Parishioner FAQs

Draft Models and Options

Could one draft model be a short-term solution, but a different draft model be a long-term solution? 

ANSWER: The goal would be that any model seeks to serve as a solution for the long-term.  Every effort is being made in the initial drafting to ensure that the model is sustainable for minimally five years but ideally for more than 10-15 years.  Of course, we cannot predict the future, but these are not meant to be band aid suggestions especially with intentional focus on evangelization and missionary discipleship.

 

Are the models/process going to also consider the cost of unused facilities?

ANSWER: Yes, eventually. Right now, we are focused on collaboration possibilities. Once we get feedback from parishioners on the financial modeling, we will look at potential carry costs as well as divestiture costs for unused buildings.  Again, these are only draft models, but it is being considered.

 

Do these models consider those who have parishioners coming from outside the boundaries?

ANSWER: Wherever possible, yes. We have tried to look at travel patterns or migration patterns as draft models were envisioned.  This will be an important piece of feedback we will be looking for from parishioners in the consultation process.

 

Do the models present specific plans on how to grow people in the pews as well as how we will take care of the flock with 20%-40% fewer priests?

ANSWER: Yes, our hope is to provide strategies for growing the Church.

 

Has a team or someone visited each parish campus to assess assets and does that matter?

ANSWER: No not yet. The Diocesan Offices are currently being reorganized and restructured to best serve the parishes. The hope is that either through the diocese or through a property firm we can provide relevant information for each parish on the amount of deferred maintenance and other important information we should collect.  As you can imagine, this is a very labor-intensive task, and the diocesan team is doing their best to evaluate options.

 

How do we best determine the changes in our community? Can a census be conducted to determine age and number of people that are really in our parishes?

ANSWER: Your parish has been accessed for that information through MissionInsite.  Catholic Leadership Institute can help you interpret that information. Contact onlinesupport@catholicleaders.org for questions.

 

Can more affluent churches be partnered with struggling parishes?

ANSWER: Yes.  We are looking at all different types of partnerships and configurations.  One criterion in the model development is to ensure that parishes that are struggling are not simply put together, further exasperating their situation.  Given the large and diverse territory that the Diocese covers, this is not always possible and there is not a one-size fits all approach.

 

Will there be any chance to consider small but unique communities like “Korean Catholic Community” during the drafting model process?

ANSWER: Yes.  We are considering these unique communities in the initial drafting process and would look for feedback from parishioners about other needs we may not have been aware of.

 

If a model lists a total of say two priests, will it change in the future, or will they try to keep two priests there?

ANSWER: The goal would be to provide a stable and consistent priestly presence for the long-term.

 

Will you be providing more statistics on the needs/desires of different generations for the church?

ANSWER: Any information we have been gathering we will be provided on this website.  If you come across any interesting information that you would like to share, please send it to onlinesupport@cathoilcleaders.org.

 

Is the 2030 priest projection based on priests that are eligible to retire vs. those who might stay on until 75 or 80?

ANSWER: That is based on our current trends with respect to retirement.  In September of 2020 we surveyed the priests about this question and asked them to indicate their age of anticipated retirement. We will continue to track and gather that information from the priests.

 

How many draft models are there?  Do we all get the same models?

ANSWER: For each planning area there will be two to three draft models.  Each planning area’s draft models are customized specifically for the parishes in that area.  These try to display creativity and are within the requirements of the universal laws of the Church.

 

What parishes are in each planning area?

ANSWER: Today, there are 12 planning areas.  Visit https://realpresencerealfuture.org/key-leader-resources/ for a listing of the parishes in each area.

 

Planning areas do not necessarily equal neighborhood.  Why this emphasis?  We are mobile by neighborhood not planning area.

ANSWER: The planning areas that are currently in place were designed with communities in mind.  We are using the planning area level which includes more parishes (8-10 parishes) versus a smaller view (3-5 parishes) to provide the flexibility to envision different models and to challenge conventional thinking.

 

Could you again verify whether there will only be planning area models, or will there be individual parish models as well?

ANSWER: The models will be based at a planning level.

 

With the expected decline in clergy, will there be increased emphasis in lay ministry?

ANSWER: It is essential that lay ministry increase especially with respect to our outreach and pastoral care ministries.  The celebration of the Eucharist is central to our faith and so we are looking at the best ways to ensure that our priests can continue to bring us this gift despite their declining numbers.

 

Will all Key Parish Leaders meet to collaborate on a model?

ANSWER: Key Parish Leaders from a given planning areas will meet to review all models for their particular area, along with the feedback they have from their fellow parishioners.

 

Who is making these models?

ANSWER: An initial workgroup comprised of diocesan leaders and facilitated by CLI, drafted initial drafts.

 

Is it the intent to adopt models that are 10 yr., 15 yr., 20 yr., etc., projections?

ANSWER: The intent is to adopt models that not only respond to the next 10-15 year projections, but also give us the best chance to reverse some of those trends.

 

You mentioned a pastor possibly having five parishes; can you elaborate how he does this and how effective is he?

