The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced today the continuation of the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative with three parishes from the City of Philadelphia and two parishes from Delaware County entering the process.
Delaware County parishes preparing to take part in this process include Sacred Heart Parish in Clifton Heights and Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Drexel Hill.
City of Philadelphia parishes preparing to take part in this process include Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, and Saint Rita Cascia Parish. All three are located in South Philadelphia.
Information regarding the Pastoral Planning Initiative was shared with the above listed parish communities through announcements at Masses during the weekend of February 6th and 7th.
Background on the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Process
In the Fall of 2010, a pastoral letter was issued to parishioners throughout the Archdiocese. It outlined the necessity of an in-depth examination of all parishes in order to gauge whether they possessed the necessary resources to remain vibrant and sustainable faith communities. This process, known as Parish Area Pastoral Planning, is designed to be as collaborative and consultative as possible.
The pastor and three representatives from each parish will comprise the local area pastoral planning committee. This committee will submit a recommendation concerning the best models for these parishes. The meetings of the committees will begin in the coming weeks.
The goal is to provide pastors, after consulting their lay parish leadership and parishioners, with the opportunity to dialogue with members of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee in providing joint recommendations for parish growth and sustainability within their respective geographic areas.
During the process additional steps are taken to be as inclusive as possible. In the majority of cases, the regional bishop and dean meet with pastors as well as their pastoral and finance councils to hear their opinions and receive their recommendations, which are brought before the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee, the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors for their observations and recommendations. Input and consultation from of all these groups is provided to the Archbishop, who makes the final decisions.
There are three potential outcomes. First, a parish community could remain free standing with no change. Second, a parish could take part in a merger by which two or more parishes are combined into one newly formed parish with all assets and debts being assumed by the new parish. The third model, a partnership, is newly introduced to the planning process in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but is being used in other dioceses. Partnership differs from merger in that the partnering parishes each remain open and retain parish status. What changes with partner parishes is that one pastor, one Pastoral Council, and one staff serve the parishes in the partnership. However, since each parish in the partnership remains a parish, each of the partner parishes retains its own finances and Finance Council. The partnership model is presented to help the involved parishes realize efficiencies in operation, to pool resources for more effective evangelization, and to address the issue of decreasing priest personnel throughout the Archdiocese.
It is expected that the current round of Parish Area Pastoral Planning will conclude later this spring with decisions taking effect by June 2016.