Monday, July 13, 2009

Sounding an Alarm!

By Paula Ruddy

Like a locomotive hurtling down a mountain track, reorganization in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is on its way.

Forget about summer vacations, the kids being home, relatives visiting. You have a little over a month to get your parish organized to respond to what might be a massive overhaul of the local church.

You would have had the whole summer had you been paying attention. The Task Force for Archdiocesan reorganization set to work in April, 2009. First they introduced the planning process to priests. By July, the priests are to bring two parish trustees, the parish council and finance committee chairs to regional meetings.

Maybe your parish council is on top of it. They meet once a month and will devote at least some minutes of the agenda to the question of how the church will fulfill its mission in the Archdiocese. That is, if they don’t take some months off in the summer.

Parishioners must weigh in, if at all, in September.

This is being billed as a highly consultative process. All voices are being heard. “Archdiocesan Catholics can easily give their ideas, concerns and feedback to the task force via the Web, telephone or U.S. postal mail”, says the time line published in the Catholic Spirit of May 20, 2009.

John Bauer and Peter Laird, Task Force leaders, issued a Key Facts sheet for inclusion in parish bulletins in July. It purports to give the necessary information for intelligent response.

Click here for the Key Fact Sheet.

We urge you to read the Key Fact sheet and start talking.

Is the bottom line that 55 of the 217 parishes are not paying their assessments to the Archdiocese? They are being monitored for their debt ratio problems, but it doesn’t say whether the debt in question is to the Archdiocese, the utilities company, or the payroll. Would it be appropriate for the parishioners to know what their assessment money is spent for in the Chancery office? Does reorganization include full disclosure of administrative expenses? We might end up after the reorganization with all the bills being paid, but what will we have bought?

Faith formation is in decline. Only 34% of registered Catholics celebrate Mass regularly on Sundays. (We are reassured that that is in line with the national average.) What is to be done about that?

If the mission of the Church is to be a sacrament of God’s love in the world, and if we who are the Church, are able to do that only if the institution supports our spiritual growth, what is it we want from “the distribution of Archdiocesan resources”? What does it take to support our growth into fully alive Christians? Is this question important enough for the Task Force to engage parishioners in a meaningful way?

Is the reorganization plan a foregone conclusion? Is there any point in getting to work on these questions in the short time still available?

We would like to hear your opinions on the process and the issues. Is your parish organized to respond?

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