ANSWER: Our hope is to avoid a reality like this but under the Church’s law and in some places today in Columbus, pastors or administrators already have responsibility for multiple parishes.  This is a very challenging task for any pastor.  Depending on the needs of the community, it may be more advantageous for there to be one newly formed parish with several church buildings connected to it.  In other cases, maintaining individual parishes with a shared leader (collaborative) may be the most effective response.  This will be determined based on a lot of different factors including the geography, the financial reality, the number of parishioners, the number of other priests who can serve in the parishes, etc.

 

Is there any thought being given to hiring a business manager for a new parish, so that the pastor can devote his time to ministering?

ANSWER: Yes.  That is one of the advantages of a bigger parish model. Our staffing models demonstrate the ability of these larger parishes to afford not only a highly skilled finance and operations manager, but also support staff for that individual so that the pastor can be the spiritual shepherd he was called to be.

 

Will geography be considered in the plans?  (i.e., How far people will have to travel if parishes are combined?)

ANSWER: Yes.  The draft models have looked at distances, as well as main roadways and travel time for parishioners from different places.  However, it will be important to get the people’s feedback on these realities from their lived experience.

 

Will there be enough priests to minister to the models chosen?

ANSWER: Yes. All the draft models being designed account for the projected number of priests expected over the next 10-20 years.

 

What are the drivers to get to the model for a planning area – i.e. priest allocation?

ANSWER: There are four primary drivers by which the criteria have been created.  The first is the “Mission Territory” – looking at the total population present in each district and the trends and demographics of that population and the opportunity to evangelize and grow the Church in that area.  The second is “Pastoral Care” – the current sacramental and active participation in the district, as well as understanding the ministries, strategies, needs and demands present.  The third is “Financial Sustainability” – including the resources (human, financial, etc.) that the Church must use to serve the community and what are the best configurations of those resources to sustain and improve ministry in the future.  Lastly, “Clergy Distribution” – determine the best ways to steward the gifts and talents of the priests and deacons we have – these are projecting our future.

 

What will be in the draft model?

ANSWER: A “model” is a description of how a group of parishes and schools could potentially look in the future with respect to: 1) ministerial strategies including evangelization, stewardship, and worship, 2) parish structure including church buildings and Mass times, and care for all schools, hospitals, prisons, and nursing facilities within the community, 3) leadership structures, including clergy and lay staffing.

 

Are we drafting a model unique to this area or is this a step to a larger model for the church?

ANSWER: All of the models are being drafted to serve a specific area.  There will not be a one-size fits all approach to the models.

 

With the clustering model are you isolating certain populations such as the elderly or those who lack transportation?

ANSWER: Yes. We are looking to make sure that all the draft models identify and respond to community-specific needs such as the primary age demographics being served in the district.  We are also looking at transportation in the rationales for models.

 

Will models being provided to the parishes include the number of lay employees, compare budgets, etc.?

ANSWER: Eventually there will be draft staffing models that accompany each proposed model. This will show the type of staffing possible in each model, though it will be left to individual pastors and communities to determine how they actually staff their parishes in the future.

 

Can we change the models in any way?

ANSWER: Absolutely – that is the purpose of consultation.  We are looking for feedback about the models.  There may be better configurations or proposals.  The important thing is that the changes recommended have some thought and rationale behind how they help address the criteria of evangelization, pastoral care, financial viability, and clergy distribution.  Recommendations that seek only to preserve the status quo will not help us envision our future.

 

Will the diocese be open to creativity, innovation, exceptions, etc.?  If not, all this work will be for naught.

ANSWER: Yes. We are looking for creativity and innovations throughout the consultation.  At the same time, the Diocese does have certain challenges and limitations that it needs to responsibly address because of this process.  Your help in creating solutions that respond to these challenges will be incredibly important.

 

How many parishes will we close?

ANSWER: We do not know.  No decisions have been made.

 

In creating the draft models, did the creators look at what other dioceses have done and how they approached this effort across the country?

ANSWER: Yes.  More importantly, what were the needs, opportunities, demands, and resources of the various neighborhoods and communities the effort would affect.  We did not apply one or two standard models to every situation.  Rather, we looked at what would be best to respond to the various criteria in each district uniquely.

 

Will demographic information such as average age of parishioners, breakdown by age ranges, etc. – be available with summary data?

ANSWER: Yes. Any parishioner registered for parish consultation sessions will receive an email following their session with the available information.

 

Architecture reflects the splendor of Christ and the truth of the Eucharist.  Will architectural merit be considered in the process?

ANSWER: We really are not looking at buildings right now. When and if that time comes, any community will want to look at as many aspects as possible.  Certainly, the beauty of our sacred spaces is important, as well as the accessibility (location, parking), sustainability (deferred maintenance, structural integrity), and capacity.

 

While the proposed effort is focusing on collaboration, staffing, etc., can there be an effort to address other supporting infrastructures, such as use of electronic communications and media to bring the diocese into the 21st century?

ANSWER: Yes. There are six evangelization subcommittees that have been focused on these important efforts, such as social and digital media evangelization and assigning Catholic lay missionaries to support parishes. Each committee has submitted a detailed plan summarizing how to advance key mission-growing activities.

