A guide primarily for Catholics who want to create a plan for following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
Prayer for Planning
Dear LORD help us with your divine providence and the guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT to understand our mission in life and how we can better follow in the footsteps of your beloved son JESUS CHRIST.
VISION AND MISSION FOR THE FUTURE OF (Name of Parish or other Catholic entity
(Name of Parish) exists for the sole purpose of bringing together Catholics and other likeminded people for its mission to build the kingdom here on earth to follow in the footsteps of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. This mission is universal to all individual Catholics, all Catholic parishes, other Catholic entities, all Catholic dioceses and to the worldwide Catholic Church itself.
Chicago Cardinal George’s 2010 message introducing the Archdiocese’s Strategic Planning effort is just as applicable today as it was then.
“The Church has one mission, one purpose and one plan entrusted to her by the Lord Jesus. The Church is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world (Evangelism), to celebrate the Sacraments that make his saving mysteries available to all people until he comes again in glory (Prayer), and to serve the needs of an ailing humanity in a spirit of mercy and compassion (Helping Others). That is her perennial mission.” (Words in parenthesis added)
To accomplish this we need to engage in the three major pillars of religious activities that are interrelated with each other at times and define the life and activities of JESUS CHRIST. First is Evangelism. Jesus always preached to and welcomed people of all kinds. Therefore, in performing Evangelization we need to be as all-inclusive as possible, welcoming (with some limits) everyone, fallen away Catholics, non-Catholics, sinners of all kinds, etc. Second is Prayer, both individually and as a community. For community worship we need an appropriate facility (a church). Jesus always recognized the importance of Temples (“His Father’s House”) in Prayer, but he also frequently used the solitude of mountaintops and gardens for private Prayer. Third is Helping Others. Jesus’ life was full of examples of his helping others regardless of their station in life. All Catholics and all people have the ability to Good Samaritans and help others.
JESUS CHRIST also Suffered a great deal and taught us how to deal with suffering. Suffering is mostly an individual cross we bear, and thus it is not part of this parish mission statement, but it can affect many groups of people like the Coptic Christians, Jews, etc.
There are many other very important and worthwhile activities (e.g. stewardship, etc.) engaged in by our parishioners, but none of these deserve to be part of our mission and why we are here. They are means to an end and not the end purpose of our parish.
Evangelism is sometimes defined as “the preaching or the proclamation of the gospel” just as Jesus did. There are many other ways to evangelize. These range from:
- Knocking on doors to pass out literature and explaining Catholicism,
- Exploiting personal one-on-one relationships, to engaging in public or social forums (writing letters to the editor,
- Running for and supporting those that are candidates for public office, etc.) as promoted by Bishop Olmstead’s “Catholics in the Public Square”.
- Another way to evangelize is by showing a good example and engaging in the Helping Others category of practicing our faith.
As a community, the best evangelism we can practice is to welcome everyone who wants to be part of the parish’s activities. In other words (name of Parish) should be as all-inclusive as possible. Everyone should feel free to join or otherwise participate in any religion of his or her choice. However, those people who join our parish and call themselves Catholic should follow and support the beliefs of the Catholic Church.
Some Catholics may not agree with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church and if they are persons who have publicly shown or stated such disagreements, including those who are in lay leadership positions in the parish, they should not receive the sacraments in public and thus work to publicly undermine the teachings of the Church and be guilty of heresy.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states-
“Because sharing at the Eucharistic Table is a sign of unity in the Body of Christ, only those in communion with the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion. To invite others, present to receive Holy Communion implies a unity which does not exist. Those who do not receive Holy Communion still participate in this rite by praying for unity with Christ and with each other.” 
Non-Catholics who belong to the parish are, of course, free to have their own beliefs but should respect the beliefs of Catholics and do nothing publicly that opposes the beliefs of Catholics.
See above for examples of what some of this all-inclusiveness means in practical terms.
Specific Evangelism objectives-
- Welcome people of all faiths or even of no faith to join with us in all parish activities except receiving sacraments or holding leadership positions in the parish. Those who are not Catholic have to avoid speaking or writing out in public against Church teachings. We will add (number) new parishioners of this type within 5 years.
- We will seek out and engage once a year with a church of another faith to exchange speakers about each other’s religious beliefs.
- We will recruit, sponsor and train 5 teams of two youths each to go out on weekly door to door outings where they will pass out religious material to about 20 homes each and invite people to visit and hopefully join our parish.
All Catholics in our parish engage in some form of prayer. Sometimes it is as individuals or in groups, such as at any one of our worship services like Mass, Benediction, Communion Services, etc. Praying the Holy Rosary, whether individually or in groups, is another form of prayer. We also engage in prayer when we open and close any of our ministry meetings and often when we are Helping Others. Prayer is a very personal thing but can be defined as “whenever we seek to invoke the help of our God and/or his son Jesus Christ”. We also pray by singing, dancing, acting, and engaging in any other art forms to use the talents that God has given us to communicate, but not for personal aggrandizement.
An important part of our prayer activities is our worship facility (church). We should strive to have and maintain the best facility that our resources permit.
