The Diocese of Columbus has announced “Real Presence, Real Future,” a strategic planning initiative aimed at increasing the presence of Christ throughout its 23 counties over the next three years and upholding the Faith for future generations.  

The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Columbus, launched the initiative to priests on December 1, 2020 and to parishes and schools on February 27-28, as a method of discerning the Diocese’s future and to usher in a new wave of evangelization initiatives to foster a greater sense of missionary discipleship. 

“This really is our plan – all of us together,” Bishop Brennan said. “Our goal is to identify the needs of our Diocese for the 21st Century and how we meet those needs, and to expand Catholic presence to all our people, which is going to take some creativity. That’s at the heart of it. We want to make the presence of the Lord, the experience of the Sacraments, the encounter with Christ – we want to make that more available to people.”

This initiative aims to reimagine how the Church serves her people through a process of listening to their needs, ideas, concerns, and desires. This planning and consultation phase will be held throughout 2021 and the findings will be implemented over the next few years. The full scope of the “Real Presence, Real Future” initiative will prepare the Diocese to increase its Catholic presence over the next 10 to 20 years. It is intended to meet the many needs of the Diocese of Columbus’ diverse areas and ethnicities, while emphasizing the utilization of active diocesan priests and deacons, mission-oriented parishes and schools, and all other available resources.

The initiative is focused on three main priorities:

1.  Engaging all Catholics to reflect upon the real presence of Jesus Christ in their lives and how they can share that presence with others.

2.  Articulating a plan for a comprehensive Catholic presence for each county/deanery by integrating missionary outreach, parish and school footprints, and leadership requirements for the next five years.

3.  Defining and developing the necessary Diocesan resource structures to support priests, deacons, and lay leaders in parishes and schools.

Much of the initiative’s work will be driven by six evangelization subcommittees specifically structured to support this effort. These subcommittees have been tasked with forming parish missionary disciples, increasing the Catholic presence and outreach to university and higher educational learning centers, using digital and social communications for evangelization, deploying lay missionaries in parishes and schools, forming Catholic school faculty and staff in missionary discipleship, and creating a soft-entry center focused on outreach to the religiously non-affiliated.

Father Adam Streitenberger, Bishop’s Coordinator for Evangelization, said, “Evangelization is the most important means by which the Catholic presence will continue.  For this work of evangelization to truly increase our Catholic presence, all of the baptized must respond to the call and be formed as missionary disciples, and to be equipped to bring Christ to their families and communities.”

“Each of the evangelization subcommittees will develop a plan to address the needs and initiatives for evangelization and missionary discipleship formation identified by Bishop Brennan,” he added.

“Real Presence, Real Future” will engage clergy and laity throughout the Diocese, as well as all parishes and Catholic schools. 

Preparatory work for this initiative has been underway for months, including establishing and structuring the evangelization subcommittees; further planning and implementation steps will continue in the coming year.