 

How will all of these parishes work together if everyone has different models?

ANSWER: Once all the feedback is collected from the parishioners, the Commission will review all feedback and modify and change the models throughout the diocese ensuring that all of the different models fit together when they make their recommendation to Bishop Brennan.

 

Who was consulted and what source of input were obtained to create the “draft models” and are we merely the ones sharing that word?

ANSWER: The primary sources of input were parish-reported feedback information on sacramental and financial information and the perspective of the diocesan leaders.  The consultation with the clergy and more than 500 lay leaders over the past year has been used to design a framework to build the models.  Some of these questions have included items like the average size of future parishes, the types of lay staff necessary to support new parishes, etc.  Your role is to both engage people in reviewing these AND providing feedback (both your own and summarizing your community’s) so that the models can be further developed.

 

Are these draft models actually drafts, or are they what someone else has already determined for us?  Some of us already feel we have been put into a box.  Who will decide on my parish model?

ANSWER: They are really are only drafts.  Your feeling is understandable, but this process is responding to a desire on the part of the clergy who indicated back in 2020 that they would prefer the Diocese provide draft proposals for feedback and refinement versus having to generate ideas from the parishes to the diocese.  78% of clergy indicated this preference.   No decisions have been made and we ask for your trust that your feedback matters.

 

What type of information will be included in the draft models?  Do the models differ from parish to parish?

ANSWER:  The draft models seek to address the three big areas (3 S’s) – strategies, staffing, and structures.  Strategies include ministry tactics for evangelization and outreach that are targeted to the local district.  Staffing includes the ordained leadership, lay leadership, and staffing needs that would serve the models.  Structures include parish and school configurations that are sustainable and provide appropriate pastoral care.

 

Have these models been used in other big cities successfully, and if so, what were the challenges?

ANSWER: The models have been applied in other locations.  Generally, the biggest challenges tend to be with respect to communities welcoming each other in new configurations and pastors being asked to do more with less.  Hopefully, with the staffing models being proposed, this process with alleviate the latter challenge.  The task of welcoming and integration will be important for people to embrace.

 

Is there a general goal/guideline for getting from X parishes, buildings, etc. to Y?

ANSWER: No.  There is no overarching framework to fit into.

 

Assuming declines were perceived over the past 15 years, what mitigating actions were taken and was there any success?

ANSWER: It depends on which issues or challenges you are referring.  Certainly, with respect to vocations awareness, there has been an ongoing awareness and effort to encourage men toward the priesthood.  While the numbers are stabilizing, they do not account for the priests who are preparing to retire.  Financial support and guidance on an ad-hoc basis to parishes has been in place and there are many programs at the parish or diocesan levels that have helped to encourage deeper discipleship.  From a systemic standpoint, these may have slowed down decline but have not stopped it from occurring.

 

If Mass attendance were to increase, how flexible would the models need to be?

ANSWER: The models should allow for growth. The draft models allow for 25 percent growth, which would be amazing.

 

How transparent will the financials be from Diocese to the laity?

ANSWER: Very.  The Diocese has nothing to gain by keeping from you the information regarding the financial health of your parish or the diocese overall.

 

Are they considering closing all churches in an area due to the age of buildings, costs to maintain, etc. and building new, more centralized churches?

ANSWER: The goal of Real Presence, Real Future is to demonstrate a plan to create the most robust Catholic presence possible throughout the over the next decade. That will look different in each area, but there will be an increased Catholic presence.

 

Do we sell assets only to cause more expense later by being successful?

ANSWER: We are not addressing assets and buildings at this point. Any decision to divest an asset is a difficult one especially when it comes to Church buildings not only for the emotional connection but also the responsibilities that we have canonically to care for the sacredness of the space.

 

Are you able to produce maps showing demographics and church locations?

ANSWER: Yes, and we will do that. For information about a specific stat, please email onlinesupport@catholicleaders.org.

 

How were the planning areas created? Since these are only models, can the planning areas be changed?

ANSWER: Yes, and they already based on the feedback from Key Parish Leaders.  The Diocese began with six areas and now has 12. The planning areas are largely based on geographic proximity.  It is highly likely they will change because of this process. But for the purpose of the modeling, the planning areas were the best way to organize the Diocese.

 

How will we work with or access neighboring areas? I believe a portion of my area has more in common with a neighboring area that with several churches in our area.

ANSWER: It is quite possible. In some cases, models will cut across areas, and this is the type of feedback that would be helpful during the consultation sessions.

 

Why aren’t deacons and lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs) part of the models?

ANSWER: As we get further in the process, there will be suggested staffing models that include deacons and LEMs, as well as administrative staffing.

 

Will we be getting strategies for evangelization to help bring people back to the Church?

ANSWER: Yes. We have six subcommittees that have been developing plans to evangelize in key areas and we will also be soliciting strategies from you as well.

 

If our Mass attendance trends continue (down 18 percent over the last 20 years) the Diocese is down to about 60,000 people. That means with about 60 priests available to pastor, each pastor will only be attending to about 1,000 parishioners. Is that what the proposed models are projecting?

