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EDITORIAL | Archbishop Rozanski’s witness of ‘serving the Lord with gladness’ is an opportunity to seize strategic planning efforts with joy and optimism

After one year in St. Louis, Archbishop Rozanski begins to lay the groundwork for envisioning the future of the archdiocese

Serving the Lord with gladness is the greatest privilege that we’re given in our baptismal call, in following the Lord Jesus.”

On the occasion of his one-year anniversary as Archbishop of St. Louis, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski shared how he hopes to be a witness to others in “serving the Lord with gladness” — taking from Psalm 100 and his episcopal motto.

The archbishop has spent the past year traveling to more than 100 parishes throughout the 10 counties and city of St. Louis that make up the Archdiocese of St. Louis. From the city to rural areas, the archbishop said he’s learned a lot about the richness of the Catholic Church here in the “Rome of the West.”

In July, the archbishop announced a new strategic planning effort that will examine all parishes, schools and curia offices and agencies in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He’s told others that this planning will help “ensure that your grandchildren are Catholic.”

The strategic planning efforts will be closely aligned with evangelization, which is proclaiming the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to others, Archbishop Rozanski has said. “It’s the most central mission of the Catholic Church and her deepest identity,” he said. “It is my top priority.”

In this week’s column, the archbishop said he’s beginning to look more closely at the structural elements of our mission to proclaim the Good News. Part of the next step involves paying attention to our structures, he added.

For example, the archdiocese is expected to see the number of active diocesan priests in parish work match, and then dip below, the number of parishes we have. Also, the two largest parishes in St. Charles County serve the same number of Catholics as 23 of our parishes in the city. “The number of priests and the distribution of parishes are structural elements of our mission that are on my mind,” he wrote.

But as structures are considered, the focus will remain on the people — not buildings, said Father Chris Martin, who was named in July as vicar for strategic planning. “To think that the mode of evangelization of the 1950s would be successful in 2050 is an incorrect assumption,” Father Martin said.

Over these next few years, the people of the archdiocese will have the opportunity to share their input, and we must seize this moment as an opportunity to ensure a vibrant Church for many years to come. We must look at examples of collaboration that have worked well, and look for new opportunities as well.

The groundwork is just beginning, and the archbishop said it “will shape the footprint of our efforts in the future in very significant ways. 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.”

It’s an opportunity for us to “serve the Lord with gladness,” just as our archbishop is serving as a witness to proclaiming the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to others.

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