Area Clergy Continue to Plan for Future Needs
By Tricia Hempel
The Catholic Telegraph [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded April 4, 2003
DAYTON DEANERY - In their continuing effort to be "agents of change" rather than "victims of change," priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gathered March 27 at Incarnation Parish in Centerville to continue the work of planning for a future with fewer priests.
The process began in 2000 with the establishment by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of the Futures Committee, priests from various age groups and level of responsibility. Along with the entire local presbyterate, the committee worked with CARA (The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) to produce a 262-page report in 2002 that offered projections of the numbers of men available for ministry in the future and some of the related areas which would need to be examined in light of the diminishing numbers.
Last June, at a three-day convocation in Indianapolis, priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati met to begin mapping out a response to four major areas of concern: the allocation, priorities, administrative workloads and vocations of priests. Four related "working groups" developed out of these areas which have drafted documents addressing these areas.
Beginning this summer these documents, which have been distributed in several stages to the entire presbyterate for input and change, will be presented to the broader body of area Catholics for discussion and study through the use of focus groups and surveys. InnovativEdge Consulting Services of Cincinnati has been hired to oversee that process and has already prepared materials for distribution this month in many parish bulletins and in The Catholic Telegraph (for more on "The Futures Project," please turn to page 13).
The hoped-for outcome of the entire process, reported Father Jim Manning, pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish in Kettering, is "practical solutions and alternatives for matters of policy and procedure for consideration by Archbishop Pilarczyk."
Father Manning reminded his fellow priests that the archdiocese was not seeking "a quick-fix solution." Rather, he said, "we must be faithful to the process we've begun, and the process must allow the Holy Spirit to work within it."
Father Len Wencke, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Cincinnati, steered the morning discussion on the document on pastoral priorities.
"The urgency of our work continues to escalate," Father Wencke told the priests. "At the convocation last June we had 207 priests. In June this year we may have 197, and that includes the retirees and the men who will be ordained in May. Twelve priests over the age of 70 are full time pastors . . . 22 of our pastors are between the ages of 65 and 69."
Father Jan Schmidt, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Cincinnati, directed the discussion on the document on administration. His group's charge, he said, was "to produce a statement about issues regarding parish administration." The working paper offers focus areas, but it is not intended as a policy document, he emphasized.
Archbishop Pilarczyk addressed the group, thanking them for their efforts in the planning process and offering an update on several matters related specifically to priestly ministry. He said that the Holy See had given its recognitio to the U.S. bishops' norms on dealing with priests who are accused of sexual abuse, and that with its stipulations regarding canonical law, "No priest may be permanently removed from ministry without the opportunity for a canonical trial," he explained.
He cited the workshops being held throughout the archdiocese that are offering a general introduction to the Roman Missal and thanked the Worship Office for overseeing the process.
The 10-year-old archdiocesan Child Protection Decree has been revised, as happens every five years, and was to be promulgated on March 31, said the archbishop. A summary of this document and a list of phone numbers of child protection authorities in all 19 counties of the archdiocese appears in clip-out reference form on page 28 of this issue of The Catholic Telegraph. The entire decree is available on the archdiocesan web site at www.CatholicCincinnati.org. All clergy of the archdiocese will be required to attend a May 23 workshop at Incarnation Parish in Centerville that will focus on the Child Protection Decree and its implementation.
Archbishop Pilarczyk also told the priests that he had held a meeting with representatives of the Cincinnati chapter of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a group with origins in the Archdiocese of Boston. The national group offers as its goals: support for victims of sexual abuse by clergy; support for priests; and a call for a change in the structure of the church.
"Until that third element was clarified, I would not allow Voice of the Faithful to use space in our churches for meetings or space in our bulletins," he explained. But at a March 19 meeting with three representatives of the Cincinnati chapter, he said he was reassured of this particular chapter's fidelity to the teachings of the church and their desire to focus on the rights of the laity as set forth in Canon Law and the documents of Vatican II.
"I do not believe that what they are proposing is heterodox or opposed to the Code of Canon Law," he said. As a result, pastors in the Cincinnati area may advertise the group's meetings in their bulletins and permit them to use parish facilities if they wish to do so.
He emphasized to the priests, however, that each chapter of VOTF appears to be loosely connected with the founding Boston group and each may have a different focus. Since he has not met with representatives of a chapter of VOTF formed in Dayton, he has not extended this decision beyond the Cincinnati chapter.
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