The constant need for reassessment, renewal and reallocation in the Church is not unique to the Jefferson City diocese.
Archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States are in various phases of discernment for bringing the way they minister into line with the people they now minister to.
“The model that fulfilled its mission in growing and evangelizing the Church during the last century has become archaic,” Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of St. Louis wrote to the people of his archdiocese on Jan. 25, the Feast of the Conversation of St. Paul the Apostle.
“Jesus is calling us to re-energize and reshape our efforts to share His saving message,” the archbishop wrote.
His letter marked the official beginning of the St. Louis archdiocese’s multi-year “All Things New” pastoral planning initiative.
“All Things New” bears many similarities to the pastoral planning process being undertaken in the Jefferson City diocese in 2019-21, as well as the parish assessments that took place in 10 counties in the Jefferson City diocese in 2020-21. These processes will continue throughout this diocese in the future.
“All Things New” emphasizes evangelization and the refocusing of all parishes, schools and diocesan offices and ministries onto the mission of directing people toward authentic discipleship.
“We will assess every aspect of our archdiocese and make the necessary adjustments to our ministries and supporting structures to reflect the needs of our communities for the next century,” Archbishop Rozanski wrote.
He predicted that the process will lead to “the most sweeping changes that the archdiocese has witnessed in its history.”
“‘All Things New’ seeks to enable a vibrant Catholic presence across every square mile of our Archdiocese by renewing the Church in its mission and proclaiming the Gospel, and securing a vibrant future,” he wrote.
Like the processes that have been undertaken in this diocese, “All Things New” includes a structured process of prayer, listening and reevaluation of the local Church’s changing needs and resources.
The main goals are to renew parishes, schools and other ministry efforts with Gospel values; enhance the Church’s mission to people on the margins of society; and secure a vibrant future for the Church.
Core principles include unceasing prayer, a unifying vision for evangelization, and intentional stewardship.
“For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new,” states a brochure introducing “All Things New.”
“Closer to 2050”
The St. Louis Archdiocese once encompassed all of Missouri. It previously took in the entire northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase.
Since 1956, the archdiocese includes the City of St. Louis and 10 surrounding counties in east-central Missouri.
Once an epicenter for Catholic immigration and nearly ubiquitous Church engagement, the archdiocese historically referred to as Rome of the West recently recorded fewer than 500,000 registered Catholics for the first time in nearly 60 years.
“We all know that the Church of today is not the same that it was 50, 100 or 15-plus years ago, and yet we are still functioning in many ways out of the same mode of evangelization,” the “All Things New” website at allthingsnew.archstl.org states. “... We are closer now to 2050 than to 1950. We need to ask ourselves what our parishes, ministries and institutions need to look like in order to effectively share the faith in a way that is suitable and sustainable for our children and generations to come.”
“‘All Things New’ will assess the effectiveness of the Church in St. Louis in proclaiming the Gospel and will identify opportunities to build on our strengths and improve our ministry to bring about renewal within all parishes, schools and curia offices and agencies,” according to the brochure.
After a period of archdiocesan-wide prayer and extensive consultation with priests and laypeople, including an online anonymous survey for parishioners in the diocese, Archbishop Rozanski and a bevy of advisors will assemble a comprehensive plan for reorganization.
The plan, which will not affect the Jefferson City diocese, will certainly result in the consolidation of parishes, missions and schools in the St. Louis archdiocese and will affect the assigning of priests and the number of weekend Masses there.
Archbishop Rozanski will announce the full plan on Pentecost Sunday in 2023, with implementation beginning in the fall of that year.
“The final recommendation will be the product of more than two years of prayer, discernment, consultive work and numerous iterations,” the “All Things New” website states.
Father Christopher Martin, the St. Louis archdiocese’s vicar for strategic planning, told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the archdiocese, that “All Things New” will be rooted in an encounter with the Lord and a desire to share the Good News with others.
He said the plan leads with the Church’s efforts to evangelize, while infrastructure considerations are secondary.
“When we have become a people of deeper prayer and united around our desire to make disciples, only then do we discern our infrastructure,” Fr. Martin told the Review. “We must allow ourselves to be inspired by the Holy Spirit with a vision for the future that’s so attractive that we are willing to give up what we know in order to obtain it.”
Here and there
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City noted that while the needs, challenges, opportunities and overall experience of being Church in this diocese differ in some ways from those of the St. Louis archdiocese, there are many parallels.
Among them are this diocese’s pastoral priorities of fostering an authentically Catholic spirituality of stewardship, developing a culture of co-responsibility, and encouraging parishes to become even more widely recognized as centers of charity and mercy.
With that in mind, said Bishop McKnight, “I invite the people of our Local Church to join me in praying for the people of our neighboring archdiocese as they discern and carry out this God-infused process of transformation.
“And I implore the Catholics of my own diocese to remain open to wherever God leads us as we continue to ascertain the future of the Church in central and northeastern Missouri,” he stated.