Pastoral Planning

Pastoral Planning Update November/December 2011

As you may be aware, our parish has started undergoing the pastoral planning process which has been underway in our diocese for the past few years. Sister Elissa Rinere of the Diocesan Planning Office is overseeing this process. This bulletin covers some of the details of our deanery's pastoral planning process.

What is Pastoral Planning?

The goal of pastoral planning is to have vibrant, healthy, life-giving parishes for all. The Deanery Plan is to cluster parishes into regions so that the diocese can best share its resources for the good of everyone. Resources may be people, priests, programs, or buildings. These clusters will allow for continued and increased collaboration among parishes, and will ensure that a strong Catholic presence will be maintained in each community. An added benefit will be that we will grow in faith and community with our Catholic neighbors throughout this process.

We must keep in mind that although change is not easy, we are not losing anything. The Eucharist and parish life will continue to be available to everyone. And we all know that a vibrant and healthy parish is the best place to keep faith strong.

A Little Background

The Putnam deanery was the first to complete the process and have some restructuring of the parishes implemented. Next, the Norwich and Willimantic deaneries and then the Middletown and Vernon deaneries completed their process, and their final recommendations were prepared. It is now time for the final two deaneries of the diocese, our own New London deanery and the Old Saybrook deanery, to begin the pastoral planning process.

What is a Deanery?

The diocese is composed of many parishes. These parishes are grouped in deaneries. There are 14* parishes in the New London deanery, which is our deanery, and 13 of these parishes are going through this process.

Our Lady of Grace, Fisher's Island
Our Lady of Lourdes, Gales Ferry
Sacred Heart, Groton
St. Agnes, Niantic
St. Joseph, New London
St. Mary, Groton
St. Mary, Stonington
St. Mary Star of the Sea, New London
St. Matthias, East Lyme
St. Michael, Pawcatuck
St. Patrick, Mystic
St. Paul in Chains, Waterford
St. Thomas More, North Stonington

*Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Quaker Hill, which is part of our Deanery, is working in a cluster with St. John, Uncasville and Our Lady of the Lakes, Oakdale, both of which are part of the Norwich Deanery.

There are also four parish schools in our deanery: St. Mary in New London; St. Joseph in New London; Sacred Heart in Groton; and St. Michael in Pawcatuck.

Why is our Deanery Going through this Process?

Currently, there are 12 pastors in the 13 parishes of our deanery; ten of these parishes have only one priest. This leaves very little safety net if someone becomes ill, would like to go on vacation or retreat, etc.

Furthermore, a recent national study of the Catholic priesthood in America concluded that the number of priests in our country will continue to decline through the next decade. In our diocese, in the next four years we will hopefully have four men ordained, but will have 16 pastors over the age of retirement.

Who is in Our Cluster?

The churches that will be working together in our cluster, or region, are our neighbors from the town of Groton: Sacred Heart and St. Mary, Mother of the Redeemer.

Who is Representing My Parish in this Process?

The three parishes in our cluster each have their own set of representatives that will meet at least once a month. Each church's pastor will also be involved. Although these representatives are attending the meetings and gathering information, this process involves the entire parish, and everyone should feel free to contribute.

Our Lady of Lourdes: Father Brian Converse, Deacon Bill McGann, Deacon Phil Hayes, Connie Burianek, Shelia Vincent, Will Servedio
Sacred Heart: Father Dariusz Dudzik, Deacon Doug Hoffman, Donna Holman, Richard Palmieri, Marty Snyder
St. Mary: Father Dariusz Dudzik, Mike Ellis, Mark Shaffer, Mary Ann Smith

When is this Process Supposed to Complete?

All recommendations were due to Bishop Cote by June 2012. No decisions have been made at this time, and will not be until after the recommendations have been reviewed by the Bishop. As the meetings are held and suggestions are formed over the next eight months, please watch the bulletin for updates on the planning progress.