Purpose of Cluster Planning:
To develop a planning process that will address the long-term Archdiocesan needs in the areas of distribution of available clergy and the vitality and the preservation of the existing parishes (Goal 1.2; Vision 2000).
Values/Assumptions of the Cluster Process:
- We cannot continue to operate as a church of ten/fifteen/thirty or more years ago because of constant and rapid changes in:
- the numbers of clergy, religious and parishioners
- ministry needs
- The Episcopal Vicar will suggest a possible cluster/merger arrangement, but it should be validated by the parishes involved.
- Efforts should be made to preserve, where possible, the identity of each parish.
- The parishes should be involved in the process.
- Professional staffing should be required in each cluster.
- The number of weekend Masses should be limited to three, when possible.
- All parishes of the Archdiocese should be connected by programs, personnel, or both.
- The clustering process should be phased in as determined by the Episcopal Vicars.
- Ordinarily the parishes will be given a year to prepare for cluster
Summary of Process
- Clustering process will have two phases:
- Development of a Plan for Clustering; plan is to be approved by the Episcopal Vicar and the Archbishop.
- Implementation of approved Plan for Clustering.
- The timeline for the complete formation of a cluster will be 3-5 years. The planning phase usually takes eight months to a year.
- Episcopal Vicars and Deans determine the group of parishes that are to initiate a dialogue that leads to clustering. Criteria for selecting a group of parishes might include:
- pastors nearing retirement age.
- terms of pastor assignment coming due.
- population shifts projected or already occurred.
- the need for a new church because of population growth.
- Episcopal Vicar meets with the Dean and the pastors in the proposed cluster to:
- determine willingness to develop support for the clustering process.
- clarify the leadership role of the pastor in every stage of the process.
- consider the readiness of the parishes to begin cluster planning.
- identify the major opportunities and problems that may be encountered in the process.
- establish specific time schedules and meeting locations, and address other logistical concerns.
- Episcopal Vicar meets with parish leadership and designated staff of the parishes involved to assess readiness for clustering. The goal is to reach an initial agreement among the parishes to pursue a cluster plan and agreement.
- Pastors will initiate the process to elect representatives to the Cluster Pastoral Planning Committee. They will inform their parishioners of the process (see sample communication materials).
- A Cluster Pastoral Planning Committee (CPPC), consisting of the pastor and two representatives from each parish, should be formed when the Episcopal Vicar determines that the parishes are ready to begin cluster pastoral planning. Two alternates should also be elected to represent the parish in the absence of one of the original representatives. The representatives and their alternates are to be present at all Cluster Planning Committee meetings.
The committee’s tasks will include:
- studying the specific issues that the plan for clustering should address.
- identifying in each parish the resources that support and sustain the mission of the Church.
- identifying and prioritizing the strengths and limitations of the proposed cluster.
- keeping Parish Council and parishioners informed regarding the cluster planning.
- developing a plan for the clustering process including a timetable for implementation.
- presenting the plan for clustering for the approval of the Episcopal Vicar and the Archbishop.
- continuing to work on implementation of the approved plan.
- preparing reports on cluster progress.
- Episcopal Vicar receives Plans for Clustering approved by parish councils. If satisfactory, the Episcopal Vicar presents the plan to the Archbishop for his approval.
- Episcopal Vicar reviews annual reports on progress of clustering. He may meet with the pastors or the CPPC for periodic reports or to assist in resolving problems that arise.
To guide and enliven pastoral units, the collaboration of the priests and lay persons is increasingly necessary. Around the pastor, the pastoral councils, leadership teams and the pastoral rotas play an indispensable role. In particular, they allow the best structuring of the various levels of ecclesial life: the local community, sometimes small, but a living and active team, the parish itself, then the district or the larger pastoral region, and lastly, the whole diocese. It is important to see that exchanges are fostered in both directions, that leaders hear the requests from the grassroots and that the instructions given by the leaders themselves, beginning with those of the Bishop, unite everyone. John Paul II “The Vocation of the Parish”