Input, ideas sought as planning effort begins



CHARLESTON — A survey to begin a diocesan planning process was distributed in mid-October “to help us begin thinking about what we have accomplished, what we need to address in the future and what takes top priority,” stated Bishop Robert J. Baker in a Oct. 6 letter to all priests and parish life facilitators in the Diocese of Charleston.

The survey was mailed to all priests, parish life facilitators, and members of diocesan advisory bodies. Another survey was mailed to parishes for their review, discussion and preparation to form a collective response from pastors/parish life facilitators, parish councils, finance council and other individuals who represent the best interests of each parish.

“The bishop is promoting this survey as a grassroots effort in the diocese,” said Lisa Rawlins, director of the Office of Planning. “Input is encouraged from clergy, vowed religious and laity. Each pastor/parish life facilitator has been asked to provide a collaborative response from his/her parish.”

The surveys ask respondents to indicate which Synod issues they feel need more emphasis in the diocese, as well as in parishes. Those issues are: Building Community, Christian Formation, Communication, Ecumenism, Evangelization and Reconciliation, Marriage and Family, Ministry: Lay and Ordained, Prayer and Worship, Social Mission of the Church, Stewardship, Women in the Church, and Youth and Young Adults.

“The diocese is using the Synod implementation activities as a springboard for this planning endeavor, asking survey respondents to reflect on Synod issues and prioritize those issues still needing time and effort,” Rawlins said.

Also, issues that have arisen since the Synod, which need to be considered in the diocesan strategic planning process, are to be identified by the respondents.

A diocesan vision for the future is also to be addressed. Representatives are questioned as to what needs to be done to carry out the pastoral vision of the Diocese of Charleston, as well as what they would add to enhance the vision statement from “Enthusiasm of the Faith.”

In the vision statement, the faithful of the Church of Charleston commit themselves to:

 preach the Gospel, calling people to conversion by explicit invitation and by the witness of our Christian lives;

 gather to offer fitting worship and praise to God in our liturgical assemblies, and to celebrate the sacraments for the benefit of our faithful members;

 pass on the faith we have received by our efforts at Christian formation for all of our members at every stage of life;

 offer humble service, as did Jesus, particularly mindful to the poor and needy, transforming even the very structures of society as we help usher in the reign of God; and

 promote, support and nurture Christian community at every level, that we might share in the holy communion of love which is the Blessed Trinity itself.

For the parish, survey respondents are also asked to consider the highest priorities of their parish, along with stating their vision for the future of their parish.

Lastly, all representatives are asked if they would be interested in participating in a forum to discuss the results of their survey.

Responses from both strategic planning efforts are due back in diocesan offices by Nov. 30. Surveys from the priests and parish life facilitators will be received by Bishop Baker . Following his review, Rawlins will prepare an analysis of both surveys and provide the bishop with the results sometime in December.

These results will then be forwarded to the various diocesan advisory bodies for discussion at their regularly scheduled meetings in January and February. At that time, Bishop Baker will request a collective response from each advisory group.

Then, the collective responses will be developed into a draft planning document which will be sent to the various diocesan advisory bodies and parishes for review and comment in March.

“Ultimately, this will be the document we use as we go about addressing the priorities for diocesan programs and for parishes to use in their strategic planning efforts,” stated Bishop Baker.