HARTFORD – Close to 200 priests met with various parish and archdiocesan leaders on Feb. 12 to continue planning ways to keep the parishes, schools and institutions of the Archdiocese of Hartford spiritually rich, vibrant and sustainable in the future.
Attendees included Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and archdiocesan leaders, including members of the Pastoral Planning Committee and the Pastoral Council. These key people have been meeting with Archbishop Blair and the Office of Pastoral Planning on an ongoing basis to identify and assess demographic shifts and sacramental and societal trends.
“This highly consultative group is looking closely at the ecclesial facilities and ministries within the Archdiocese of Hartford that will best serve the people of God and help the Catholic Church fulfill its spiritual mission now and in the future,” said Father James A. Shanley, vicar for pastoral planning. He quoted Pope Francis, who challenged the faithful to cultivate a “missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
A third-party consulting firm that specializes in providing customized services for the church nationwide helped to run the recent meeting. It is working with the Office of Pastoral Planning, the priests and others to envision and develop a long-range archdiocesan pastoral plan. Indicators being analyzed include Connecticut’s demographic and outward migration trends, area birth rates, church attendance, number of priests and their workloads, sacramental activity, Catholic school enrollment counts and fiscal conditions. Consideration is also being given to the subjective, qualitative information unique to each deanery, such as meeting the spiritual, ethnic and cultural needs of the state’s increasingly diverse Catholic populations.
These factors will be integrated with survey results from more than 17,000 people and others who completed written and online questionnaires and attended 16 focus groups.
In coming weeks, discussions with local clergy, men and women religious and laity will continue to formulate pastoral design recommendations specific to the respective deaneries and local needs.
“Pastoral Planning is a long-term, evolving process that necessitates collegiality and creativity as much as it does prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit,” said Deacon Ernie Scrivani, director of the Office of Pastoral Planning.
“The ultimate goal of pastoral planning is to instill and actualize an authentic spirit of discipleship in every member of the archdiocese, for the sake of our common mission, which is to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel,” said Deacon Scrivani. “As a family of faith, we are called to be stewards for tomorrow.”
Myles Hubbard, a Pastoral Council member from Hartford, said, “Change is in the air. If we don’t take demographic shifts and other current trends seriously, we simply won’t be keeping up with the times.
“We need to be motivated by our faith as we fulfill a stewardship role for future generations by envisioning a local church that is spiritually vibrant as well as sustainable.”