On a ‘Mission’

Oct. 16-22, 2003
On a ‘Mission’
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Diocesan Pastoral Council works to develop mission statement for the diocese

Establishing the direction of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Syracuse was the focus of the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) meeting held on Oct. 4 at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School. Members of the council made up of parish representatives, clergy members, lay ministers, and women religious worked under the guidance of Bishop James Moynihan to create a mission statement for the diocese. Martha Group, facilitator for the meeting, called upon those present to work toward “establishing a foundation for the work of pastoral planning within the community of the Syracuse Diocese.”

Before describing the mission statement process, Group quoted from the Bible. “It is He who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son.” (Ephesians: 4:11-12)

With this spiritual guideline, Group asked DPC members to consider prayerfully the following questions in preparing the diocesan mission statement: • Who are we? (Whom do we represent?)

• What is our purpose? (Why do we exist?)

• In your ideal local church (diocese) what do you wish to see happening?

• What will compel us to do the work of the Lord?

• Who is responsible for carrying out this work?

• What do we want to be recognized for?

• How will we know if we have been successful?

“As you reflect upon these questions, keep in mind four core values presented in Guiding the Parish, Moved by the Spirit,” said Group. “They are accountability, collaboration, spirituality and diversity.” The members of the council broke out into 10 small groups to work together to create a mini-version of what the mission statement should be. At the end of the small group sessions, 10 posters were hung on the wall displaying the work of the teams. Group six, under the direction of Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, came up with a draft of what they would like to see included in the overall diocesan mission statement. “We the loving, vibrant Catholic Community of Faith of the Diocese of Syracuse, empowered by the Holy Spirit, dedicate ourselves to: becoming a community of disciples of Jesus by word and example; providing a spiritual and welcoming family to all people; responding to the diverse needs of the people of God; nurturing through communication, prayer, education, worship and service.”

The drafts will be read, discussed, revised and condensed before being incorporated into a final mission statement that will represent the diocese’s goal of carrying out the ministry of Jesus. The final draft is scheduled to be completed and released in the spring of 2004. To continue the theme of establishing the direction of the church, Father James Lang of the Office of Pastoral Planning presented the council with a three-step process that will be implemented to protect children and youth of the Diocese of Syracuse. He reminded the council that it was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. “St. Francis got the call from God to ‘rebuild my church,’” said Father Lang. “It is in that spirit that we will become masons and build a brick wall to protect our youth from perpetrators.”

Father Lang explained the new program that is called the Diocesan Safe Environment Program. The program includes three steps –– education and training; screening and evaluating the background of those who have contact with minors, and providing standards of conduct and protocol. The National Catholic Risk Retention Group created the VIRTUS program that the diocese has purchased. The VIRTUS program begins with training trainers within the diocese in a 3-day session to teach them how to protect children and others who interact with the Church. “Eighty people will go through a specialized training program and then go out into the diocese and train others on how to protect God’s children,” said Father Lang. “These 80 people will be trained followed by 80 next year and 80 the year after that.” The training is aimed at all personnel, employees and volunteers, in the diocese who have contact with minors.

Father Lang also spoke in depth about the process that has been put into place to evaluate the background of those having contact with minors. The diocese has contracted with ADP Screening and Selection Services to provide background checks for those who have contact with young people at any diocesan related program or site. They adult will have the opportunity to sign a waiver before the background check is performed. The code of conduct that has been implemented in the diocese contains 10 key elements that include training; screening; adequate leadership; open access; visibility; respect personal privacy; separate accommodations; appropriate behaviors and boundaries; no hazing, secret ceremonies or organizations and vigilance. “We need everyone to be ambassadors of this program,” said Father Lang. “We are asking for three or four hours of everyone’s time to put a barrier system in place so that the diocese will become a safe haven.”

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