Bishop Earl Boyea is today issuing an invitation to the lay faithful of the Diocese of Lansing to participate in a series of parish meetings to discuss how the diocese can realign its present resources to better form communities of missionary disciples who go and announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It’s important you take this opportunity to speak up,” says Bishop Boyea in a video message issued October 2.
“I know first-hand the sadness of family members drifting from the practice of their Catholic faith. Christ too weeps over every lost sheep. He wants us to go find them, bring them back to him – and to make disciples of all other people as well. And he wants us to do it here and now. Hence, we need to step up our prayer, increase our penance and then we need to act – so please do get involved.”
In the Fall of 2019, Bishop Boyea assembled a 14-person committee, consisting of both laity and clergy, to help him chart a new way forward for the Diocese of Lansing. Entitled the Realign Resources for Mission Committee, over the past year the group has consulted with numerous other dioceses across the United States and beyond to study various approaches to restructuring.
They have also amassed a huge amount of data assessing the apostolic life of the Diocese of Lansing. This includes a detailed survey of over 21,000 lay people, known as the Disciple Maker Index, which was conducted across all 72 parishes. Meanwhile, the priests of the diocese participated in a similar in-depth exercise known as Called for More. Both surveys were facilitated by the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute. Amongst other things, the data collected suggests the following:
- Priests: That priests are often so consumed with the day-to-day challenges of running a parish that they have nothing left for creative missionary work; often they feel isolated or alone; often they are being asked to pastor a flock without the resources needed for truly transformative evangelization.
- Staff: That parishes are often understaffed with only a few lay ministers who are overworked and underpaid. Hence, many important ministry areas do not have the necessary leadership and funding to evangelize and catechize successfully.
- Laity: That the lay faithful have a great desire to grow in their spiritual lives and to evangelize. However, they often don’t feel intellectually equipped, or spiritually prepared or even practically supported by their parish to become missionary disciplines of Jesus Christ in the world.
Yesterday saw these findings presented to the priests of the Diocese of Lansing during a one-day gathering at Saint Patrick Parish in Brighton. Talking them through the data was Father Mathias Thelen, Chairman of the Realign Resources for Mission Committee, and his fellow committee member and Diocese of Lansing Chief of Staff, Deb Amato.
Both were keen to stress that their committee is still someway off from drafting a blueprint for the re-organization of parish boundaries and that any such blueprint would only be developed in consultation with both the clergy and lay faithful of the diocese.
They also stressed that any changes in parishes boundaries, including any potential reduction in the number of parishes, did not automatically necessitate a change or reduction in the number of churches or “worship sites” within the diocese.
However, they did want to present a general vision of renewed parish life to the priests of the diocese. This included the creation of new parishes where:
- Priests support one another;
- Multiple priests serve one parish together;
- Priests live in community although not necessarily in the same rectory;
- Priests receive on-going formation, mentoring and coaching;
- Priests are unified with and accountable to the Bishop;
- Pastors have the charism of leadership and have a parish leadership team;
- While other priests also operate out of their charisms and gifts.
The next important step in the process, explained Bishop Boyea, is to consult widely with the lay faithful of the Diocese of Lansing. Thus, from November 16 to December 17 every parish in the Diocese will be visited by members of the Realign Resources for Mission Committee in order to outline their present vision and to illicit both comment and feedback.
“The Realign Resource for Mission Committee has until next Spring to make its recommendations to me. Before they do that, though, they need to talk to you. They need to hear from you,” says Bishop Boyea in his video message.
“What are your hopes for your parish? What are your fears? What does the Realign Resources for Mission Committee need to know? What practical advice can you give them? Members of the committee will be coming to your parish in coming months. The exact date will be advertised in your parish bulletin.”