Phase I: Consultation (Completed 9/2016)
Phase II: Implementation
Phase I: December, 2015 – September 2016
Data Gathering & Formulation of Recommendations
In the late Fall of 2015, the Diocese of Trenton embarked on a process called "Faith in Our Future" to address the many changes that have taken place within our four-county diocese. Demographics have changed the makeup of many parishes, and we are facing a drastic reduction in the number of priests over the next few years. Rather than move into a future of "crisis management," Faith in Our Future seeks to "get in front" of such challenges and so be in a stronger position to minister effectively. This requires the active participation of all 107 parishes and diocesan ministries.
Every parish had a core team of five members, including the pastor, to guide the self-study and discussion process at the local level. Small groups of parishes called cohorts (ours includes Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony, St. Raphael-Holy Angels, St. Gregory the Great, St. John the Baptist, and St. Vincent de Paul) were formed to facilitate the following goals:
- Strengthen and enliven our parishes and diocesan ministries
- Explore new models of leadership for our parishes and ministries
- Improve our stewardship of personnel, finances, facilities, and other resources
- Establish collaborative relationships among parishes and ministries to strengthen our efforts of evangelization
- Provide for ministry to Hispanic Catholics, the fastest growing segment of our diocesan population
Changes and adaptation are never easy but always necessary.
Faith in Our Future
is structured so that suggestions and changes emerge from evaluations and discussions that take place on the parish level and then go to the Diocese. There was no pre-formulated "master plan." Rather, the process began at the local level, with parish evaluations, and then cohort-level conversations. These resulted in suggestions to the Diocesan Planning Commission (DPC). The DPC responded to the cohort with their own preliminary recommendations, which were taken under advisement before the cohort submitted their final response in September. The DPC met to review the response and come up with their final recommendations which were submitted to Bishop O'Connell, who in turn has made his episcopal decision.
The Episcopal Decision (1/25/17)
Bishop O’Connell has decided the following for our cohort:
- Implement the Collaborative Model for all five parishes in the Cohort
- Linkage of St. John, Allentown and St. Vincent, Hamilton no later than 7/1/19
- Designation of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony as Center for Haitian Ministry
- Periodic Review of St. Raphael-Holy Angels ; potential suspension of operations of Holy Angels Church as early as 7/1/17
Parishes in this model enter into formal relationships working together on specific, agreed upon shared areas of ministry, programs, staffing and resources. Parishes remain distinct with their own pastor, pastoral and finance councils, finances, census, and sacramental books. Parishes strive to do together what a single parish cannot do effectively alone.
In this model, two or more parishes (in our cohort-St. John’s, Allentown and St. Vincent de Paul, Hamilton) share one pastor but remain distinct with their own finance councils, finances, census, and sacramental books. They may decide to unify their pastoral councils or they may remain distinct. Linked parishes share ministries, programs and services. They also collaborate with other parishes in the cohort.
The status of parish or diocesan schools is not a focus of this process, and will continue to be evaluated by the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education. Each school will follow the norms established in the “School Sustainability Study” issued in 2013.
Phase II: February, 2017 – July, 2019
Phase II concerns the implementation of these decisions. Each parish will form its own Implementation Team, which will be responsible for determining and putting in place strategies and plans for implementing the bishop's decision.
The parish implementation teams will also get together as a cohort to formulate the plans for how we can best work together, as a cohort, to accomplish our Catholic mission in ways that would have been difficult on our own. Some collaborative efforts have already begun, with the Christmas in Ireland event last December, and the
5-Parish Cohort Mission
with Fr. Larry Richards scheduled in May.