Many of you likely have taken part in “strategic planning” at the companies for which you work. This is the process by which organizations take a hard look at where they are and what they stand for. The end result is a clearer focus on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, and a better sense of how to best fulfill their missions.
Our Diocese of Rochester is no exception to this need to step back every few years and contemplate what is working and what isn’t; what is “now” and what might yet be.
In the coming months, we’ll do just that with the help of national experts on church planning and our own Bill Pickett, director of Pastoral Planning, as well as many others. Our goal is to get as much feedback, discussion and ideas as possible, and to have recommendations and a plan in place by this fall.
Already, scores of people have taken part in focus groups, helping us identify issues and concerns we must address if we are to continue to be a vibrant, energetic church enthusiastically spreading the Kingdom of God.
Why do this now? In one sense, it seems a natural time. I am completing my 25th year as your bishop and will serve seven more before I must retire. Naturally, I want this time to be one of great energy and accomplishment for the benefit of all.
And, just as I pray to inspire you, I also pray that you and your continued devotion will inspire me. I have been immensely proud of all that we have been able to do in the last 25 years, but I also know our work together is never done.
In addition, this initiative will help us think and pray deeply about what God is calling us to do in this day and in this time. We must seek guidance for we are about God’s work, not our own.
In one way or the other, our prayer and dialogue must lead us to answer some very basic questions:
Where do we go from here? Can we do what we do even better?
How does the Diocese of Rochester respond to our unique upstate area, one of great prosperity, enterprise and diversity — and, paradoxically, one of great poverty, economic challenge and divide?
What must we start doing that we are not doing now?
I pray this process will help us move toward answers to these simple, yet quite challenging questions regarding who we are and what we are about.
We are not strangers to planning in the diocese and, in many ways, this new initiative is a logical extension of others. Many of you were involved directly or indirectly in our two-year Commitment to Ministry reflections in the late 1980s, and in our inspiring Synod process of the early 1990s.
The latter led to four important priorities for our diocese: to form Catholics in belief, morality and spirituality; to advocate for a consistent life ethic; to recognize and value the dignity of women; and to promote the formation and growth of small Christian communities. These values still drive our daily work.
In addition, we are in the second phase of the nationally recognized Pastoral Planning for a New Millennium process, which seeks to increase our parishes’ vibrancy and has provided insight about the way we need to be organized in light of projected human and financial resources.
Now we must build on all that has come before. Let us be rooted in prayer, fully in touch with the mission of Jesus, aware of and celebrating our growing diversity, respectful of our inextricable link to the Church of Rome, and acting as good and wise stewards of the resources available to us.
Your ideas and feedback will be invaluable. If you are able, please visit a special section on the diocese’s Web site, www.dor.org. On the home page, click on “Pastoral Planning” and then the link for “Diocesan Strategic Planning.” You may also obtain information by writing to Bill Pickett at the Pastoral Center, 1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we plan together for the future of our diocese, let us trust in our God who never fails us and always seeks to help if we only open our hearts.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer 29:11).
Peace to all.