June 10, 2005

Parish staffing study lists options
for operating with fewer priests

By Greg Otolski

The first of two official announcements regarding the recommendations of the parish staffing study was released on this website on Monday, June 20. The second will be released on Friday, June 22.

During the next two weeks, an archdiocesan strategic planning committee will meet with about 700 priests, parish life coordinators and parish lay leaders across the archdiocese to discuss final recommendations for how to best meet parish staffing needs over the next seven years.

One of the main challenges the archdiocese faces in the immediate future is a declining number of priests in active ministry while the Catholic population continues to increase in central and southern Indiana.

The strategic planning committee’s report contains no recommendations to close any churches. However, the report suggests that four parish churches would no longer be used for regular weekday and weekend Masses, and might be converted to chapels. The report also recommends that a number of parishes should form clusters in order to more efficiently and effectively share limited resources, such as sharing a pastor.

The report is regarded by the archdiocese as a resource to guide future planning. It sets forth what the Archdiocese of Indianapolis might do between now and 2012. In no way do the report and its recommendations constitute a “master plan” of unalterable future actions.

Details of the report will be made public over the next two weeks after the planning committee meets with priests, parish life coordinators and parish lay leaders who took part in the study.

Over the past two years, from October 2002 to October 2004, a committee of priests and laypersons has been meeting with 700 pastors, parish life coordinators, and parish lay leaders to discuss the future staffing of parishes. The committee, part of an archdiocesan strategic planning task force, held a total of 33 meetings—three meetings in each of the 11 deaneries of the archdiocese.

The archdiocese is facing a growing parishioners-to-priest ratio, i.e., fewer priests will be available—at least in the immediate future—for a growing number of parishioners. The study is an attempt to find reasonable ways to share the fewer and fewer priests who will be available through 2012.

Participants in the deanery meetings were asked for their ideas and recommendations on how to meet the future staffing challenges. In order to help participants in the meetings formulate recommendations, participants were given statistical information regarding growth trends in their areas as well as projections on the number of priests who would be available to serve parishes by the year 2012.

Recommendations by the groups were considered by the committee, which wrote the report based on those recommendations. The report was then submitted to Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein.

The report continues the work begun in 1989 when a Future Parish Staffing Committee of the Priests’ Personnel Board was appointed by the late Indianapolis Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara. The committee’s report in March 1992 outlined a similar set of recommendations.

The recommendations in the 1992 report have, for the most part, been implemented as circumstances unfolded in the dozen years since the report was compiled. However, not every recommendation in the 1992 report was implemented. In certain instances, projections made or circumstances assumed in 1992 did not, in fact, turn out to be accurate or relevant at a later date.

Because of a promise made by the committee at the time of the deanery gatherings, the committee will be meeting regionally with participants to discuss the final recommendations.

Because of this commitment, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will not release or discuss specific recommendations before they are discussed with the study participants. †



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