As part of the All Things New strategic pastoral planning initiative, parishes across the Archdiocese of St. Louis will host more than 350 listening sessions in October and November to present demographics and data trends.
The listening sessions — up to two will take place at each of the archdiocese’s 178 parishes — will include draft models for restructuring parishes.
Describing the listening sessions as a “pivotal moment” for the archdiocese, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said All Things New is an opportunity to reinvigorate our efforts to bring the faith to others.
“We’re conscious that our Catholic faith over 2,000 years has been an inspiration and the means to salvation for countless people,” he said. “As the Church of St. Louis, we reflect on not only how we evangelize as the Church today, but how we will evangelize far into the future.”
The archdiocese has created workbooks for each parish as a supplementary resource to prepare for the listening sessions. Each workbook includes data on the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the local planning area (parishes have been grouped into 15 planning areas) and the specific parish.
Members of an archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Committee created the workbooks, which include relevant demographic, ministerial and financial data spanning the past 10 years. Pastors reviewed the information in August, and key parish leaders are meeting in September.
The data in the parish workbooks was used to develop draft models for reorganizing parishes in the archdiocese. Another feature in the workbooks are historical trends to inform future projections for
The number of parishes in the archdiocese is expected to be reduced from 178 to about 100, with the average number of households in each parish increasing from 800 to 1,800.
Parishioners are required to register in advance for a listening session at
allthingsnew.archstl.org. Parish workbooks may be viewed at the website, and parishioners are encouraged to review their specific parish workbooks in advance of the listening sessions.
Discussions with priests and the pastoral council were held in August, where more than 40 initial draft models for restructuring were revealed. Those meetings generated more than 100 pages of feedback from priests, said Linda Putnam, project manager for strategic planning.
This month, draft models will be presented to key parish leaders, with additional feedback generated. All of that feedback, including that to come from the listening sessions in October and November, will be considered, with further adjustments to the draft models, Putnam said.
Each listening session is expected to last about two hours and will include several polling opportunities and pre-recorded overview videos from Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Father Christopher Martin, vicar for strategic planning.
There also will be an overview of the parish’s planning area, followed by several draft models for the future structure of that planning area. The sessions will conclude with a facilitated large group feedback session.
Another highlight of the parish workbooks is a scatter map, which gives a snapshot of where parishioners live in relation to the parish boundaries. For the past several decades, many Catholics have chosen which parish to belong to, rather than attending the parish within whose boundaries they live. In 2021, 59% of Catholics were registered in the parish where they lived, according to data from John Schwob, director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese. This decreased from 70% 15 years ago and more than 90% in 1960.
“You might have one impression of where parishioners live and where they are coming from, but this map shows exactly where they’re coming from,” Putnam said. “There’s a lot of interesting data that explain why we need to collaborate and share resources. The data tell the story.”
Parish workbooks also will include scatter maps showing where Catholic school students live. However, decisions on the future of parish elementary schools and archdiocesan high schools are being addressed separately.
The Church exists to bring a message of salvation, Archbishop Rozanski said. As Catholics learn about the proposals for the future structure of the Church, the challenge remains to evangelize others, living out a message of salvation in our hearts.
“If others see us authentically committed to living our faith, then they will be attracted to the faith,” he said.
Registration for listening sessions and parish workbooks are available at allthingsnew.archstl.org.
After registering for a listening session, participants will receive an email that includes confirmation of registration, a video from Father Christopher Martin on what to expect at the session, and a link to the parish workbook page.