Vision 2020 Blueprint Process begins assisting parishes facing changes, challenges and opportunities
SCRANTON – More than a year after the Vision 2020 Blueprint Process was introduced to parishioners in the Diocese of Scranton, the pastoral planning initiative remains underway. In fact, it is currently being used to assist several parish communities facing pastoral retirements and other challenges in the coming months.
Vision 2020 is a long range process aiming to look proactively at the realities of our local Church in the present moment while striving to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade.
Many factors will prompt change across the Diocese of Scranton in the future. These factors include rapidly shifting population demographics, reduced numbers of parishioners active in their faith, parish financial challenges, parish infrastructure needs as well as a diminishing number of ordained priests to serve existing parishes.
“Our ongoing pastoral planning process in the Diocese is both important and necessary to have vibrant parishes and rich participation in the sacraments,” the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said. “This process, at its very core, is about putting our relationship with Jesus first in our own lives and in the life of our Church. We must desire to help all people meet Christ and build God’s Kingdom – not our own.”
On Dec. 8, 2019, Bishop Bambera introduced the Vision 2020 Blueprint Process to every parish in the Diocese through a video homily played at all Masses. Since that time, pastors have met in their individual deaneries, Bishop Bambera led several regional sessions in communities before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Bishop provided a video presentation to other parishes that were not able to gather in large groups because of the coronavirus.
“Given our faithful people’s deep love of their churches, I fully understand the emotions many have regarding any type of pastoral planning process,” the bishop explained. “Change is always difficult but we must constantly evaluate how to best utilize our resources in order to focus on mission more than simply maintenance.”
The Diocese of Scranton is not alone in undertaking pastoral planning efforts. A worsening shortage of priests nationwide, among other factors, has many other Dioceses and Archdioceses undertaking similar measures.
Over the past half century, the number of priests across the U.S. has dropped by about 40 percent — from nearly 60,000 priests in 1970 to 35,513 in 2020, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
The Diocese of Scranton currently has 112 active priests, of which 92 are pastors. Based on projections of known retirement ages and historical trends, the Diocese projects that in 2030, the Diocese of Scranton will have only 69 active priests and the possibility of 49 pastors.
“We must be realistic in looking at all of the data, not just in the number of priests but all factors that might prompt change and response. Demographic studies have consistently shown that many areas of the northeast are experiencing a decline in population, including the eleven counties of the Diocese of Scranton. As such, many of our parishes are faced with far more funerals than baptisms. There is an urgency in this moment and a need to be creative and bold. We must continue to evangelize and spread the Good News of Jesus, welcome new immigrants and families into our parishes and focus on fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our Diocese. For example, when is the last time that you heard someone in a parish say to a young man, have you ever thought of being a priest? We need more conversations like that taking place,” the bishop explained.
One important aspect of the Vision 2020 Blueprint Process is there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Different things will prompt changes in various parishes and deaneries at different times.
In order to better serve the mission of the Church, some of the possible changes that parishes might experience would be partnerships with neighboring parishes, linked parishes, alternative types of parish leadership (such as a Parish Life Coordinator) as well as potential merger or closure.
“As a Diocese, we have risen to meet the challenges and the needs for change in the past. Unlike previous pastoral planning processes, implementation will be approached gradually as needs arise,” Bishop Bambera added. “As members of this local Church, we must all acknowledge the social and demographic factors that will require change and we must all work together to best live out our baptismal calling.”
Vision 2020 Blueprint Process Being Utilized with Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Weston
Parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Weston were recently notified the weekend of April 10/11, 2021, of the planned retirement of their longtime pastor, Rev. Patrick D. McDowell, in June 2021. In a letter sent to parishioners, Father McDowell explained how the pastoral and sacramental needs of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish community would be served going forward.
After looking at many factors, including with input from members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Pastoral Council, the decision has been made to consolidate the parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus into the parish of Saint John Bosco, Conyngham. This means that the territory and pastoral care responsibility of Saint John Bosco Parish, its pastor and pastoral leaders, will now include all of the households previously served by Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Weston.
A small working team with representatives from both parishes will be assembled to assist with the planning needed to make a smooth adjustment.
Vision 2020 Blueprint Process Being Utilized with Holy Family Parish, Sugar Notch
Parishioners of Holy Family Parish in Sugar Notch were recently notified the weekend of April 24/25, 2021, of the planned retirement of their longtime pastor, Rev. Joseph R. Kakareka, in September 2021. In a letter to parishioners published in the parish bulletin, Father Kakareka explained how the pastoral and sacramental needs of the Holy Family Parish community would be served going forward.
Utilizing the Vision 2020 Blueprint Process which takes into account the long range needs of the entire Diocese, after consulting the pastoral and finance councils of Holy Family Parish and pending the outcome of the necessary canonical processes, Bishop Bambera will follow the recommendation of the priests of the Wilkes-Barre deanery and consolidate Holy Family Parish with Saint Leo Parish, Ashley. The parish territory of Holy Family Parish will become the parish territory of Saint Leo Parish, whose pastor will have full ministerial care for all parishioners of the newly-consolidated parish.
A small working team with representatives from both parishes will be assembled this summer to assist with the planning needed to make a smooth transition.