Announces Final Decisions on Parish
Joseph F. Martino has announced his final
decisions on parish restructurings.
plan, which was communicated through a
recorded message from the Bishop that was
played at all Masses the weekend of January
31 - February 1, affects every parish in the
11-county Diocese in some way.
Implementation will begin in July.
plan is the fruit of Called to Holiness
and Mission: Pastoral Planning in the
Diocese of Scranton, the project
designed to foster the spiritual and
pastoral renewal of the Diocese, starting
with the Diocese’s most basic unit, the
parish. It also intends to respond to
demographic changes, diminishing financial
resources, and the need to assign priests in
a more effective way to serve the faithful.
his message to parishioners, Bishop Martino
said we must examine our parishes, schools,
institutions, buildings and programs to
ensure they are prepared to announce the
Good News of Jesus Christ as Jesus intends
them to do.
some people would undoubtedly prefer to
leave well enough alone, the Bishop
explained why that is not feasible.
he said, “many of our institutions are not
‘well enough.’ Our society and our
Diocese are experiencing changes.
Populations are shifting. Financial
resources are diminishing. Many Catholics
are not actively practicing their faith or
supporting the Church. Our priests are
serving too many parishes at one time.”
a long strategic planning process, a
restructuring of the Catholic school system
took effect in the fall of 2007. Several
months later, in January 2008, Called
to Holiness and Mission began.
the start, Bishop Martino directed that the
process involve broad consultation beginning
at the parish level. Pastors were asked to
form Parish Core Teams to perform
self-assessments of their parishes. It was
the responsibility of the pastors and the
Parish Core Teams to ensure that the
necessary work was done in each parish and
that communication and consultation involved
the already established Parish Pastoral
Council and Parish Finance Council, and all
members of the parish.
conversation then widened to include Cluster
Core Teams, comprised of the Parish Core
Teams in a given geographic area, the
Pastoral and Finance Councils for each
parish in those areas, facilitators who were
available to help parishes with the process,
parish staff and all parishioners.
addition, information on the pastoral
planning project appeared on a regular basis
Catholic Light, on CTV: Catholic
Television, on the diocesan website at www.dioceseofscranton.org,
and through inserts that were sent to all
pastors for inclusion in their church
months of evaluation and discussion in the
parishes and the clusters, suggestions were
made to the Diocesan Planning Commission, an
advisory group comprised of priests,
deacons, religious and laypersons from the
various regions of the Diocese.
Planning Commission came together for a
two-day retreat and made preliminary
recommendations that were sent back to the
clusters for more discussion and a response.
The Planning Commission gathered again to
study and reflect on those responses before
making its final recommendations to Bishop
Martino in October.
Bishop then entered into a period of study,
reflection and prayer and he reviewed the
recommendations with his Episcopal Council.
Afterward, in meetings over the course of
two days, Jan. 19 - 20,
he consulted with the Council of
Priests regarding all recommendations he
received from the Diocesan Planning
Commission. This was in accordance with
canon 515 §2 of the Code of Canon Law.
Bishop acknowledged that some parishioners
would experience sorrow, perhaps even anger,
if the church they are used to attending
know that you love your churches,” he
said. “But I also know that you love God
and your faith even more. You want to see
the faith preserved and handed down to
future generations. And so, I believe you
will recognize that changes must be made to
deal with the realities of the present day.
only natural for us to want things to be the
way we prefer. But as I said in my pastoral
letter four years ago, we must be prepared
to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ
not as we would have it, but as Jesus
intends it. We must be responsible and
grateful stewards of the gifts and talents
God has given us. We must use them wisely
and productively to bring about the
spiritual and pastoral renewal of the
Diocese. That is the essence of Called to Holiness and Mission.”
Martino told The
Catholic Light that change is a sign of
life, and he cited how Jesus prayed at the
Last Supper that all might be one.
Lord’s words should inspire us to worship
together as one community, not as separate
congregations,” the Bishop said.
added that the state of the economy and
demographics are forcing businesses,
governmental units and organizations
everywhere to seriously examine their
structures and devise ways to consolidate
and operate more efficiently. Recent local
media accounts have encouraged cooperation
across the region.
closing his remarks to parishioners, the
Bishop explained his reason for addressing
them through a recorded message. He said:
know that I have no other way of making this
announcement if I want to be respectful of
you, for whom this information is so
important. I have chosen to address the
entire Diocese at this weekend’s Masses so
that you will not be hearing about the
future of your parish after others have
heard of it. I ask you to understand my only
intention in addressing you through this
audio disc is to respect you and show my
care for you.”
parishes and clusters prepare to implement
the restructuring plan in the Diocese of
Scranton, Bishop Martino encouraged everyone
to “pray often for the light and strength
we need in order to walk the path that God
has prepared for us.”
Parishes Will Follow Models and Directives for
parish in the Diocese will be involved in
the pastoral and spiritual renewal of Called
to Holiness and Mission. Parishes will
follow one of three models:
Partnership: Parishes that retain their own pastors
will enter into a formal relationship of
cooperation with one another. This
cooperation will involve the sharing of
programs and resources such as RCIA, youth
group and adult religious formation.
Partnerships conserve resources by avoiding
unnecessary duplication of services.
Partnerships are one way of practicing good
Linked Parishes: This model involves two or more
parishes sharing the same pastor. Although
linked parishes remain distinct, they
cooperate even more completely than parishes
in partnership. Linked parishes are already
very familiar to us in the Diocese of
Scranton for they exist wherever one pastor
is caring for more than one parish.
This happens when two or more parishes come
together in such a way that only one parish
continues to exist. That one or new parish
then serves the parishioners of those
parishes which have closed. In some
instances of consolidation, however, a
church building of a closed parish may
remain open for a limited time. When this
arrangement is provided, it will usually be
to accommodate a Sunday Mass, funeral or
and directives will be provided to the
clusters and their parishes as they prepare
for the implementation of the restructuring.
These are the general directives that every
cluster will follow as the implementation
1. The cluster is to develop and implement
effective evangelization plans to be
welcoming communities, providing engaging
adult formation programs and inviting active
participation in the liturgical life and
mission of the Church.
2. The cluster is to respond to the
command of Jesus to serve by proclaiming in
word and action the spiritual and corporal
works of mercy and call to social justice.
3. Parishioners are to be encouraged to
cultivate a culture of vocation, or
“calling”, be educated to “live their
lives as a vocation” to holiness and
mission, and support vocations to
priesthood, diaconate, religious life and
the lay apostolate.
4. The rich ethnic heritage of the people
in the area is to be honored and celebrated
5. A new Mass schedule is to be developed
that reflects good stewardship of priestly
resources and maximizes opportunities for
larger assemblies to provide a more robust
celebration of the liturgy.
6. Each parish in the cluster is to study
its facility assessment report and build
into its annual budget funding for ordinary
and extraordinary maintenance.
7. Parishes with debt (assessments and
loans) to the Diocese and other entities are
to meet with the Diocesan Director of
Finance and the Director of Called
to Holiness and Mission to set up a
realistic payment schedule.
8. Upon reception of the Bishop’s
directives for their cluster, a Cluster
Implementation Team is to be established to
design ways to fulfill the directives.
The final decisions for the four Pastoral
Regions of the Diocese are as follows:
Decisions for the Northern Pastoral Region
Decisions for Western Pastoral Region
Decisions for Eastern Pastoral Region
Decisions for the Southern Pastoral Region