Save Our Parish Community
Parishwatch Maine

Archdiocese of Portland, Maine

'They are letting go'   2/29/08 (subscription) - Lewiston,ME,USA

Collaborative Ministry. Decline in the number of active priests



All parishes and missions of the Diocese will be subsumed under 27 clusters as listed on pages 16-18. These cluster groups include all the parishes and missions of the Diocese. When this planning process began, many of the faithful were understandably concerned about whether their parish would be closed. This proposal has not identified any specific parish or church for closure. If it is necessary in the future to close any parishes, I will do so only after receiving a recommendation from the cluster.

The cluster groupings also indicate the number of priests proposed for assignment to the each clusters, including the pastor. One pastor per cluster will enable the pastor to call upon the resources of the whole cluster in the mission of evangelization; should facilitate communication among staff; and should promote more effective administration.

The Thinking Behind the Proposal

1) This proposal provides a sound basis for vibrant and alive communities that are able to focus on mission and can go well beyond bare subsistence and maintenance. Parish groupings will find among themselves greater resources of people and finances than any individual parish would have on its own. I believe, it removes from each local community a sense of isolation and strengthens it by associating it with other local communities who share the same faith journey. This could be especially important in groupings of small, rural parishes.

2) It seeks to provide ongoing sacramental ministry as broadly as possible. The sacramental life of the Church is vital and this proposal allows for the broadest availability of Eucharist and the other sacraments.

3) It seeks to provide continued pastoral presence throughout the Diocese. This scenario represents a reasonable compromise between the needs of our more rural northern and eastern parishes and those of our larger southern and southwestern parishes.

4) It attempts to build on already existing links between communities. As much as possible, it links parishes who have shared a common working history in cluster/deanery groups, and it links communities with other existing natural bonds, for example, being in the same school district or having commercial links.

5) It is based on a previous history of consultation and collaboration. The clusters incorporate ideas that have arisen in our current cluster and deanery groups, as well as previous efforts at consultation (Vision 2000). It seems to me this very process of continued collaboration and consultation will both evangelize those involved in it and serve to help build up the Body of Christ in the Diocese.

6) It tries to recognize and respect cultural differences. It seeks to group parishes together who have some kind of natural connection. It also seeks to be sensitive to the fears of some smaller communities that they will be simply swallowed up or pushed aside by the larger or wealthier ones.

7) It fosters the principle of subsidiarity by not calling for the closing of any specific parish or mission. Subsidiarity is the concept that problems or concerns are best resolved by those most closely affected by them. The people within each grouping of parishes will be able to assess their local needs in the light of the mission of the Church and come to life-giving recommendations which best meet those needs. This plan focuses on collaboration for the common good, not closings.

8) It will be a "wake-up call" to all who read it. All who examine the cluster groupings will quickly realize that priests can no longer serve one of these groupings in the same way that they could serve a single parish community. Past structures will no longer be workable. Implementing this plan calls for ongoing education and training for Church leaders at all levels, both priests and laity.

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