The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School in East Syracuse March 28 for their first session of 2015. The DPC is composed of pastoral council and ministry representatives from acrossthe diocese.
Chancellor and Director of Communications Danielle Cummings opened the meeting by speaking about the importance of effective communications in evangelization efforts. She then turned the mic over to Communications and Social Media Specialist Nicole Chenet, who walked participants through the information and resources available on the diocesan website, www.syrdio.org. Among the highlights:
• Mass times and contact information for every parish. Parish representatives are urged to keep this information up-to-date, especially during the Lent, Easter and Advent seasons. Changes should be sent to Jennifer Migdal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Events calendar for happenings around the diocese. Parish and ministry representatives can submit their diocesan-sponsored events directly to the website; click on “add your event” and follow the simple steps.
• Parish and family resources. Prayers and activities that can be used year-round are housed in this section, along with rotating materials pertinent to the liturgical season.
• Staff and clergy directory
• Policies and forms
Chenet then turned to the whys and hows of social media. Some parishes are hesitant to use these platforms Chenet said, but social media can strengthen community, connect people, share information, engage, complement website efforts and evangelize.
She offered a look at the diocese’s social media platforms to explain the strengths of each tool. Twitter is great for quick news blasts, Facebook is good for sharing photos and events and Instagram is full of inspiring images and photos, she explained. She encouraged parishes to think about establishing their own accounts, and urged them to like and follow the diocesan accounts. (Find them all at www.syrdio.org.)
HOPE Appeal 2014 success, 2015 kickoff
Bishop Robert J. Cunningham thanked the some 27,000 households that contributed to the diocese’s 2014 HOPE Appeal campaign, which closed on Dec. 31. He announced that those gifts resulted in the most successful campaign to date: $4.79 million was raised to support the work and ministries of the diocese. According to the 2014 HOPE Appeal Annual Report, distributed at the meeting, among those assisted by campaign contributions were:
• 4,400 children who received an education in Catholic schools;
• 21,400 children enrolled in public schools who attended Faith Formation classes;
• 15,000 homebound people who heard the word of God through Catholic Television; and
• 200,000 people who received assistance through the diocese’s Catholic Charities agencies.
Additionally, Bishop Cunningham noted, parishes received $225,000 in parish-sharing funds to support local needs and ministries, and $400,000 was distributed to parishes through Heritage young adult ministry grants and McDevitt evangelization and food pantry grants.
Bishop Cunningham also introduced the 2015 HOPE Appeal campaign, which officially begins in parishes the weekend of May 16 and 17. Themed “Our Faith, Our Family, Our Future,” the campaign’s goal is $4.65 million. A video spotlighting HOPE Appeal-supported ministries and programs will be available on syrdio.org, and all parishes are encouraged to use it in their fundraising efforts.
Msgr. Jim Lang, vicar for parishes and director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, spoke about the latest phase in the diocese’s ongoing pastoral planning process.
In addition to the smaller size of today’s local church, the diminishing number of priests in the diocese — projected to number 111 full-time, active priests by July 1 — means a diminishing number of Eucharistic celebrants and, therefore, a necessary change in Mass schedules, he explained.
“We’re used to thinking parochially about our parish. We’re not quite as accustomed to thinking about our area. But now we know we need to think about our area,” he said.
Following focus sessions, the Seeing Natural Bridges and Crossing Natural Bridges processes, meetings with the diocesan College of Consultors, recommendations from the pastoral care areas and the creation of the “View from 20,000 Feet” report, planning groups were asked to create two Mass schedules. The first schedule, to be proposed and implemented in the short term, will allow 111 priests to effectively cover for one another and provide for the sacramental life of 134 dynamic parishes. The second schedule, to be implemented in the future, will take into account clusterings and the future configuration of pastoral care areas. In other words, “How do we manage our way into the situation we know we’re going to be in,” Msgr. Lang said.
But “our challenge is not to get so hung up on the Mass schedule that we forget the [planning] mission,” he added. “The mission is to find ways for an area to collaborate so people can become friends and used to working with each other.” As part of the planning process, each PCA identified opportunities for collaboration, such as evangelization, youth and young adult ministry and faith formation.
Msgr. Lang offered four to-dos for the faithful across the diocese: Support and encourage pastors, carry the message, encourage each other to come up with a realistic way to move forward, and remember: Keep the faith, and the faith will keep you.
The meeting closed with a Q&A session with Bishop Cunningham; a brief reflection from Samantha Pare, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph the Worker Parishes in Liverpool, on her pilgrimage to the March for Life in January; and the presentation of 15 boxes of toiletries and socks, donated by DPC members for the body’s Day of Witness, to Sheila Austin for distribution to those in need through the Emmaus Ministry.
The next DPC meeting will be held May 16.