ANSWER: The draft models assume one priest for every community of 1,500 parishioners or fewer.  If a community has more than that, the model assumes 2 priests.  For a national benchmark, as of October 2020, the ratio was about one priest for every 3,210 people.

 

Has any consideration been given to dedicated Catholic high school chaplains (priests) to foster priestly vocations? Perhaps a big sacrifice now will bear great fruit in the future.

ANSWER: Yes.  Priestly invitation to young men is essential and so is families supporting vocational discernment. Right now, with the current demands on our priests it’s difficult to ask them to fulfill those roles or other important evangelization opportunities.

 

Explain how Catholic grade schools and high schools will fit into the process?

ANSWER: Catholic schools are a primary tool of faith formation and evangelization.  Catholic elementary schools are also very important in terms of understanding the overall financial situation of a parish.  Therefore, all Catholic schools will be a part of the process, but it is important to start with parish collaboration first before looking at potential changes to schools.

 

How do you involve the persons who may be on the parish rolls, but don’t participate in Mass and parish activities?

ANSWER: Good question.  That’s one of the reasons the role of Real Presence, Real Future Key Parish Leaders are so important.  Personal invitation and word of mouth is important.  We also want to make sure that the material is available online so that as you encounter someone who is in your community, they can have access even if they are not active.  It’s important to the process and especially to Bishop Brennan that everyone can participate.

 

For those of us who’ve recently gone through a consolidation process, how is this different?  OR is this really a new model for evangelization?

ANSWER: We believe this is different in two ways.  First, everyone in the Diocese is involved in this process so hopefully the universality of the process enables us to think boldly and differently.  Second, we are trying to address both strategies and staffing structures, as well.  The strategies in evangelization and leadership will hopefully provide a better starting point for a future that is growth oriented.

 

For the model information, are you going to list Mass times?  Are you going to show active youth ministry/CCD programs?

ANSWER: At this point, draft proposals will not suggest the number of Masses. That will be best decided by the pastors and leadership locally.

 

What percentage of that number (or is a percentage of that number) allocated to the facilities capacity?

ANSWER: Currently, the only number put against facilities capacity is the number of weekly Mass attendees (or October Count).  For the purposes of the draft models, we have assumed no more than 75 percent of the seating capacity for a church building to be full each Mass to ensure proper space for those we bring back to the Church.  When we see a 25 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance, we will see an increase in vocations, sacramental participation, collections, and other key indicators that will be great opportunities to address.

 

Why are older churches being penalized because of their seating capacity?  Can we reduce seating by removing pews?  What about those parishes that only have Confirmation every other year?

ANSWER: Older churches are not being penalized for seating capacity, but rather, we are trying to assess how many seats we have in what locations to effectively provide the Eucharist to as many people as possible given the availability of priests.  We want to highlight seating capacity as well as number of Masses to provide a jumping off point for potential collaboration that most effectively uses our sacred and beautiful spaces.  Removing the pews will not help us address how best to use our spaces, but we are also including information about current religious education and sacramental preparation programs to best collaborate in the future.

 

Do the models address future actual demographics, or will it consider outreach for youth, fallen away, etc.?  Example will there be room/resources for aging populations, plus growth?

ANSWER: Yes.  The draft models are trying to project reasonable assumptions about general population trends as well as project for growth.  As an example, one criterion being used is that all models must anticipate no more than 75 percent of church building seating capacity against 2019 October Counts. Thus, the models will allow for enough space for new weekly Mass attendees assuming 3 Sunday Masses per priest assigned.

RPRF Key Parish Leaders

If ALL key parish leaders are being asked to do is share information and provide feedback, that is just more of the same.  We are more than facilitators.  We are the Church!

ANSWER: We agree – We are the Church!  We are more than facilitators.  We are leaders and you can be missionaries.  We are asking Real Presence, Real Future Key Parish Leaders to provide their own input and feedback but we are also asking members to model proactive listening from your fellow parishioners and represent them at multiple points during the consultation.  Only one of the responsibilities is publicizing the sessions in the parish.  While this is no small task, there are other dimensions to the role.  We need visionaries who can summarize their fellow parishioners’ feedback and discuss that feedback with leaders from other parishes in your area.  We need people to demonstrate courage to tackle tough challenges.  We need people to provide a spirit of hope and encouragement.

 

As a Key Parish Leader when do we get to provide our ‘tweaks’ on the models?

ANSWER: In the second round of Planning Area Consultations, you will be representing your parishioners feedback inclusive of yours.

 

How active should we be with fellow parishioners through the process when developing ideas?

ANSWER: Active.  The most helpful ideas will be those that have been thought through and try to address the various criteria we are working on.  The more perspective, guidance, encouragement, and positivity you can contribute to your fellow parishioners the better.  It’s important to keep in mind, at this point in the process, we are sharing draft proposals that can be changed.  We really need feedback on those drafts as well as others’ ideas and suggestions.  We want to avoid are people digging in their heels and advocating for the status quo or why their parish shouldn’t be included. 

