The Diocese of Raleigh has created a new Diocesan Pastoral Plan (PDF) to address the needs of a growing Church in Eastern North Carolina. Work on the Plan began May 2009 and progressed through numerous stages of consultation and revision before being presented to and approved by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge in June 2010.
Bishop Burbidge initiated the process to help the Diocese and parishes determine their most important needs and establish goals to address those needs. The Bishop named Dr. Michael J. Fedewa, Superintendent of Catholic Formation and Education, and Ms. Kathleen Walsh, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, as facilitators of the process because of their vast experience working with the people of the Diocese.
The ten-month process included initial presentations to the Priests’ Council, the Council of Religious, Pastoral Administrators and the Diocesan Central Administration. That was followed by separate meetings in the eight Deaneries of the Diocese. A total of 425 people throughout the Diocese were involved in the discussions and crafting the document.
“That’s really the strength of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan,” said Dr. Fedewa. “It’s the level of collaboration that took place in its development. The breadth and scope of this initiative will serve the Diocese and its parishes very well in mapping out a future for ministry.”
Ms. Walsh concurred. “It was impressive to me to see once again how interested and involved the parishioners were across the Diocese,” she said, “and how much we all care about the Church in Eastern North Carolina.”
“Rather than start with a clean sheet of paper,” Bishop Burbidge said, “we needed something from which to work.” In 2009, after extensive review and discussion, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established five priorities that the Church would focus on from 2010-2013. It was agreed that the five national priorities could serve as the major priorities of the Diocese of Raleigh. In reviewing the challenges and opportunities facing the Diocese, two additional ones were added for a total of seven. They are:
- Promote the life and dignity of the human person
- Focus on Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice
- Cultural Diversity
- Promote Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life
- Implement the national pastoral initiative on marriage
- Practice the effective stewardship of resources
- Plan for the effective management of growth
The priorities, along with a list of ongoing projects, formed the working document presented to the Deaneries for discussion and the establishment of goals to support each priority. In February, representatives from the eight Deaneries met with Bishop Burbidge to present their feedback directly to him. This also provided each Deanery an opportunity to hear the comments of the other seven. Following that meeting, a revised document was then presented to the collegial bodies. In May, the Priests’ Council reviewed it and recommended its approval to Bishop Burbidge, who accepted it.
Dr. Denis Carter, a representative from Cape Fear Deanery, said, “The Diocesan Pastoral Plan provides a guide as to how best to use our limited resources and to leverage them by focusing on a common set of priorities. It fosters a sense of shared priorities.” Mr. Carter said several specific items emerged, including the need for a new Cathedral and stronger engagement with teenagers and college youth. “While these topics may have been talked about in various circles,” he said, “they now rise to the level of common Diocesan focus where it is possible to address it.”
Mickey McGoldrick, parish administrator at Saint Raphael Church in Raleigh and a member of the Raleigh Deanery, said the process was effective. “We had adequate time prior to the meeting to read the document and prepare our thoughts and comments. Sharing in the process with colleagues from around the Deanery provided us the opportunity for added perspective,” she said.
Father Robert Benko, Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Burlington and Dean of the Piedmont Deanery, commended Bishop Burbidge for “a great job of including everyone on the parish level as well as the Diocesan level.
“This plan is not a cookie cutter plan,” Father Benko said. “It is meant to provide focus, but leaves open the implementation to each parish in the way they best see fit for their local needs. This plan will help us realize that we are part of a Catholic Diocese and a Catholic Church and not just a local parish.”
“I was surprised at the unanimity that was attained at our initial Deanery meeting on the plan,” said Father Justin Kerber, Pastor of Saint Peter Church in Greenville and Dean of the Tar River Deanery.
“We are all so busy and caught up with day to day business,” Father Kerber said, “This plan allows us to step back and make sure we are not losing sight of the overall goals of evangelization and service.”
“I said from the beginning that I do not want a Diocesan Pastoral Plan that is a huge volume that sits on a shelf,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I want it concise and something we can refer to often. It must be a living document.
“I wanted a plan that is practical and realistic,” the Bishop said. “I believe this is. It will be a great help to the Diocese, to our parishes, and to me.”
In a letter to Pastors, Bishop Burbidge asked them to implement the use of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan to form specific goals and measurable objectives to be reviewed on a regular basis with the Parish Council. All parishes are to submit their Pastoral Plans for 2010-2011 to the Chancery Office no later than November 19, 2010.