By Mary Drier
THUMB AREA — As the world watches the process in Rome for selecting a new pope, another focus in the Thumb area is the continued re-organization of the Saginaw Catholic Diocese.
In mid-January, Bishop Joseph Cistone announced the restructuring of Catholic churches in the diocese that will impact more than 50 churches, including some in the Thumb area.
The study, “Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes,” reviewed 109 parish communities in the diocese. From that study, it was determined that 29 of those churches will no longer hold regular services, and 106 parish communities will merge into 56. Now the next steps are implementing that plan.
“In February, more than 500 Catholic lay-faithful, as well as priests and parish administrators attended training sessions to learn how best to implement the parish restructuring plans,” said Saginaw Catholic Diocese Communication Specialist Y. Chris Pham.
The Saginaw diocese covers 6,955-square miles across Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties. Several of the changes involve churches in the Thumb area.
“I truly believe we will discover ‘a future full of hope’ through parish communities which are stronger, reinvigorated, liturgically alive and actively engaged in outreach to those in need, by creatively and enthusiastically addressing the spiritual, moral and intellectual development of our youth, and by focusing deeply on the mission of evangelization,” said Cistone in an address to the implementation team members involved in the implementation process.
“We can be successful with renewal of our parishes only if we work together.”
There is a lot to accomplish and the diocese covers a large area. Because there are several meetings taking place simultaneously across the diocese, Cistone addressed attendees via pre-recorded video.
In the video, he stated in part, “The sooner we implement the parish structural changes, the sooner we can concentrate on our ministries….. Among those ministries…Catholic education and formation for young people and adults; increased Mass attendance and more inspirational liturgies; outreach to the poor, just to name a few…”
One example of effective implementation Cistone offered is how three merging parishes that have identified a need for stronger and more effective religious education programs may create a unified program that pools resources and produces a new, more effective program.
The training sessions were led by representatives of the Reid Group, which is a consulting firm that assisted the diocese in the initial phases of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes.
Those attending the training sessions were parish implementation teams, which typically consist of parishioners and a pastor or pastoral administrator charged with implementing the Bishop’s directives regarding the renewal and restructuring of parishes.
Groups of parish implementation teams are called cohort implementation teams, explained Pham.
Now, the cohort implementation teams will each write implementation plans for their respective cohorts. These plans will be submitted to the diocesan implementation commission by May 1.
While the re-organization process is being done, the diocese will continue celebrating its diocese’s 75th anniversary. The celebration started on Sept.. 8, 2012, and will conclude Aug. 15.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.