 

How can I help to answer and address some of the concerns that may have led people away from the Church while supporting the importance of my beliefs?

ANSWER: Talk about what your faith means to you.  People want to be happy; they want to have peace in their life.  They are worried about their children and their families, their future.  There is no lack of anxiety in our world.  Tell people how your faith gives you joy and peace first.  It’s not about convincing people or winning an argument about a Church teaching.  It’s about continually offering an invitation to learn more and to deepen one’s faith.  Sometimes, we talk about the teaching of the Church with a “because those are the rules” tone.  We mustn’t forget the great “why” of our faith.  Discipleship is a way of life geared toward following Jesus as a path to salvation.  The teachings of our Church are a way to live that life.  It is a life that is challenging, that is often time contrary to the world, but the eternal reward promised to those who are faithful in the way is why we do it.

 

I think it is reasonable to assume that parishioners who may not make the informational meetings will turn to us as Key Parish Leaders for information.  Given the Diocese’s need to provide consistent info and data points, will there be resources available for download to educate interested parishioners?

ANSWER: Yes.  We will do our best to keep www.realpresencerealfuture.org  up to date.  If you have need of something, please contact hello@columbuscatholic.org and we can do our best to provide it if it is not currently available.

 

How can we support our pastor in planning for our parish consultation sessions?

ANSWER: There are a couple ways you can support your pastor.  First, pray for him and encourage him.  He has not drafted models or pulled information, but frustration, anger, or concern can oftentimes be directed toward him as a representative of the Church.  Your encouragement will mean a lot.  Second, take care of publicizing the sessions for him.  This will take some burden off him and allow him to focus on shepherding his people.  Third, listen with him.  There will be lots of feedback shared, listen well to your fellow parishioners, and help complement what your priest hears.

 

We are “preaching to the choir.” How are we going reach those who left to bring them back? Shouldn’t we be asking these questions to those who left if one of our goals is to grow our Church?

ANSWER: We believe the best way to bring people back is to create vibrant parishes with radical hospitality, incredible worship, and where every parishioner is engaged to the point where they can’t help but tell their family and friends that they should check it out.  The witness of our lives and our palpable excitement for the faith are the best strategies to bring people back.

 

Will future communication concerning our involvement/requirement in the Real Presence, Real Future efforts come directly to us or through our pastors? For example, will we be directly informed about the consultations, or will our pastors inform us? Our pastor does not access or know how to use email (or any type of technology).

ANSWER: Pastors are one of the primary contacts for all information from the Diocese about this process. However, we have asked to have “a primary point of contact” in addition to the pastor to help share information. In addition, the Diocese has the contact information for all Key Parish Leaders and will also be communicating directly with them on certain issues, especially related to dates and times of Parish Consultation Sessions.

 

What are we supposed to do other than bear the brunt of parishioner discontent?

ANSWER: Your primary task is not to bear the brunt of parishioner discontent but listen to the feedback of your parishioners and represent it faithfully in the consultations.  We understand there will be a lot of emotion involved in these sessions and we need you to help us distill the major themes and important revisions or innovations for the models provided by the feedback.

 

How do we as a team encourage our pastor to execute new evangelization initiatives?

ANSWER:  One of the things we can do is to marshal fellow parishioners to participate in initiatives.  While it’s not about numbers, it is helpful for pastors to know there is support for an initiative from among many parishioners before they get started.  Your willingness to try new things and to bring friends along will help to encourage him to have the courage to try new things as well.

 

How can we convince others to think of Church as all of us and not as a building?

ANSWER: Real Presence, Real Future provides a lot of opportunity for envisioning our future as a Church.  It also will include challenges for people who will be grieving the loss of their parish, their Mass time, or church building.  The compassion and welcome we show to those are suffering these losses will help them make an easier transition but it will also model the Body of Christ.

 

Why are we here and what are we supposed to tell the parishioners?

ANSWER: You are here because you are recognized as a leader in your community with the ability to listen, engage in respectful and fruitful conversation, and because you have a vision for the Church.  With respect to what to tell your fellow parishioners, you can share with them the hopes for Real Presence, Real Future, the challenges we face as a faith community and the opportunities for them to learn more and to share their feedback. 

 

Will we, as a team, have access to other Dioceses across the country – to their models and success stories, to their research to be used towards strategies? Places like Boston or other parishes that are restructuring?

ANSWER: The Real Presence, Real Future process is looking to gather as much relevant and helpful research as possible.

 

Are we preparing for parish consolidation?

ANSWER: Hopefully we are preparing for much more.  There will be parish changes, but the primary outcome of Real Presence, Real Future is to have a renewal of the entire Church and realigning our parishes is a means to achieve that end.

 

Is there a bigger role that I can be a part of?

ANSWER: If there is an opportunity you see or can think of, please contact Fr. Michael Hartge at hello@columbuscatholic.org.  

 

If we should not to respond to questions, what do we do when approached by fellow parishioners without turning them away (if they not be comfortable going to the pastor)?

