The second step of the eight-step Making All Things New pastoral planning process is being completed this week with the submission of cluster suggestions and evaluations by the 75 cluster teams representing parishes across the archdiocese.
The suggestions will address models for parish restructuring, including collaboration, consolidation and the possibility of continuing existing linkage relationships.
They will include ways to address the goals of Making All Things New, such as vital worship, adult faith formation, new evangelization, youth ministry, outreach to those in need and adjusted Mass schedules, among others.
Father John O’Hara, director of strategic pastoral planning for the archdiocese, told CNY that he has heard from “lots of folks” in the cluster teams with questions and concerns that have been addressed as the process has unfolded since the committees began meeting in December.
“People are taking this opportunity seriously and entering into the process to give us their best thinking,” he said during an interview March 3 in his office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
Father O’Hara, as he has consistently done since the outset of Making All Things New, continued to stress the Christ-centered nature of the process. At one point, he made a reference to the Scripture passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel where Christ calls Peter to walk toward Him atop the water of the lake. As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on the Lord, he was able to stay safe, Father O’Hara said.
“He’s asking us to let go and to hold onto Him,” Father O’Hara explained.
Father O’Hara noted that “no decisions” with regard to closings or mergers of parishes “have been made yet.”
“We don’t know what the final decisions will be,” he said. “We are still moving along with the process.”
The cluster suggestions will be reviewed over three days later this month by the 40-person Archdiocesan Advisory Group (CNY, Feb. 6), which will then complete the third step in the process by issuing preliminary recommendations for each cluster with a rationale for moving forward with more vibrant parish life.
The cluster teams will be asked to respond to the preliminary recommendations in April and May (Steps 4 and 5) by affirming, amending or offering a new suggestion for the future.
Final recommendations (Step 6) will be sent from the Archdiocesan Advisory Group to Cardinal Dolan after a review of the cluster responses in early July for his prayerful reflection and for his consultation with appropriate groups.
The cardinal expects to announce his decisions regarding parish structures and ministries in September, with implementation to follow beginning in 2015. Those are the final two steps in the Making All Things New process.