By Father Mathias Thelen, Chairman of the Realign Resources Committee
My goodness, it seems like it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…but back in the Fall of 2019, Bishop Boyea gave our newly established Realign Resources for Mission Committee a seven-fold verbal instruction: “Consult. Consult. Consult. Consult. Consult. Consult. Consult.”
We heard you Bishop! Since then we’ve hosted several meetings with the priests of the Diocese of Lansing and also with lay parish staff as well as 67 parish meetings with the wider lay faithful. Thank you to all of you who participated. You spoke. We listened. In fact, we changed our plans based upon your feedback. Let me explain.
Overwhelmingly, you told us that you are well aware of the need for change. The vital statistics from most of our parishes make that case almost unanswerable. You also really like the vision of Realign Resources for Mission.
* You like the idea of a parish led by multiple priests, living in community, who are striving for health and holiness both for themselves and their people;
* You like the idea of a parish being led by a pastor who has the charism of leadership while other priests operate out of their charisms and gifts too.
* You like the idea of a professionally excellent parish staff who are recruited in sufficient number, and paid competitively, in order to further the mission of the parish;
* You like the idea of a vibrant parish community that makes and forms missionary disciples who are intellectually and spiritually equipped to win all souls to Christ including or, rather, especially those lost sheep within our own families.
* You like the idea of a parish that seeks the lost and serves the poor by prioritizing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy within our local communities.
And yet you also have worries. Understandable worries. You cherish your local church, your local church community, and your local priest. Generally, you fear the loss of all three. In fact, the feedback suggests you would really like to keep them and, what is more, you are not too concerned as to how the Diocese of Lansing makes that happen within Canon Law, the internal law of the Church. We heard you.
Thus, following that first round of consultations, our committee went back to the drawing board. We sat down with the best canon lawyers in the diocese. We worked on developing revised proposals based upon new models of governance that can facilitate local church communities holding onto their church, and their parish priest, while also cooperating more fruitfully with neighboring priests and neighboring parishes. This greater flexibility which is to found in canon law can also help provide tailor-made solutions for each particular area within our 10-county diocese which is both rural and urban. One size doesn’t fit all, if you like.
Based upon your feedback, we also envisage a phasing-in of any Realign Resources for Mission recommendations over a period of time beginning with pilots in particular areas. There will be no “big bang”. No “year zero”.
Being responsive to feedback from both clergy and lay faithful is a simple recognition that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. Across our parishes, there are thousands of people praying their way through this Realign Resources for Mission process. Each will be given their own insights by the Holy Spirit. Hence the need to listen, learn, revise and consult again and again and again. It also recognizes that for any reforms to be embraced, or to be effective, there has to be broad consent from both clergy and lay faithful. Like it or not, we are all in this together.
Hence, this week the Realign Resources for Mission committee have begun yet another round of consultation. On Tuesday we met with the priests of the Diocese of Lansing at Saint Mary Magdalen in Brighton. Yesterday we met with the lay parish staff at the same location. Both gatherings were very heartening with an encouraging degree of enthusiasm and openness to the Realign Resources for Mission process. We had lots of time to talk, to learn, to laugh and to pray together. We also reviewed our latest draft plans for the reconfiguration of parishes. Thank you to all who took part.
What’s the next step? The Realign Resources for Mission committee will now review the feedback from this week in order to rework those latest draft plans. When that’s done, it’s back to the wider lay faithful for a series of regional meetings to review and revise yet again. Stay tuned for details of those gatherings. They are coming soon!
Throughout this two-year process, there is one thing that has remained consistently clear and that is our divine mission: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations," (Matthew 28:19). Let us never forget that God has given us more than enough gifts to accomplish that mission. We believe in Jesus Christ. He has changed our life. Hence, if we work together, think together and, more specifically, pray together then good things, no, great things are bound to happen all across the Diocese of Lansing.
Yours in Christ,
Father Mathias Thelen,
Chairman, Realign Resources for Mission Committee
P.S. You can also watch a video (below) of the priests of the Diocese of Lansing gathering at Saint Mary Magdalene Parish in Brighton, June 15, to discuss the latest draft developments of the Realign Resources for Mission process.
* Pictured below:
1. The Realign Resources for Mission meeting with lay parish staff of the Diocese of Lansing, Saint Mary Magdalen, Brighton, June 16.
2. The Realign Resources for Mission meeting with priests of the Diocese of Lansing, Saint Mary Magdalen, Brighton, June 15.
3. The Realign Resources for Mission Committee.