Sept. 16 – 22, 2004
Missions and Goals
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
The Diocesan Pastoral Council Continues its Work Helping to Define the Diocese
The Sept. 11 meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council opened with prayer from representatives of the Southern Region. Their prayers acknowledged the deaths of those who died that day in 2001 and also looked to the future for hope. They recited the prayer that Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan whose death certificate was the first listed that day, was fond of carrying with him and passing out to others: “Lord, take me where You want me to go. Let me meet who You want me to meet. Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way.” After the opening prayer, which concluded with the members standing and singing the hymn, “We are the Light of the World,” the group got down to business.
The values that coincide with the DPC’s formulation of a diocesan mission statement were approved and then work began on defining and developing goals for the diocese. First, Martha Group and Richard Jardine re-capped the highlights of the previous meeting which had taken place several months ago. Bishop James Moynihan was asked prior to the meeting what his goals were for the diocese and he responded by listing three priorities: personal holiness, evangelization and stewardship. Those attending the session then broke into small groups each responsible for developing some broad goal statements that reflected the priorities and the diocese’s mission statement.
Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, facilitated a group that discussed personal holiness as a priority. In her group, discussion began by each member turning to the person to their left and finding out that person’s name, parish and how they got their name. The introductions proved interesting as some people found out their names were given them in same manner. The open discussion consisted of group members explaining their ideas of how to make personal holiness a priority. One member said he felt an increase in devotion to and understanding of the Eucharist is essential for personal holiness. “If it’s not part of your daily life and you don’t understand it, the rest of your life suffers,” he said.
One woman said that the RENEW program that her parish participated in left her with a strong desire to participate in small group study or discussion, and another woman simply said that Jesus Christ needs to be the priority of one’s life. Sister Katie, who is diocesan director of religious education, said her opinion would be to make faith formation a life-long process. After the initial discussion, individuals wrote their own goal statements regarding personal holiness. Some examples of the statements included “The diocese will encourage all parishes to develop a personal prayer life for each of its members with an appreciation for the celebration of sacraments, especially the Eucharist” and “The diocese will foster personal holiness in the lives of its members by prioritizing catechetical programs that develop and enable personal and collective conversion, holiness and community with an outgrowth of actively living and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
After each member shared his or her goal statement, Sister Katie heard them read once more and chose the relevant words out of each. The group then decided upon one final goal statement that could be taken back and shared with the entire DPC. Their final statement read: “The diocese will challenge and encourage parishes to develop and implement life-long faith formation leading to personal holiness and active participation in the mission of Christ.” All groups shared their goal statements which will give the ad hoc committee working on the development of goal statements, a clear base from which to develop the goals that will be further reviewed at subsequent DPC meetings.
A relatively new feature of the DPC meetings is the sharing of parishes “best practices.” Heidi Buda, parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church in Fulton, shared how her parish conducts its bereavement committee. Buda explained how she follows a well thought out form with each family who faces the death of a loved one. This form covers everything from the name of the funeral director to who will be reading the prayers of intercession at the Mass of Christian burial. Anita Ciacelli from St. Anthony of Padua Church in Endicott shared her parish’s family-based catechesis program. Parents and children meet once a month at the church going through the religious education program together as a family. There are packets to take home each month and homework assigned. Ciacelli said that the immediate results are hopeful because the parents are doing homework with their children, it is much more likely to be completed. The response from parishioners has been positive and Ciacelli said some people are attending who do not have children, but who want to learn more about their faith.
The final presenter was Kathy Meus from St. Augustine’s Church in Baldwinsville. Meus described her parish’s innovative summer religious education program. The classes are for students in grades six to 10 and allow the students to cover a regular seven-week religious education session within an intensified week-long summer program. The time-table benefits are helpful to families who are often more busy in the fall and it also benefits Meus’ scheduling of teachers. Meus suggested that if smaller parishes wanted to try the summer program, they might consider working with the other churches in their parish cluster.
DPC members were introduced to Donna Dwyer, the new Safe Environment Program Administrator. Dwyer’s background includes working for the U.S. government and as a teacher. She said that this fall, parents will be invited to participate in training programs. Dwyer is available to answer any questions regarding the diocese’s Safe Environment Program and training to protect children. She may be reached at (315) 470-1421.
After introducing Dwyer, Father James Lang, vicar for parishes, presented a thorough report on the life and ministry of the clergy of the diocese. The information was compiled so that it can be presented during Bishop Moynihan’s ad limina visit to the Holy See which is coming up in October. Some of the statistics include the number of priests active within the diocese, currently 179 as opposed to 267 in 1993. The median age of diocesan priests is 66.7 years, as opposed to 55 years in 1993. “As you can see, the local church has some real engaging work to do,” Father Lang said.