You are likely aware of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ new strategic pastoral planning initiative called “All Things New: Steadfast in Faith, Forward in Hope.” The goal of the multi-year plan is to better equip ourselves for our mission to evangelize. The three goals are Unceasing Prayer, to be led by the Holy Spirit; Unifying Vision, empowering all Catholics to spread the Gospel message; and Intentional Stewardship, reallocating resources to ensure the long-term vibrancy of our Catholic presence.
Since the soft rollout of the plan last fall, the first reaction of many has been: “Will my parish be closing?” The process is in the beginning phase and no decisions have been made regarding our parishes. However, the final plan will affect everyone: parishes, schools, the seminary, the curia and all agencies.
We have many beautiful churches, chapels and schools built by previous generations. But times have changed. In a few years, we will have fewer diocesan priests than parishes. Our current structure doesn’t represent St. Louis’ cultural and demographic shift, and there is less connection to the Church — fewer people now claim religious affiliation.
It is now our generation’s turn to be good stewards of our Catholic faith. That will require a different approach. Notice the order of the goals mentioned previously. The first two goals are prayer and unity. Why is it then that our first thoughts jump to the third goal — our parishes?
Why? Because of our fallen nature, our brokenness. Whenever a significant change is on the horizon, our first reaction is usually, “How is this going to affect me?”
As good stewards, we recognize everything is a gift from God. We should look at All Things New as a gift! It is an opportunity to put our individual pride and ego aside and, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, discern what is best for everyone. How can we, together, as one Body of Christ, become the Church that God has created us to be? In the Our Father, we pray “thy (God’s) will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is our chance to really do what we pray for — to live for the greater glory of God and not for own self interests.
All Things New centers on our own personal, interior transformation of heart and not our physical, exterior transformation of parish boundaries. It’s similar to when Jesus healed people’s physical needs and then He told them not to tell anyone. Why? Because Jesus wanted people to love Him for who He is and not for what He can do for them. All Things New centers on the “why” — our relationship with God and others — and less on the “what” — the structure of the archdiocese.
All Things New also means that as parish communities we shouldn’t take the next two years off and sit on our hands and wait to see what happens. We should increase our efforts to be joyful, bold and creative disciples, stewards and evangelizers in bringing the Gospel message to others. We are a people of hope! We believe in things that can’t be seen. We believe that God is always with us. We believe God always has a better plan! So, please participate in the upcoming surveys and listening sessions. Let your voice be heard and invite your family, friends and neighbors to join in.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “Man was created for greatness — for God Himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched …” As we go through the All Things New planning process, let’s stretch our hearts; let’s go for greatness! We were made for more. We were made for God!
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.