Survey results show vocations as the number one priority for diocese



CHARLESTON — Results from the first phase of a diocesan strategic planning survey are in, and vocations to the priesthood and the shortage of clergy was identified as the top priority issue by a wide margin.

A 50 percent response rate was garnered for the effort, as 186 surveys were distributed and 94 returned.

“Bishop Baker is very pleased with the volume of responses we received for the surveys,” said Lisa Rawlins, diocesan director of planning. “All of the input from those who took the time to respond to the surveys will be instrumental in helping to define our priorities for diocesan planning.”

Priests and parish life facilitators from the Coastal, Midlands, Pee Dee and Piedmont deaneries provided their input, as did diocesan department directors and the heads of religious orders.

Several advisory bodies were also consulted, including the Catholic Charities Board, the Curia, the diocesan Building and Renovation Commission, the diocesan Finance Council, the diocesan Pastoral Council, the diocesan Vocations Board, and the Personnel Committee.

Surveys were distributed in mid-October 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.

The surveys asked respondents to indicate which Synod issues they feel need more emphasis in the diocese, as well as in parishes. Also, issues that have arisen since the Synod were identified by the respondents.

Those queried were also asked what needs to be done to carry out the pastoral vision of the diocese.

Surveys were returned to Bishop Robert J. Baker, who personally reviewed the responses before forwarding them to the Office of Planning for analysis.

There was some slight variation among the parish surveys as compared to the phase one or combined survey.

In phase one, among the top eight priority issues for planning following vocations were multiculturalism, ordained and lay ministry, Christian formation, parish and school planning, evangelization, stewardship, and building community.

Among the parish surveys, following vocations were parish planning; multiculturalism; needs of the elderly, disabled and poor; Christian formation; Christian values and evangelization; building community; and stewardship.

“I am grateful for the diocesanwide response to this effort to assess the needs of the diocese,” Bishop Baker said. “We are getting a better vision of what areas need targeting in our planning for the future. Coupled with our hearings this year on matters relating to reconciliation, our survey results are laying the foundation for diocesan planning for the next five to 10 years.”

Now that the information has been collected, diocesan departments and advisory committees will review and address the priority issues identified in the surveys which pertain to their specific areas of responsibility.

In addition, Rawlins will meet with each department head and advisory committee which has responsibility for addressing Synod implementation activities to determine if any of the Synod action items need to be re-emphasized at this time.

A draft document will then be developed by the Office of Planning which includes “action plans” developed in response to issues identified in the surveys. These plans will describe what will be accomplished, include a timeline for completion, and any resources that are required above and beyond approved operating budget.

Beginning in April, Rawlins will conduct diocesanwide sessions for parish planning facilitators. The events will be geared toward people from the parishes identified to be facilitators for their parish-planning efforts.

Further information about the surveys can be obtained on the Office of Planning Web site, which can be accessed from the diocesan Web site at