The Diocesan Pastoral Council met with Bishop Donald Kettler Nov. 4 at St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Long Prairie where he welcomed new members.
They are Russ VanDenhuevel of Bertha, representing the Fergus Falls/Wadena deanery; Darlene Felling of Albany, representing the Sauk Centre/Melrose deanery; Emily Primus of Sauk Centre, representing the youth from the Alexandria/Morris, Fergus Falls/Wadena and Melrose/Sauk Centre deaneries; Benedictine Sister Betty Larson of St. Joseph, representing women religious; and Cheryl Weller of Belgrade, representing the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
New officers were also elected: Jason Stock of St. Cloud, chairman; Russ VanDenHuevel, vice chair; Cheryl Weller; secretary.
The council is a consultative body to the bishop on pastoral affairs in the diocese.
At its last meeting in April, Bishop Kettler urged DPC members to invite people from the areas they represent to attend the Diocesan V Encuentro event and Diocesan Ministry Day. He asked for feedback from council members about the two events — held Sept. 24 and 25, respectively, at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud — to help in future planning.
Overall, members reported that the events were beneficial and the facility and staffing were exceptional. The keynote speakers — Christina Lamas for the Encuentro event and Bishop Frank Caggiano for DMD — were well received. Suggestions for improvement included extending more personal invitations, more advertisement in parishes and debunking the myth that the event is only for educators.
“I really want Diocesan Ministry Day to be a day for all ministers, and that really includes everyone,” Bishop Kettler said. “We are all ministers to each other.”
Council member Darrell Welle shared his experience of attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, in July. Welle was part of a 10-person delegation that attended the gathering with Bishop Kettler.
The convocation featured prayer opportunities, plenary session speakers and breakout sessions focused on Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel.”
“We need to be missionary disciples to everyone in our area,” Welle said. “One of the things that I took away is that our Catholic Church in the U.S. is a young and growing church. We need to stop the doom and gloom and be excited about it and embrace it. How lucky we are to be part of this Catholic Church.”
Upon returning, Bishop Kettler convened a follow-up discussion to continue the conversation at home. The group of about 35 people included the delegates as well as others from around the diocese and diocesan staff. They looked at seven areas of focus: passing on the faith/faith formation, Catholic schools, youth/young adults/vocational discernment, evangelization/communications, interfaith-intercultural outreach, ministry to families and leadership development.
One theme from the meeting rose to the top: the need for lay leadership formation and development in service to parishes, pastors and the diocese. A working group of diocesan staff members was formed to continue the conversation around this topic in light of current and future needs. Council members were invited to share their thoughts with Bishop Kettler and to take the conversation back to their own communities.
In his remarks, Bishop Kettler updated the council on the work of the Diocesan Planning Council, specifically the intent to roll out a new pastoral plan for parishes in 2019.
About two years ago, Bishop Kettler formed a task force to offer recommendations in light of a projected decline in the number of priests available for ministry. This past summer, three meetings were held around the diocese for priests to offer their input and ideas. A similar meeting to garner input from laypeople was held at Diocesan Ministry Day. The next phase involves discussion at deanery-level meetings.
“There are a lot of good ideas, but there are a lot of different opinions,” Bishop Kettler said. “But I am committed to getting some type of plan in place in the next year or so.”
The Planning Council hopes to announce a plan by fall 2018 with the goal of implementing the new plan by July 2019.
In light of the information shared, Bishop Kettler asked DPC members to go back to their constituents with two questions:
- Who in your parish or community would benefit from leadership formation?
- What impact might a formation program for lay leaders have on your parish or community?
Members will report back at the next DPC meeting, which is planned for Jan. 27 in St. Cloud.