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Church Ministers Call for Change

An  unprecedented “National Ministry Summit”  held April 20-23 in Orlando, Florida, attracted over 1200 participants and made recommendations that could significantly impact current church practices. The summit was organized to discuss “The Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project,” a 2.2 million Lilly Endowment study, commissioned by a coalition of six national Catholic ministry organizations.

“Parish life as we have known it has changed." said project coordinator Marti R. Jewell, succinctly summarizing study findings before going into detail. Some highlights:

  • Increasing numbers of Catholics and a well-educated laity coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious are major engines driving  new models of parish leadership.
  • With 70 percent of 28,000 U.S. priests being older than 55, the United States is moving toward clusters of parishes under the care of a single pastor.
  • Forty percent of the 18,000 parishes in the United States already share a pastor with another parish or mission, and 60 percent of U.S. dioceses have more parishes than diocesan priests available to pastor them.
  • Fewer than 40 percent of U.S. parishes provide continuing education, retirement plans or other benefits to its employees.
  • Multicultural diversity is shaping the church’s future. Increasing numbers of parishioners are Hispanic, Asian and African.

Participant focus groups identified their top ten recommendations, some of which could significantly impact how parishes and dioceses currently operate. Highlights include:

  • Develop a comprehensive training program and materials for ministry in a multiple-parish environment, and do a better job of delineating roles and responsibilities of professional lay ministers, parish life coordinators, pastors and bishops.
  • Create a culture of accountability through performance reviews for all ministers (ordained, religious, and lay) that reflect the application of best practices of emerging models of parish leadership.
  • Broaden the definition of “Vocations Office” to include lay ecclesial ministers in addition to the ordained and religious life.
  • Include cultural diversity education for ministry in the orientation of foreign-born priests ministering in the United States.
  • Develop comprehensive human resource management systems at the diocesan level that integrate effective practices reflecting Gospel values, adaptable to local/parish needs, including just wages and benefits packages.
  • Present a summary of the Ministry Summit at the November 2008 bishops’ meeting.

Participating organizations were the National Association for Lay Ministry, the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development, the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, the National Association of Diaconate Directors, the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association and the National Federation of Priests’ Councils. (For more information visit www.emergingmodels.org).

 

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