Grateful for pastoral-planning honor - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Grateful for pastoral-planning honor

"The Conference on Pastoral Planning and Council Development honors Bishop Clark for the immense contribution he and his Diocese have made to the art of pastoral planning. All of us in this room whether we are conscious of it or not have greatly benefitted from the theoretical development and practical application of pastoral planning principles and processes that have come from the planning office of the Diocese of Rochester."

These words were a part of the citation offered by Connie Paré of London, Ontario, when she presented to me the Lumen Gentium Award on behalf of the Conference on Pastoral Planning and Council Development at their annual meeting in Chicago earlier this month.

The event, held at the Chicago Theological Union, was a deeply gratifying one. I was certainly pleased to receive the encouragement of that respected organization. It is always of help when we are in the midst of complex and challenging activity to have calm, objective and competent observers say "well done" to you. I am certainly grateful for their kind affirmation.

But more than anything, I am grateful that in the words quoted above from the citation, the conference recognized and praised all in our diocese who have contributed mightily to our work of pastoral planning.

These individuals include certainly those who currently or in the past have staffed our diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning. Their research, study and guidance have been and continue to supply the spark and drive necessary to initiate — and to sustain — such an effort.

The citation embraces as well the work of pastoral leaders in all of the parishes and other faith communities in our diocese. I have asked them to add to an already demanding workload the always difficult task of leading change. They have taken up that task with generous spirit and have persevered even when the going has been very tough. I admire what these women and men do, and even more admire the spirit in which they do it. Even the sometime stinging criticism they receive in the exercise of their leadership has not deterred them.

Above all, I thank the hundreds of women and men from all parts of our diocese who have been the heart and soul of our pastoral-planning effort. To all of their many family and employment obligations they add this generous service to the Lord and the church. With their colleagues they search for the common good and move toward its achievement even when the chosen path results in loss of beloved places and patterns of life for them. They literally give their blood, sweat and tears for the good of our faith communities.

I think all of us have had times when our energies for this endeavor have flagged, when we came close to discouragement or when the tensions which inevitably arise seemed to be more than we wanted to handle. That’s why I was so deeply pleased to receive this recognition on behalf of all us.

It’s a sign that we have done well. It indicates that we have helped others by our work — even if we have learned from the experience of others. It gives an opportunity to pause, to remember what we have achieved and to think about our next steps into the future.

I share with you some of the questions I have thought and prayed about since I first knew I would receive the Lumen Gentium Award: What have we learned through the pastoral-planning experience? What have we done well? And, how can we build on that? What were our mistakes? What might we do to avoid them in the future? What new life are we beginning to see as a result of our work? What would things look like had we never taken up the challenge?

There is a great deal of dying and rising in pastoral planning — a good theme for thought and prayer during this holy season. Happy Easter.

Peace to all.

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