Non-Catholic members of our parish also engage in prayer but do so on the basis of their beliefs that are not necessarily the same as for us Catholics.
Specific Prayer objectives-
- Conduct a community rosary before or after each mass, daily and Sunday.
- Hold a Benediction service at least once each week in the early evening.
- Start the process of planning for a new and larger church.
- Conduct one seminar each year on “How to Pray” or the “Meaning of Prayer”.
- Make certain the parish bookstore is well stocked with books, etc. on Prayer.
- Support the formation of at least two types of prayer groups like the Holy League.
- We will invite friends to attend church services or an extracurricular activity at least once each year.
One of the most important ways we worship GOD is to follow the example of his son JESUS CHRIST by providing a way for all of us to help other people regardless of whether they are members of our parish. HELPING OTHERS should be our parish mantra. Many parishioners are now engaged in helping others, either individually, through one of the many ministries of (name of Parish), or through other organizations (including making financial donations). Our educational effort in operating and subsidizing a K-8 elementary school is a major example of helping others. Helping others should not be limited to helping those living in the parish, but also include, to the extent resources are available, all people outside our nearby area. See Exhibit IV for some specific examples of where (name of Parish) does help and could help others.
This does not and should not be seen as infringing upon either the missions of other nearby Catholic parishes or the missions of other churches or charitable organizations within our general geographic area. If anything, we should complement the work of other churches and groups and even seek out partnerships with them wherever possible and there is some synergy to be gained. All activities affiliated with (name of parish) should make certain that this non-infringement rule is practiced.
There are at least as many ways to help others as there are lines in the yellow pages. Also, even though we do not have a complete demographic analysis or inventory of the various skills held by our parishioners, we estimate that our parishioners possess a wide range of the skills, experience and credentials necessary to help others. Virtually all of our parishioners would qualify for some of the ways to help without any special training or skills. For example, everyone should be capable of at least praying for others.
There would have to be some rules. For example, any help services would have to be free of charge and the parishioners providing the help would get no compensation of any kind. The only compensation they would receive would be spiritual. Also, we would not want to compete with commercial providers of these services, except when the person seeking help cannot afford to pay for commercial services and the person providing this service has the necessary qualifications to do so. In some cases, we might recommend to the person seeking help that they seek outside professional help. Helpers would have to possess some level of expertise, experience or other credentials in the area they volunteer for. All information exchanged between the helper and the person seeking help would remain strictly confidential.
Following are some examples of the type of services that might be provided.
Those ways to help for which almost everyone could help-
- ‘Baby’ sitting
- Distributing communion to those who are unable to attend church
- Friendship-just being a friend of someone, especially those living alone
- Prayer- maintaining a prayer list, praying for people who have contacted the parish or are recommended for prayer by others
- Providing food (in conjunction with Meals on Wheels and Food Pantry)
- Providing shelter (in conjunction with PADS and Journeys)
- Visiting the sick, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehab, and others shut in
Those ways to help which would require some level of special qualifications-
- Adult education in theology, ethics, philosophy and related subjects
- Children’s religious education for those not attending Catholic schools
- Consumer counseling on major purchases
- Dispute resolution
- Financial advice
- Financial assistance
- Legal advice (provided by lawyers from parish)
- Marriage counseling (provided by Clergy and other religious)
- Sexuality issues
- Spiritual advice (provided by Clergy and other religious)
- Substance abuse
These later services might be handled in one or more of several ways. One would be for those seeking help to call a clearinghouse person in the parish to either direct the person seeking help to the right helper or providing the contact information to the helper so they can call the person seeking help. Another way would be for the person seeking help to remain anonymous. Obviously, this would limit the way and extent to which that person could be helped. Another way would be to publish in the parish bulletin a list of types of services provided with or without the name and telephone number of the helper so that the person seeking help could make the direct contact themselves. We would need to consult legal counsel on any further restrictions and whether some or all of the persons seeking help would need to sign a no-fault waiver of some type. There obviously are other details of this program that would have to be worked out.
JESUS CHRIST said, “Take up your cross daily, and follow me”. If we follow Jesus, crosses are inevitable: struggles with illness, depression, or addiction; family issues; money issues; broken relationships; abnormalities of all kinds; etc. We also suffer at the hands of evil forces (in league with the devil). With GOD’s help we can carry these crosses with courage and with the hope that Suffering will not have the last word. Sometimes we help others carry their crosses, not as an act of heroism, but as an act of love. To do this, we need to get better at seeing the invisible crosses people lug around.
Resources and Supporting Services
(All comments and suggestions below are made without access to existing job descriptions, organizational structure, compensation, etc. and therefore need to be considered with those limitations.)
Obviously, the Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal of a diocese is the person with overall control and responsibility for governing the parish. The roles of the Vicar and others reporting to the Bishop are important elements in the overall governance.Beyond that the Pastor is the one person most responsible for governing the parish, assisted by a parish council of parishioners and other religious members of the parish. As such it is critical to have these leaders, and the pastor especially, buy into whatever plan is developed and in fact take ownership of the plan on a day to day operating basis.
