Guidelines, Expectations, Principles & Planning

I. Definition:

A cluster is the collaboration and sharing among several parishes of pastoral leadership, staff, resources and/or programs.

II. Rationale:

The reason for the arrangement of parishes into clusters is to coordinate the ministerial activities of the parishes so that they might be a more effective expression of Church.

III. Goal:

The goal (aim) is to ensure that, by clustering, parishes have sufficient resources and facilities, both now and in the foreseeable future, to support a vibrant and vital faith community without placing unrealistic expectations and undue burden on the pastor, staff, or parishioners.

IV. Expected Outcomes:

That collaboration among neighboring parishes will promote sharing of parish life, parish resources, religious education programs, service programs, fundraising, etc., and will foster a sense of community within the larger cluster and Archdiocesan Church.

V. Guidelines for Parish Cluster Alignments:

  • Each priest serving the Cluster will celebrate Mass not more than three times on a weekend when ever possible.
  • Personnel other than a priest may be responsible for the administration of the parishes and the cluster.
  • Professional staff to assist all the parishes in the cluster should be hired.
  • A cluster budget, in addition to the parish budget, will be implemented for fair and equal distribution of costs incurred with shared services and personnel.
  • Parishes are encouraged to work toward collaboration and cooperation in programs and services.
  • Clustering parishes will determine the mechanisms of operation for their particular cluster, which best meet the goal and expected outcomes for clusters and is in keeping with the Archdiocesan guidelines for a viable parish in the areas of spiritual growth, education, parish life, social concerns, finance, administration and leadership.


The general expectation of every Cluster Pastoral Plan is that it promote the spiritual renewal of the people of the parishes within the particular cluster. Through this process, all the parishes within the cluster are expected to become more aware of the elements that identify them as vital communities of the faithful who are promoting the work of the Church. Members of the Cluster Pastoral Planning Committee propose how to advance both parish and cluster vitality by prayerfully reflecting on the use of the spiritual and the temporal resources of the parishes. The Cluster Pastoral Plan is intended to describe how the parishes in the cluster, working together, will develop and become increasingly vital throughout the next five years.
Certain principles should be followed in the development of a recommended Cluster Pastoral Plan. These principles are consistent with the fundamental principles of pastoral rule identified in the Directory of the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Sacred Congregation for Bishops, 1973 (cf par ##93-98).

They are:

  1. To assure current and accurate knowledge of the common good of the diocese by ongoing study, by counsel with and discussions with the faithful (cf. Principle of the Common Good).
  2. To insure that clergy and laity understand the importance of deepening the unity among the faithful in parishes, the diocesan bishop and the entire Catholic Church (cf. Principle of Unity).
  3. To assist the Catholic people in the cluster to become more aware of Church issues which extend beyond the boundaries of their own parish to the wider community and to help them to cooperate in programs and to share resources so that the people are served more faithfully and effectively (cf. Principle of Responsible Cooperation).
  4. To insure respect for the legitimate competencies of others, by providing them with the influence they need and support for their initiatives (cf. Principle of Subsidiarity).
  5. To enable every parish in the cluster to have an ongoing willingness to consult and plan in collaboration with other parishes of the cluster to address pastoral needs which can be met more effectively through inter-parochial cooperation (cf. Principle of Coordination)


“Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. When you call to me and come and pray to me, I shall listen to you. When you search for me, you will find me, when you search wholeheartedly for me, you will find me, Yahweh declares. I shall restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and wherever I have driven you, Yahweh declares. I shall bring you back to the place from which I exiled you” (Jeremiah 29:14-14).

The purpose of the Cluster Pastoral Planning is to reflect prayerfully on and evaluate the vitality of the Church in the reality of a cluster of parishes, and to effectively provide for pastoral leadership. The product of the Cluster Pastoral Planning is the recommendation to the Episcopal Vicar, for presentation to the Archbishop, of a five-year pastoral plan for the parishes in the cluster. The plan would include organizing and coordinating ministerial activities within the cluster for a more effective expression of Church in the parishes of that cluster. It would be developed within the spirit of the Archdiocesan renewal and according to the themes of the Archdiocesan Vision 2000 Strategic Plan.


Cluster Pastoral Planning is an integral part of the Archdiocesan Strategic Plan – Vision 2000, Community Goal 1.2, since it enables a group of parishes to find the ways and means to be better Church communities in our Archdiocese within the present realities and in the most authentic and effective manner possible. Because the catholicity of each parish calls it to be concerned with making disciples of all nations (cf. Mt. 28:19), a cluster of parishes will find value in comparing and coordinating their pastoral efforts with one another. Cluster Pastoral Planning allows parishes to learn from the pastoral plans of neighboring parishes, to blend with and support one another’s plans and when advisable, to combine these efforts with other parishes in certain common activities.
Through Cluster Pastoral Planning, the Episcopal Vicar gathers representatives from a group of parishes to reflect prayerfully and to dialogue about the vitality of the Church in that area. The Episcopal Vicar leads the group in a collaborative process to evaluate whether the parishes, parish resources, programs, buildings and organizational structures in a given cluster are of the necessary number, type and variety in light of the parish pastoral plans of that cluster. In the spirit of ongoing conversion, some change can always be anticipated in Cluster Pastoral Planning. In some instances, given the realities in a particular cluster, a parish may need to be founded there, or altered or even closed. The same could be said of schools, programs and other parish organizations as the situation warrants.


Members of the Parish Pastoral Council participate in ongoing pastoral planning on a parish level and some members participate as well in pastoral planning on the cluster level.

“And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. Each day with one heart, they regularly went to the Temple but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved” (Acts of the Apostles 2:44 ff).


Cluster Pastoral Planning begins with an appreciation for “what exists” in the parishes of the cluster; what gives “life” and activates parishioners’ competencies and energies. In Cluster Pastoral Planning, the knowledge generated in the Parish Resource Study is “put to work” to assist pastors and parishioners in carrying out the mission of the Church. The Plan for Clustering is intended to propose a potential for the parishes within the cluster that is challenging. It recognizes that the existing organization, structures and practices of the parishes are capable of becoming more effective if people from different parishes work together to develop a plan for parishes to cooperate.

The proposed Plan for Clustering is developed by a Cluster Pastoral Planning Committee. This committee assists by identifying the best way for parishes of the cluster to support one another in their work. After completing the Parish Resource Study, the Pastors and selected representatives from the Parish Pastoral Councils share with one another the results of their Parish Resource Studies, identify common goals and priorities, and plan how the parishes might work together to build up the Church in their area. A cluster agreement for making decisions that affect all the parishes in a cluster is developed and presented to the Episcopal Vicar. Plans for the future of the cluster are included in the proposal. Upon approval of the Cluster Plan by the Archbishop and the appointment of the pastor, the Cluster Council begins its leadership role.

Jesus’ Mission

The spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me to bring
glad tidings to the poor,
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year of acceptance
to the Lord.
Lk 4:16-22

Is Our Mission