each particular parish.
A large part of the work of the councils is to attend to shared programs and services and the expenses and allocations related to them across the parishes of the collaborative, so the councils would normally meet together. As an option, they could meet separately when addressing topics specific to or affecting only one parish.
How does the Collaborative Structure work when it comes to the parish finances?
The financial records of the parishes within a collaborative remain absolutely separate. The collaborative is not a separate entity financially and will not have its own set of financial records. It does not have a bank account, federal tax identification number, and is not a registered tax exempt religious organization 501(c) 3.
Extreme care will need to be taken on the part of the Finance & Operations Manager and reviewed by the Finance Council to maintain the financial integrity of each parish within the Collaborative. Parishes in the collaborative will benefit greatly by communicating financial information to keep parishioners informed. Shared bulletins with financial information for each parish in the collaborative will showcase transparency and accountability. We cannot overstate this enough but communication to parish staff and parishioners with financial, operational, ministerial and collaborative progress updates should be done often and with a sense of openness and integrity.
How does it work for a parish to be a cost center for a Collaborative?
One parish will be the center for all shared expenses, meaning they will pay for those shared program expenses, services and staff and then bill the allocated amounts to the other parishes within the collaborative. Because a collaborative is not a separate entity and does not have its own collaborative bank account, checks must be written, and shared expenses paid, from one of the parishes in the collaborative.
For example, St. A, St. B and St. C Parishes are in a collaborative. They share the cost of the Pastoral Associate’s salary because the Pastoral Associate serves all three parishes. They decided that St. B Parish will be the Cost Center. The Pastoral Associate’s check is written from the bank account of Saint B which bills Saint A and Saint C the agreed-upon share of her salary. Saints A & C send their payment to Saint B (most often this is all done through electronic transfer)
The parish selected as the cost center will likely be where the collaborative staff is housed and considerations will also be given to the ability of the parish to fund the expenses from a cash flow perspective. No parish in a collaborative should bear the burden of paying all shared expenses without getting reimbursed from the other collaborative parishes within a timely fashion. The allocation methods will be assessed and agreed upon together with the Finance Councils of all parishes in the collaborative. Methods of allocation should be simple, justifiable and fair.
Most Collaboratives are using IFRM base revenue to allocate the majority of their shared income and expenses because the base revenue is in alignment with the resources of each parish. Another method of allocation is a per-person method by which individuals from each parish attend a joint program– this would be allocated to the parishes based on the percentage of the total attendees attending from each parish.
For example, if there is a shared religious education program and 30% of students are from Saint A; 30% are from Saint B; and 40% are from Saint C, the cost of DRE salary and building overhead – lights, heat – are apportioned 30-30-40.
Finance Councils will be very involved in reviewing financial information throughout the year to ensure that the allocations between the parishes in the Collaborative are being properly accounted for and each parish is supporting the collaborative shared costs in a timely fashion.
Can parishes within a collaborative lend money to one another in order to cover emergency repairs to buildings?
Parishes within a collaborative should not be “lending” money to one another. Parishes remain responsible for their own assets and financial obligations. The current support structure for parishes in need of a loan remains in place throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. Costs (such as emergency repairs) that are linked to the patrimony of one parish should not be covered by another parish nor the collaborative.
Each parish retains responsibility for its own buildings, but there are some occasions when it may be appropriate to share costs related to the operations of the building and the one-time costs related to improving the space for the use of the shared program and/or service. Operational costs such as heat, electric and water could be allocated as part of the shared program and/or service costs. An example of this could be the central office building operating costs could be included in the overall administrative costs of the central office and allocated to each parish. Another example, if one parish holds the religious education classes for the collaborative in its building, the utilities, heat, insurance costs could be allocated to each parish.
If a shared program or service requires some minor improvements or upgrades to the space, then the costs of these changes could be shared among the Parishes and allocated (in the same way as the shared program costs are allocated). An example of a cost that could be shared is a youth room that is painted to improve its appeal, or removing/installing a new carpet for a program. Typically, the improvements are not structural, are reversible rather than permanent, may be cosmetic in nature (e.g., painting), and are triggered by a direct need of the shared program or service. These costs could be shared either equally, by a percentage, or based on an allocation method similar to that of program costs.
Capital Improvements that extend the life of the building, add value to the building, or are part of regular preventive maintenance will remain the responsibility of the parish that owns the building because it increases the value. Examples include roof replacements, new windows, boilers, and plumbing.
How are Offertories handled within a Collaborative?
Offertories, like other financial items, are to be kept separate for each parish in a collaborative. The most effective ways to do that include electronic giving and different color envelopes by parish.
Because parishioners within the collaborative may go to another parish within the collaborative for Mass the above methods of collecting offertory will ensure those collected amounts are properly recorded in the parish which is designated. All loose cash donations collected in the basket for offertory at Mass will be designated to that parish directly and not allocated to the other parishes in the collaborative.
Parishes within a collaborative may benefit greatly by sharing best practices with each other on how to safeguard the offertory collections from basket to the bank.
What does Disciples in Mission mean for parish properties? In other words, what happens with multiple rectories, convents, halls?
Disciple in Mission envisions that priests will again live in community in one location. In most collaboratives, this could mean that one rectory becomes the residential home for the priests of the collaborative while another rectory could be the collaborative office - place of business.
In the Property Management area of the Archdiocese, we are positioned to assist collaboratives in making the best-informed decision of where to have offices versus living space. In some collaboratives, it is more easily determined than others. We encourage collaboratives to form a Building Committee with members from each parish to work with us to determine which buildings are best used for certain purposes. For instance, if one rectory is handicap accessible while the other is not, the handicap accessible rectory may be best utilized as offices and meeting space.
We encourage collaboratives to consider having a presence at every parish; as mentioned, rectory living at one while office space is at another. Or if there is a school at one location, is there potential for parish hall or meeting space at another location? We encourage the collaboratives not to put all the parish life at one parish so that the other parish feels like a worship space and not a thriving parish.
If properties are not needed, what steps can a parish take to sell or lease?
In multi parish collaboratives, there is the potential for surplus property. We ask that careful thought be put in to the real estate assets of a parish before property is sold or leased for an extended period of time. There is a preference towards leasing as it provides a stable income while retaining ownership of the asset. Real estate is a limited commodity and very difficult to regain once it’s been sold.
Prior to selling or leasing a property for a term of more than 3 years, we are requiring that the Parishes of the Collaborative (no matter what Phase) :
- Have four substantial meetings with no fewer than five members from each parish
- Do a walk-through of all the buildings in the parishes of the collaborative
- Make an initial plan for how each building will be used
- Write a report of that, including the way in which that vision impacts the proposed sale, lease, or building project. The report should contemplate things such as: where will the priests live? Where will we have religious education? Will religious education be combined? Where will the offices be? Is there sufficient meeting space? Do we have room for growth and expansion? Do we have gathering space for the collaborative? Do we have room to expand our ministries?
Before a sale is contemplated, the collaborative needs to plan for their future and be certain they have everything they need, from a real estate/facilities perspective before it is alienated.
This same process is also followed for any construction or renovation project that is contemplated by a parish where the project makes an impact on the footprint of the building. For example, if a parish is converting a lower church from a church/chapel to religious education space or office space– is this for the good of the collaborative? Is it sufficient to support the collaborative?
In general, any changes to the real estate of a parish should be viewed through a long-term lens of how it will affect the future needs of the collaborative and not just the parish singly.