ANSWER: You are welcome to respond to questions. The important thing is the way in which you respond.  If you have the facts to respond to the question they ask, you should do so.  If you do not have the answer, the appropriate responses could include referring them to someone connected to the Real Presence, Real Future process, encouraging them to speak to the pastor, or taking down the question and then researching the answer and providing it to them.  You should avoid making up answers, spreading rumors or gossip, or trying to advocate for any personal issues or agendas.  We need to support and encourage each other during this initiative, so feel empowered to listen and be a resource for your fellow parishioners.

 

Is the purpose of “Real Presence, Real Future” to provide ways to change and bring faithfulness to all souls? Or are we in a place to be able to explain why and how Diocese/churches are being combined/consolidated?

ANSWER: The purpose of Real Presence, Real Future is to make sure our parishes and schools are positioned to help bring the faith to all souls in the best way we can.  You are in a place to help envision that future.

 

How do we practice people skills that demonstrate compassion, courage, and consultation?

ANSWER: One way is to practice the art of L.A.E.R. – Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, and Respond.  Proactively listening is one of the most difficult things to do, especially in a challenging situation. But truly listening to a person, acknowledging what they are trying to communicate, seeking to understand more, and then offering a response is one of the best ways to demonstrate these values.

Parish Consultation Process

How many parishioners are expected to attend parish meetings?

ANSWER: It depends on the parish size. We are planning on gatherings of 100 people or more.

     

    Will snapshot data be available to everyone for all parishes?

    ANSWER: We will focus parishioners on the parishes in their planning area, but the information will also be available in the follow-up email from the session.

     

    Can the video be shown at Sunday mass, and if so, how long will it be?

    ANSWER: The video will probably be too long to show in the context of Mass. Also, given people’s need to process the information, ask questions, and offer feedback, it would be more appropriate to show the video outside of the context of Sunday Mass.

     

    Would it be a good idea to have gatherings or meetings within your parish separated by age groups?

    ANSWER: If you can hold multiple gatherings, you can do that.  However, we will ask people to indicate their individual feedback by age so we will be able to look at that from an age standpoint.

     

    Is it appropriate to have listening sessions?

    ANSWER: Your parish can hold whatever type of session you may want in addition to the consultation sessions.  We would suggest that you have the sessions be purposeful and that they are structured in a way that parishioners can contribute solutions and ideas, not just complaints.

     

    What is the make-up of the Commission?

    ANSWER: The Commission is made up of mostly lay representatives from every part of the diocese as well as some diocesan leaders in charge of key areas (evangelization, schools, etc.)

     

    Are all planning areas represented in the Commission?

    ANSWER: Yes. There are at least two representatives from each of the six areas.

     

    Where is the the consultation if the models have already been determined?

    ANSWER: The draft models are a starting point for conversation. Given the interdependent nature of parishes and the magnitude of the challenges we face, gaining feedback on some viable options and starting with a proposal will be more effective than asking parishioners to start from scratch.

     

    Why offer no more than two parish consultations? Wouldn’t more communication be better than less?

    ANSWER: Ideally, yes. However, we want to provide facilitation for these gatherings and the logistics of providing facilitators at more than two sessions is difficult, particularly given the current pandemic.  We also are trying to collect feedback in a timely fashion to enable adequate time to carefully review and incorporate it.

     

    What has already been decided? Will our input really matter?

    ANSWER: The only thing that has been decided is that we will share with you draft models for your feedback. Your feedback does really matter.

     

    Is parish paid staff engaged in the planning?

    ANSWER: Everyone is engaged in the process in different roles. Certainly, paid parish staff are engaged in supporting their pastors and communities in their work.  In some cases, they may be serving on the teams for their own parish.

     

    Will the final decisions be based on the input from the parishes?

    ANSWER: Yes, the decisions will incorporate the relevant feedback from the parishes.

     

    How do we listen to the parish—by what means of communication?

    ANSWER: With respect to Real Presence, Real Future, there are several ways to listen to the parish. The first and best way is to gather people together.  We will be asking each parish to host two gatherings and invite parishioners to attend.  The other opportunity is through existing gatherings you may already have on the calendar – meetings of the pastoral or finance councils, and other ministries or groups that are meetings in the parish.  Sharing the information with them and asking for their participation in providing feedback is important.  Lastly, we will provide all the information online so anyone that does not have the opportunity to gather can have access to the information shared, as well as a mechanism for providing feedback.

     

    How do we advertise and who approves it?

    ANSWER: All of your work should be in coordination and collaboration with your pastor or administrator, as well as the parish staff. Real Presence, Real Future will provide you with templates but you can determine as a team what will be the best ways to advertise and engage your parishioners. 

     

    Our pastor wants us to talk about the planning initiative. Wouldn’t be better if the pastor did it?

    ANSWER: It would be best if all leaders were sharing the information. As leader of the community, your pastor should certainly speak to the initiative.  As a lay member of the community, you give a different perspective and a different type of credibility that will be important for many parishioners. 

     

    We were told by our pastor to keep this info confidential. Shouldn’t we be sharing information at this point?

