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Archives Pastoral planning for 2025-2030
Living Stones Planning Committee focuses on challenges, parish vibrancy

May 15, 2024

Pastoral Planning is an on-going process. The current pastoral plan for the Diocese of Ogdensburg runs through 2025. The Living Stones Planning Committee (“LSPC”) has been focused the past several years on developing a pastoral plan for 2025-2030. Under the leadership of Gary West, the LSPC has developed a process to guide parish leaders as they formulate a plan that will meet the needs of their parishioners moving forward.

The goal of pastoral planning is to allocate our personnel and resources in a manner that will enable the Church to serve the needs of our parishioners. A vibrant parish is one that encourages its parishioners to be actively engaged in the mission of the parish so the needs of all can be met. To be vibrant, a parish must (1) center its life on prayer and liturgy, particularly the Sunday Eucharist, (2) offer faith formation and evangelization that forms authentic and enthusiastic parishioners; (3) receives sufficient support for its personnel and programs; (4) demonstrates strong leadership by the pastoral staff, pastoral and finance councils and trustees; (5) has sufficient staff to support its mission, and (6) has adequate facilities to fulfil its mission.

The formulation of pastoral plans for 2025-2030 will be particularly challenging. During that timeframe, 14 of our current pastors will reach the normal retirement age of 75. Additionally, we currently have five pastors who are already over the age of 75 who will most likely retire during that time period. During this period, we anticipate there will be two to four ordinations to the priesthood for our diocese. These demographics present a challenge, but forming vibrant parishes to carry on our mission as a diocese is possible.

In our diocese, we are blessed by permanent deacons, commissioned lay ministers, dedicated staff, and hard-working priests to lead our pastoral care areas. Increasing the commissioned lay leadership in our pastoral care areas will be crucial in our 2025-2030 plan. Enabling permanent deacons to engage more deeply in pastoral ministry in our parishes will ease the load for our priests and will assure that we meet the spiritual needs of all.
In addition to the decline in the number of pastors, our parishes have faced decreased income and lower Sunday Mass attendance. This follows national trends, but the challenge is greater in our region of the country where we see an overall loss of population, an aging population, a challenging economy, and pervasive secularization.
“Cooperation between parishes that make up our pastoral care areas will be more important as we move forward,” according to West.

The process for formulating pastoral plans encourages pastoral care areas to reflect on how to provide sustaining worship, especially Sunday Mass in which all are fully and actively participating. Pastoral care areas are also asked to assure sufficient stewardship to support its mission, provide effective lay leadership, provide for an adequate staff, enable it to accomplish its mission and maintain its facilities.

“Making the pastoral care areas vibrant is our focus and our goal,” said West.

The process charted by the LSPC proposes 29 pastoral care areas for our diocese. The plan asks the pastoral care areas to focus on becoming more vibrant and gives 39 guidelines and policies to help them in their task.

“I am grateful to the Living Stones Planning Committee,” said Bishop Terry R. LaValley. “The planning process presents us with some challenges, but I am confident that we can work together in forming vibrant parishes that well serve the people of the North Country. Trusting in the Holy Spirit and cooperating with God’s grace, we can continue our mission of proclaiming the Gospel and serving our brothers and sisters. I ask that we all embrace this planning process and that we be willing to make the hard choices and accept the sacrifices that will be necessary to make this process successful”.

In the coming months, the deans of the diocese will convene the clergy in their deanery to explain the challenges, the process for planning, and guide the process as it moves forward. The clergy, in turn, will lead the process on the parish level by bringing clergy, religious and lay people together to evaluate their needs and formulate their plan for parish vibrancy. When the pastoral care areas have finished their work, the Living Stones Planning Committee will recommend specific pastoral plans to Bishop LaValley. Pastoral plans will be implemented as circumstances dictate over the course of the next five years.

“This is an important undertaking,” said Bishop LaValley, “and the sacrifices we make now will pay dividends in the future of our diocese. Please pray for and participate in this important planning process.”

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