14 parishes in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties will enter the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative this year
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced today the continuation of the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative with 14 parishes in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties entering the process. It is designed to allow groups of parishes within close geographic proximity, known as Pastoral Planning Areas (PPAs), to undertake a program of self-study. It is led by the pastors in conjunction with parish leadership, parishioners, and the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee (ASPC).
The need for this process was outlined in a pastoral letter from the Fall of 2010 which called on all parishes in the Archdiocese to determine if they possess the resources necessary to accomplish their roles in the mission of Christ while remaining sustainable and vibrant faith communities. It is hoped that the end result will be the strongest possible parishes that are poised for stability, growth, and service to God’s people now and far into the future throughout the five-county Archdiocese.
The work of Parish Area Pastoral Planning is conducted in multiple stages. It involves a review of information related to demographic, financial and spiritual activity followed by consultation with parish leadership, parishioners and the ASPC. Finally, recommendations are made for the future. In some cases these recommendations may involve parish mergers. In other cases there may be no change in parish structures but would include a plan to assure future sustainability and pastoral vibrancy.
Every outcome is based on a combination of factors, including, but not limited to, demographic shifts in Catholic populations, concentrated density of parishes in a limited geographic area, history of Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increasing economic challenges that threaten sustainability, a decrease in the availability of clergy to staff parishes and a review of facilities.
The ASPC, made up of lay persons, priests and Archdiocesan personnel, assists all parishes within the Archdiocese in gauging their viability and in assessing whether they possess the resources to accomplish their role in the mission of the Church while remaining sustainable and vibrant faith communities.
Parish Area Pastoral Planning is designed to be as collaborative and consultative as possible. Its goal is to provide pastors, after consulting their parish leadership, with the opportunity to dialogue with members of the ASPC 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 the dean meet with the pastors as well as their pastoral and finance councils to hear their concerns and receive their recommendations which are brought before the ASPC and the Council of Priests for their observations and recommendations. Input and consultation from all of these groups is provided to the Archbishop who makes the final decisions. The work associated with this round of planning will be ongoing throughout the next several months. Final results will be announced in late Spring of 2015.
Information regarding the Pastoral Planning Initiative was shared with all affected parish communities through announcements at masses during the weekend of October 11th and 12th as well as through letters mailed to all registered parishioners at their homes.
Editor’s Note: The Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative should not be seen as a process of closure, but rather one of creating and maintaining vibrant parish communities. There are currently 219 parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. When the Pastoral Planning Initiative began there were 266 parishes. When this round of study is completed, there will be 125 remaining parishes in 24 Pastoral Planning Areas which have yet to engage in the process. More information regarding the Pastoral Planning Initiative can be found here: http://archphila.org/conversion/conversion_index.php.
Kenneth A. Gavin
Director of Communications