    ANSWER: Information about Real Presence, Real Future has been available in parish bulletins, on the website (realpresencerealfuture.org ), as well as The Catholic Times. As with anything, providing context and proper framing is important.  You are encouraged to share about the barriers we face, the process and timetable, and your role as a representative and leader.  It’s also important to share that no decisions have been made and everyone’s participation is important.

     

    Will I be asked to convey a message that has already been decided? I’m not a rubber stamp for the Diocese! If so, I have no desire to participate!

    ANSWER: If the Diocese had already made decisions, they would not have a use for this role and would not want to put you in that position.  We are asking people to participate so we can arrive at the best future for our Church. 

     

    Will there be a spreadsheet to collect data?

    ANSWER: We will provide feedback forms for data collection.

     

    Why are we paying people from Philadelphia and Georgia? Is CatholicLeaders.org an independent organization? We need leadership from our Diocese. We need to have better leadership and involvement by our priests. Our shepherds need to bring in our flock.

    ANSWER: Catholic Leadership Institute is an independent, non-profit, lay association of the faithful with team members based across the United States, including in Ohio. We provide both facilitation and consultation services, such as support for Real Presence, Real Future. But the bulk of our ministry is in leadership training for bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders.  We have had the privilege to serve over 100 dioceses in the US and Canada over the past 30 years.  Given the magnitude of Real Presence, Real Future and the amount of training and facilitation needs, Bishop Brennan asked us to assist the Diocese to augment the staff and volunteers of the Diocese as they undertake this effort.  We only serve the Catholic Church, and we have a great love for our clergy and lay leaders.  While we feel honored to support this effort, it is ultimately up to all the leaders in the Church of Columbus – priests and lay people  – to draw people into the Lord’s Real Presence!

     

    Ultimately the bishop decides. Will a list of recommendations be made to him?  If so, who makes those recommendations?

    ANSWER: The Real Presence, Real Future Commission will make recommendations to him by the end of 2022. Bishop Brennan, according to the law of the Church, will then consult with various advisory bodies (e.g. the Presbyteral Council) and make his final decisions in 2022-2023.

     

    Will the feedback from individual parishes be given “too late in the game” for the Bishop to potentially incorporate it into new or revised models?

    ANSWER: The Real Presence, Real Future process has been criticized by some as being too long in its two-year duration, but the length is to ensure that there is adequate time to gather and analyze the feedback of the faithful and incorporate it into the revised models.

     

    Will parishioners invited be from all ages or just adults?

    ANSWER: Predominantly consultation will be with adults (those over age 18). We have been conducting focus groups and sessions with youth to learn about their needs and dreams from an outreach standpoint. The consultation on proposed options is more appropriate for adults.

     

    What will happen in the Planning Area Consultations?

    ANSWER: There are two Planning Area-Level Consultations. The first will be for pastors and key parish leaders to receive the draft models, digest them, and provide initial feedback or ask questions about them.  The second consultation will come after the parishes have gathered their own parishioners.  At these sessions, we will highlight common themes of feedback across the area and try to summarize the overall feedback and suggestions from this grouping of parishes.  The individual parish feedback will be important, and the common themes will help prioritize revisions and changes and new models to be developed.

     

    How will we capture the notes?

    ANSWER: We will ask for individual parishioners to complete feedback electronically and we will be recording each session.

     

    Are we expected to keep our opinions to ourselves concerning the models and suggestions?

    ANSWER: You will be providing feedback along with your fellow parishioners.  You have the added and essential role of summarizing the feedback you have heard and representing the major themes of feedback on behalf of your parish at the other consultations.

     

    Will there be a video of the Bishop, such as the one shown today, for us to use for our parish meetings?

    ANSWER: Yes

     

    Will parish workbook data be available to everyone for all parishes?

    ANSWER: Yes. It will be sent after the parish consultation sessions.

     

    How long are the consultation sessions?

    ANSWER: We are planning 90-120 minutes.

     

    Are the priests being told the same materials regarding roles/responsibilities in the consultative sessions with parishioners?

    ANSWER: Yes

     

    What if no one attends the Consultation Sessions?

    ANSWER: We would recommend the parish host another session and try alternative strategies for publicizing it.

     

    How will we be able to answer questions from others?

    ANSWER: We hope to provide you with answers to frequently asked questions like these and through the website and other vehicles to equip you with the necessary information. It is highly likely there will be questions you cannot answer.  In those cases, feel free to say, “I don’t know, but I will try to find out” and forward your question to hello@columbuscatholic.org

     

    Will there be standard/consistent meeting format/agendas for the consultation sessions?

    ANSWER: These were developed over the summer.

     

    Why does the process take so long?

    ANSWER: Real Presence, Real Future has been planned over a two-to-three-year time frame in order to have this process grounded in prayer and ensure the proper time for study, consultation, and the refinement of models based on the feedback collected. It is vitally important to Bishop Brennan and priests and diocesan leaders involved to ensure plenty of time for consultation with the people.  With 104 parishes, this requires time for the consultation as well as adequate time for analysis and refinement.

     

    Who will be the facilitator?

