In its latest step in a series of planning initiatives that began with parish pastoral planning in 1998, the Diocese of Rochester released the first public draft of a new five-year strategic plan July 11.
The plan contains proposed mission, values and vision statements for the diocese, as well as a list of five goals intended to shape the diocese’s agenda. Each of the five goals is supported by examples of measures that could be taken to implement them, according to Bill Pickett, director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning.
“This plan will provide direction for the diocese for the next five years,” he said.
Pickett likened the planning process to such previous similar efforts as the Diocesan Synod of 1993, which set forth a handful of goals the diocese implemented in such areas as lifelong faith formation and support for the consistent-life ethic.
The draft document contains two options for mission statements. In part, Option 1 notes: “We are led by the Holy Spirit in building up communities of faith, and we live out our commitment to the poor and the oppressed.” Option 2, in part, reads: “We preach the Good News in word and action and are led by the Holy Spirit in building up communities of faith and hope.”
Noting that “our work will be guided by these values,” the proposed values statements espouse being a “people of prayer and conversion” and respecting “the life and dignity of each person.”
A draft vision statement calls Rochester’s recently renovated Sacred Heart Cathedral a symbol of diocesan unity, and adds that in “every part of the Diocese, we support one another in each cycle of life to deepen our relationship with God through prayer and sacrament.”
The five proposed goals — with examples of how they could be implemented — are as follows:
1. To Build Up Unity within the Diocese of Rochester
The draft document suggests this goal could be achieved through such measures as conducting “frank, regular meetings” at various councils to name and resolve issues that create tension and separation in the diocese; educating people about the role of the bishop, the Vatican and the Pastoral Center in Gates; developing a Catholic Peace Corps, through which people would volunteer for one or two years in areas of urban and rural need; and improving communications through such vehicles as upgraded parish Web sites.
2. To Deepen Lifelong Faith Formation & Spiritual Transformation.
Actions suggested by the draft plan include creating a mass-market campaign about the importance of attending Mass, the role of the Eucharist in the Catholic faith and instituting diocesan training on Scripture for parish Bible-study leaders.
3. To Live With Gratitude for and Wonder at God’s Presence, Gifts and Grace and To Respond to God’s Goodness Through Our Lives and Communities.
Among proposed action steps are the development and dissemination of prayer and faith-sharing resources that focus on gratitude; working with Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua to include gratefulness as a theme in parish retreats; and creating a “gratefulness section” on the diocese’s Web site, where people could post stories of gratitude.
4. To Follow Christ’s Witness for Outreach and Justice
Suggested actions include developing educational programs and contacts with individuals and communities in developing countries; and advocating for better wages and health-insurance coverage both within the diocese as well as in the wider community.
5. To Develop and Nurture Lay and Ordained Ministry That Uses the Gifts of All for the Service of All
Suggested actions include implementing a mentoring system for newly appointed pastoral leaders and promoting St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Pittsford, which offers development programs for both paid and volunteer ministers.
The full text of the plan can be found on the diocesan Web site, www.dor.org, by selecting “Pastoral Planning” on the home page, then following links to “Strategic Planning” and “First Public Draft Plan Now Available.” An online-response section allows readers to anonymously offer comments about the plan and submit them to the diocese.
Pickett noted that various groups — including pastors, pastoral administrators and members of the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Council — would respond to and discuss the first draft at meetings slated throughout the diocese in late July and early August. Input gathered at these discussions will eventually be posted on the Web site’s pastoral-planning section, he said, adding that the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Council will discuss a second public draft at its Sept. 17 meeting.
Pickett said the draft is expected to undergo two or three more revisions before a final draft of the strategic plan will be presented sometime in the fall. He added that Bishop Matthew H. Clark is expected to give final approval to a plan by the end of the year, with implementation beginning in 2006.