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March 20 - April 2, 2016

Survey offers people a voice in ‘Renew My Church’ effort

By Michelle Martin

Staff Writer

As the Archdiocese of Chicago moves forward with plans to renew and revitalize the church in Cook and Lake counties, all Catholics will have an opportunity to make their voices heard.

As part of the “Renew My Church” initiative, the archdiocese invites all Catholics to respond to a survey about their parishes and the archdiocese. The survey will be available online at www.archchicago.org/renew beginning Easter Sunday. Paper copies will be made available to parishes in the following weekends.

“The archbishop’s desire is that everyone chime in and respond as much as possible,” said Father Jason Malave, co-chairman of the Priests’ Steering Committee for Renew My Church. “We want to capture people’s places of worship, we want to capture their hopes for the future, we want to capture people’s thoughts about what would make for a more vital church and parish.”

“Renew My Church” is a multi-year planning process for the archdiocese to strengthen parish vitality and better align its resources and its mission, with a goal of bringing people to Christ and helping them to know Christ more deeply, said Tim Weiske, director of the strategic planning and implementation department.

The survey is reminiscent of Pope Francis’ efforts to ask for input before the synods in 2014 and 2015, Weiske said.

It also should be a familiar idea to the tens of thousands of Catholics who responded to surveys for their own parish transformation efforts, said Malave, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, 2215 W. Irving Park Road.

Launching the survey at Easter could help get more participation, as some people who don’t always attend Mass come to church on Easter, Weiske said.

Malave said that in addition to putting information about the survey in parish bulletins and announcing it at Masses, pastors can encourage their most involved parishioners — those who serve on pastoral and finance councils, school board members, people on liturgy committees — to not only respond, but to invite their friends to respond as well,

In the archdiocese, priests have been informed about the process and had a chance to voice their opinions, Weiske said, and about 2,500 parish staff members and lay leaders attended vicariatelevel meetings or language-specific meetings. The survey is the next level of input, he said.

“What the 10 vicariate and language- specific meetings told us is that people care deeply about their parishes and the ministries that will revitalize them,” Malave said.

The survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete and will include questions ranging from where respondents attend Mass — both on a regular basis and any other churches they might go to — to what they think makes a parish vital.

In launching the plan, the archdiocese acknowledged that circumstances have changed, with far fewer priests being ordained than are retiring and churches that once were full hosting small congregations as the demographics of their neighborhoods changed.

As planning moves forward, parishes will join together in planning groups to evaluate the mission needs of their areas and discuss how to better use available resources to support the mission into the future, Weiske said.

A small number of planning groups could begin as a pilot this fall.

In his column in the Feb. 7 Catholic New World announcing the initiative, Archbishop Cupich wrote:

“Just as our ancestors responded in faith to their dreams and built the church we have today, it is our time to dream big and to take up this work. It will take a steady faith — a faith that is imaginative, that strengthens us in the knowledge that Christ is leading us. This faith will keep us together. It will steel us to make the bold decisions that will shape the church for generations to come.”