The parish pastor is the chief administrator, but if the pastor has not received the necessary education or training in the seminary to manage a parish then the pastor should be assisted by an experienced Chief Administrative Officer to whom all others in the administration of parish business affairs would report. Virtually all of the following (and perhaps other) administrative matters are currently being handled by parish employees and volunteers, but they need to be organized in ways that may be different than the present. They should all report to the Chief Administrative Officer. This would free up the pastor to devote most of his time, energy and spiritual skills to prayer, evangelism and helping others. The pastor must be certain to not try to micro manage the Chief Administrative Officer.
Clergy, Religious and Staff-
We are greatly and gratefully assisted in all of this by the leadership of our clergy and other religious personnel. Also, we acknowledge the importance of all our supporting service activities such as: Musical, Liturgical and Worship ministries; Financial; Human Resources; Communications; Technology; Social Activities; Gift Shop and Book Store; etc.
The laity constitute what many would say are the most important group in achieving the mission of the parish. Their individual mission, if Catholic, is to follow the same mission as the parish. In other words, individual parishioners need to pray, evangelize and help others to the greatest extent they are able to. In addition to their other family, job and civic responsibilities, they need to willingly give of their Time, Talent and Fortune in supporting the Parish.
Musical, Liturgical and Worship-
There needs to be one person in charge of all choirs, ushers, communion distributors, mass and other service setups, etc. This person would probably report directly to the Pastor for all religious aspects of responsibilities but would report to the Lay Administrator on all operational and logistic matters.
Many of the matters mentioned above will require financial resources and that fact alone would limit some of what we might otherwise do. However, if this vision were shared with and bought into by our parishioners, it would do a lot for improving our financial resources. We need to move toward an annual pledging system so that individual parishioners would know what role they play in what the parish is trying to accomplish. To accomplish these and many other related financial, needs would require the parish to employ a Chief Financial Officer (or whatever other title is appropriate in this capacity) with considerable experience.
The parish needs to employ many persons, both lay and religious, in carrying out the many operations of the parish. It needs to have a Director of Human Resources that is knowledgeable in all the legal and practical aspects of hiring, evaluating, compensation, benefits and otherwise managing the parish’s human resource needs.
The parishes have many communication needs, including the weekly parish bulletin. Some of the needs should include a parish email registry, social media, expanding our web page and possibly others. Perhaps some of these needs could be combined, but the total effort needs to be coordinated by a Director of Communications or equivalent. Parishes need to publish homilies in the parish bulletin, publish both live and saved masses and religious services on internet.
Technology or Information Systems-
There is a great need to use more technology in meeting a parish’s many information needs. This is especially important in educational work. The use of electronic tablets or laptops in the classroom, having a single electronic platform among all parish employees, using smartphones, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, supporting the Communications Director, and making more use of the internet and social media are part of this growing need. Using more audio/visual aids in our worship services (e.g. mass) will also help in more effectively delivering the messages from Jesus.
(This topic assumes the parish already has a very active, comprehensive and complete organization for social activities.)
(Not enough information to offer any specific suggestions on this topic)
Gift Shop and Book Store-
Parishes need a Gift shop and Book Store at a minimum. There is no other place to purchase many items (rosaries, prayer books, etc.) used in our daily worship activities. We also need to consider selling shirts, jackets, etc. with (name of Parish) prominently displayed on such garments.
STRATEGIES AND ACTION STEPS
Objective 1. Welcome people of all faiths or even of no faith to join with us in all parish activities except receiving sacraments or holding leadership positions in the parish. Those who are not Catholic have to avoid speaking or writing out in public against Church teachings. We will add (number) new parishioners of this type within 5 years.
1. Develop plan for promoting our parish in all ways possible.
- Draft plan to address first Strategy 1-1.
Helen Smith by June 1.
- Distribute draft to entire planning committee for input.
Helen Smith by June 15
- Finalize plan
Helen Smith by June 30
2. Working with our communications personnel, develop brochures, ads and other promotional materials.
- (To be determined by committee)
3. (Other strategies as committee and others develop)
- (To be determined by committee)
Objective 2. We will seek out and engage once a year with a church of another faith to exchange speakers about each other’s religious beliefs.
1. Prepare contact list of all pastors and non-Catholic churches in area.
- (To be determined by committee)
2. Send letter to pastor of each church to explain what we would like to do and that one of our clergy would call them to discuss.
1. (To be determined by committee)
3. Make sure that such Christian churches understand our mission and hopefully remove any appearance of a threat to their members.
- (To be determined by committee)
Objective 3. We will recruit, sponsor and train 5 teams of two youths each to go out on weekly door-to-door outings where they will pass out religious material to about 20 homes each and invite people to visit and hopefully join our parish.
1. Design brochure or other materials to send to or hand out to youth (14 to 18 years of age) that explains objective and strategy.
1. (To be determined by committee)
2. Schedule and conduct meeting of volunteers on how to proceed.
1. (To be determined by committee)
3. Breakdown surrounding neighborhoods into coverage areas and schedule teams.
1. (To be determined by committee)
Prayer– (Follow same procedure as above)
Helping Others– (Follow same procedure as above)
 See above p. 15-18
Guidelines For Reception of Communion, USCCB.org
 Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23