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All Things New

A new strategic pastoral planning effort will examine all facets of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and strengthen evangelization efforts

All Things New strategic pastoral planning effort will examine all facets of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and strengthen the local Church’s evangelization efforts.

Launched on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Jan. 25, the initiative will evaluate the effectiveness of the Church in St. Louis in proclaiming the Gospel and identify opportunities for improvement and renewal within all parishes, schools, archdiocesan offices and agencies and other ministry efforts.

The effort “will shape the footprint of our efforts in the future in very significant ways,” said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski. “This is something that I believe cannot wait and we must immediately seize the opportunity to radically change our approach as to how we evangelize and reach the people of this archdiocese. To effectively do this, we can leave no stone unturned. We must honestly assess our ministry, our structures, our approach and our effectiveness.”

Father Christopher Martin is leading the effort as vicar for strategic planning. He will work closely with the Catholic Leadership Institute and other stakeholders to oversee the planning process, which is expected to take several years. (See timeline.)

Father Martin said that the initiative will be rooted in an encounter with the Lord and desire to share the Good News with others. The plan leads with the Church’s efforts to evangelize, with infrastructure considerations secondary, he said.

“When we have become a people of deeper prayer and united around our desire to make disciples, only then do we discern our infrastructure,” Father Martin said. “We must allow ourselves to be inspired by the Holy Spirit with a vision for the future that’s so attractive that we are willing to give up what we know in order to obtain it.”

The next step: Disciple Maker Index

Over the next few months, all Catholics will be invited to pray and offer their feedback about the future of the archdiocese. The Disciple Maker Index will be released on Ash Wednesday, March 2, which is a survey that will allow Catholics to share their thoughts and hopes for the Catholic Church here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Survey results will give the archdiocese a clear picture of the needs of the local Church. The Disciple Maker Index survey is expected to be a driving force in deciding what will happen within the archdiocese. For more information, see allthingsnew.archstl.org.

Current challenges

The number of active Catholics in the archdiocese is declining, said John Schwob, the director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese.

Parish status animarum reports (a parish register, which means “state of souls” in Latin, of people living in a parish and events related to them) show that the archdiocese will report approximately 490,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. This is the first time since the early 1960s that the archdiocese has reported under 500,000 Catholics.

Also, if the current priesthood ordination trend continues, the number of active priests is expected to equal the number of parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis by 2027. Archbishop Rozanski ordained six men for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in May, and two are expected to be ordained for St. Louis in 2022.

While St. Louis continues to have among the highest per capita rate of priests per person in the country, for a diocese of our size, the archbishop acknowledged that fewer priests are ordained than the archdiocese loses each year due to retirement/leaving active ministry or death. Within five years, the number of active diocesan priests in parish work will match, and then dip below, the number of parishes in the archdiocese.

Changing structure

The current structure of the archdiocese is reflective of an immigrant Church formed centuries ago, when parishes accommodated Polish, Irish, German and other primarily European nationalities, Archbishop Rozanski said. With an increase in secularization in our society, there is less connection with the Church, he added, with many people who don’t claim a religious affiliation.

“We have to be a little different in the way we proclaim the Gospel,” Archbishop Rozanski said. “We can’t expect people to come to us because they’re bound by culture. It’s up to us, as it was up to those first apostles, to be able to proclaim the faith. Jesus said until the end of time, in every age.” We must fulfill our baptismal call to bring the Gospel message to others, he said: “How do we as the Church of St. Louis, with such a rich cultural Catholic heritage, make sure that the Gospel is proclaimed to future generations?”

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