Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Holy Cow! Look At All The Jargon!

(From the California Catholic Daily)

“Dynamic facilitator” (With a title like this, you know it can't be good.)

Study suggests new role for pastors as increasing number of non-priests lead U.S. parishes, Oakland diocesan newspaper reports.

About five years ago, national priest, deacon, and lay leader ministry organizations (aka pressure or advocacy groups) initiated research to look at developments in ministry in the Catholic Church. During the week of April 20-26, 1,200 members of these groups met in Orlando, Florida, to discuss the results of the research project, titled “Emergency Models of Church Leadership.”

The research results “were, for the most part, hopeful and exciting, looking very much toward the future that the Spirit is leading us to in this country,” wrote Fr. Dan Danielson in a special report on the Orlando gathering for the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland. (I always get nervous when someone implies that simply because something is happening that it is a sign of the Holy Spirit's leadership. Remember, there are other spirits that are anything but holy.)

Danielson, formerly pastor of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, said the report presented “some statistics I previously had not been aware of that made the questions dealt with all the more urgent.” For example, the U.S. Church now has more than 31,000 lay ecclesial ministers (60% of them women) working at least 20 hours a week. At the same time, there are 16,000 permanent deacons and only 21,000 diocesan priests, 70% of them 55 and older. (Yes, and what kind of thinking got us into this mess to begin with?)

According to the report, the U.S. has 18,000 parishes, with new ones being added in the West and South. “Thirty-five to 40 percent of these parishes share their pastor with at least one other parish or mission,” wrote Danielson. “Two-thirds of U.S. dioceses have more parishes than priests available to staff them. Catholic people other than priests are the leaders of 616 parishes in 110 dioceses.” (The real question is; is this a good thing? Parish Life Coordinators and their like are not a good idea.)

The Orlando gathering addressed six focus issues (such as “parish life coordinators and sacramental ministers” and “pastoring multiple parishes”) through sub-groups. Danielson joined the “best practices of parish life” sub-group, where he learned that today’s parishes need a “pastor leader” who possesses “the ability to develop human relationships in the parish, has some developed leadership skills, is able and willing to collaborate with others in ministry, and has sufficient theological formation.” Parishes need to form lay leaders and empower parishioners. “Above all, the parish has to become an evermore welcoming Eucharistic community, facing outward in service to all and not inward in service only to its active members.” (Ah yes, focus issues; a great a way to arrive at pre-ordained conclusions. Moreover, all that seems to be talked about are issues of human interaction; the priest as a half-assed social worker. A seminary friend of mine used to point out that we shoot collaborators during wartime and we are definitely at war.)

Research, wrote Danielson, points to 13 practices “as the keys to the vibrancy of a Catholic parish.” Among these are the “redefinition of the role of pastor as a dynamic facilitator who orders and calls forth the gifts of others, serving as a change agent for new roles and structures, in other words, a shepherd.” (Damm! Look at all the jargon in this sentence. I am sure it violates some EPA toxicity reg.. Hmmm, I don't seem to recall Our Lord ever saying, "Go therefore and be vibrant!" or "I shall make you agents of change.")

Parishes must foster “an intense connection with the Eucharist as the center of parish life as well as participation in the other sacraments -- the fundamental defining characteristic of the Catholicity of a parish.” Parishes must also engage in “intense efforts to embrace multi-culturalism… especially in worship,” as well as “proactive personal outreach to individuals and households,” and a “commitment to justice.” (OK, the first part is good. The Sacraments are at the heart of Catholic life, but what about belief and teaching? The rest seems to be just more washed out liberalism.)

The groups behind the “Emergency Models” research were National Association of Lay Ministry, the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development, the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, the National Association of Diaconate Directors, the National Council Young Adult Ministry Association, and the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.
(Yes indeed, the usual suspects.)

What we have here, it seems to me, is an effort to use the manufactured vocations crisis to remake the Church in the Call to Action image.
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