Archdiocese announces strategic pastoral plan

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Over the next four years, archdiocesan parishes will implement a new Strategic Pastoral Plan with the purpose of engaging baptized Catholics more deeply in the life of the church. Beginning in July, each year will have its own focus for the parishes with archdiocesan agencies providing support and resources.

This is not a plan of implementation, rather it is a plan for the future, explains Vicar General Msgr. John Canary in a video about the plan. (Watch the two-part video at

Each parish is to implement the plan in the way that is most fitting to their community. The plan will be rolled out using the contacts developed for the Catholics Come Home initiative, Canary said in an interview with the Catholic New World.

Archdiocesan agencies will offer resources to the parishes for each of the themed years. An archdiocesan steering committee will collect examples of best practices from the parishes and distribute those as models for others to use.

“In every age and in every place, the church must link [its] mission to the particular circumstances of people living in a given period. That is why we have formulated a strategic pastoral plan, not to change what the Lord has given us but to remain faithful to what he has entrusted to us,” wrote Cardinal George in a letter announcing the plan.

“Over the next several years, we will be paying special attention to the new evangelization, looking for ways to draw those who have been baptized in the Catholic

Church into a more conscious and deliberate commitment to live out their faith,” he writes. “We will be making a special effort to reach out to our teens and the young people in their early stage of adulthood.”

Collecting input

In 2009, Canary organized a steering committee comprised of clergy, religious and laypeople to research and develop the plan. The committee surveyed priests, pastors, deacons and lay pastoral staff for input on what issues are most important to them. The committee also collected results from an online survey on the archdiocesan website last April.

With the assistance of McKinsey consultants, the committee analyzed the data and found that three areas of import surfaced: evangelization, formation, and parish vitality and finances.

The committee decided to break these areas into four themes for the church in Chicago. Each will be emphasized over the next four years: Year 1: Teens and Early Young Adults; Year 2: Sunday Mass; Year 3: Parent Formation; Year 4: Sacraments.

Canary said he has received positive feedback from parishes about the plan.

“The pastors themselves are very engaged around these topics and they themselves already have ideas,” he said. “The issues are very critical ones.”

Year one starts in July

The Year of Teens (13-18) and Early Young Adults (18-24) will launch in July. World Youth Day takes place in Spain in August so, for example, events may be developed locally in conjunction with that to reach out to teens and young people, Canary said.

Msgr. Richard Hynes, director of the Department of Parish Life and Formation, is a member of the steering committee and his office will help connect with the parishes on the plan. Staff members have already started working on the Year of Teens and Early Young Adults.

He said this first year can utilize structures already in place like youth groups and can build in other areas — especially for young adults.

“Most parishes don’t have early young adult programs,” he said, adding that his department will encourage use of social networking as one way to reach this audience.

Research shows that if a person attends Mass in their youth, they will continue attending Mass into adulthood, Hynes said. If you couple Mass attendance with religious experiences and work with the poor, “you’ve created an indelible mark on the soul and there’s no delete button,” he added.

Canary encouraged laypeople to talk to their pastors about how they can help to implement the plan in their parishes and to share any ideas they might have.

According to the plan, success will be measured by increased Mass attendance by 2016, but the overall theme is to bring baptized Catholics closer to Christ.

“There are so many things pulling at people today. When people get separated from the church things of the world are shaping them,” Canary said.

By remaining closer to the church, Christian values will still be a part of a person’s thinking and can keep them close to Christ.

“In our relationship with Christ,” the vicar general said, “people find out who they really are and what life is all about.”