A series of three meetings for priests across the diocese was held this summer to discuss the future of the 131 parishes within the boundaries of the St. Cloud Diocese. And now the bishop is looking for input from the laity.
The sessions, held in July and August, came in light of an expected decline in the number of active priests between 2020 and 2030 and were conducted by members of Bishop Donald Kettler’s Diocesan Planning Council.
“I was very pleased that all the priests participated,” Bishop Kettler said. “That says to me that this is an important issue and something they want to look into. I want to encourage this process and come up with a suggested plan of action.”
Priests of the diocese were invited to address a series of questions including:
- What does “right sizing” of a parish mean?
- How do we measure the vibrancy of a parish?
- Will or can 131 parishes continue to exist in our future?
The Planning Council will take time to compile the broad spectrum of data, and it plans to continue to gather information and share ideas prior to completing a formal report for the bishop and, eventually, unrolling an action plan.
“As facilitator, I was very happy with the sharing that went on,” said Rita Clasemann, chair of the Planning Council. “There was a tremendous amount of respect across the generations.”
The council established a timeline in December, targeting the announcement of a plan by fall 2018 and implementation by July 2019.
Opportunity for input
The next step is to collect input from the larger community. The Planning Council is hosting an additional session at Diocesan Ministry Day Sept. 25 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Catholics from around the diocese are invited and encouraged to attend.
During the hour-and-a-half-long workshop, participants will be asked to write down their responses to a series of questions on their own and then will gather in small groups to share their ideas. Some questions may include:
- What does it mean to have “quality” parish life?
- What resources does a parish need to have that quality of life?
- How can we sustain 131 parishes with a projected 57 priests under the age of 70 as we look to the future?
- How do we maintain a Catholic presence in the 16 counties, 12,500 square miles, of the Diocese of St. Cloud?
At the end of the workshop, organizers anticipate time for a question-and-answer session with Bishop Kettler.
Data recorded at the session will be brought back to the Planning Council for further discussion.
“We know we are going to have a drop in the number of priests in the next few years based on retirement. We also need to be looking at the changing demographics of our diocese and how we can respond best to the needs of the people we serve,” Clasemann said.
“We know we can’t continue as we are in the next five years, we won’t have priest personnel to do that. Our hope is that we can look at this data and come up with a plan that meets the needs of the diocese into the future.”