    ANSWER: The facilitator will be either a volunteer from the Diocese, a member of the diocesan pastoral staff, or if needed (in the case of sessions in Spanish) a consultant from Catholic Leadership Institute.

     

    What if I strongly disagree with the model that is presented for my parish, and someone asks me how I feel about it?

    ANSWER: You can share your feedback. Ensure, though, that your feedback is specific to the model and not unproductive or unnecessarily negative toward the Church.  Encouraging people to entrench in the status quo and/or not offering viable alternatives will not help us move toward the future and it can be damaging to people who may be questioning their commitment to the faith.

     

    Who will determine the dates and times of Parish Consultation Sessions?

    ANSWER: Pastors and primary points of contacts were asked to select potential parish dates based on the available slots with facilitators.

     

    If each parish picks a model, how will that align overall?

    ANSWER: The parishes will not pick a model. Rather the parishes will be giving feedback on all of the models.  Bishop Brennan is the only person with the authority to determine which models will applied.  He wants to do that by first consulting with all the parishes, then the Commission will put together a plan that integrates all models across the Diocese.

     

    What happens if parishioners refuse to provide feedback?

    ANSWER: They will miss the opportunity to help shape the future of the Church of Columbus, but they will always be welcomed to practice their faith and become more engaged at a later time.

     

    The process so far has involved data analysis. How do we incorporate the humanity and spiritual needs of the people behind the data?

    ANSWER: This is exactly why this period of consultation is so important. While the data analysis involves the practices and activity of people, it is important to get the feedback of the people of God with respect to potential solutions to capture the human face.  While our faith communities will change to meet the needs of our future, the people have important perspectives on how these proposals could be improved to better respond to these needs.

     

    How will you get feedback on the models from non-church attendees, to figure out why they don’t attend church?

    ANSWER: Our primary focus of consultation on the models will not be related to this question. Consultation will focus more on the models themselves and how they may address all the needs of a certain community.

     

    Will our refinements be added before we share the parish workbook with our parishioners?

    ANSWER: Refinements to your parish’s workbook will be incorporated and any necessary revisions to the draft proposals will be made before they are shared with your parishioners. We are gathered feedback on the workbooks between May-June.

     

    How many parishes are worried they may close?

    ANSWER: We don’t know. There is understandable anxiety.  Real Presence, Real Future is not looking to take parishes away from people; it is inviting them to help create the parishes of the future.

     

    How will it be determined which parishioners should participate?

    ANSWER: All parishioners are invited to participate.

     

    Is the video presentation for our parish only, or for our planning area?

    ANSWER: It will be for your planning area.

     

    How long is the video? Will it be available online? When will it be available for viewing?

    ANSWER: We have not produced the video yet, but we hope to make it available online following the parish sessions.

     

    Are there standard feedback forms?

    ANSWER: In order to ensure we can review and process the feedback, we will solicit the feedback through a standard electronic form.

     

    How will people’s ideas, suggestions, and comments be recorded and then input into the models?

    ANSWER: All feedback will be sent through Catholic Leadership Institute so it can be compiled and summarized. All themes and feedback will be collected by facilitators, sent to Catholic Leadership Institute, and provided back to the Commission so that it can be incorporated into the models.

     

    Will all Q&A from all sessions be documented and distributed?

    ANSWER: Yes! This FAQ reflects these questions.

     

    This is one way to look at upcoming challenges and opportunities in our local Church, and certainly these are considerations and conversations we need to make. But what about opening the role of deacon and the diaconate to women and expanding the role of lay ministers? Could this happen at the Bishop level (allowing women to be deacons)?

    ANSWER: The majority of these decisions are not for the Bishop to make. With respect to the role of Lay Ecclesial Ministers and Deacons, Real Presence, Real Future is exploring those roles within the universal law of the Church.  The law does not provide the ordination of women to the priesthood or diaconate. 

     

    If we aren’t deciding the model for the parish, who is? How do we know that the decisions have not already been made?

    ANSWER: Bishop Brennan will ultimately make the decisions. He has given his word those decisions have not been made and the length of time of the Real Presence, Real Future process and the depth and expansiveness of consultation would be absurd if the feedback didn’t matter, and decisions had already been reached.

     

     

    Who develops feedback forms? Is feedback anonymous? Are only parishioners allowed to participate?

    ANSWER: Catholic Leadership Institute in collaboration with the Diocese will create the feedback forms. Feedback can be anonymous, but it is stronger when it is not so it can be clarified or understood better when reviewed.  Parishioners are the primary source of feedback, and their feedback will be prioritized above others.

     

    How are parish staff (non-clergy) learning about the models?

    ANSWER: Parish staff will learn about the models through their pastor or administrator.

     

    How is the feedback going to be used? Is the primary purpose to decide which parishes will be closed?

    ANSWER: The feedback will be used to design the overall best model for that part of the Diocese. The feedback will augment and validate, but also challenge the Real Presence, Real Future Commission’s initial drafts to make them stronger and offer the best response possible to the criteria.

     

    My parish is implementing a major pastoral (strategic) plan. We have just spent three years creating this plan. How will “Real Presence, Real Future” activities impact the large amount of work we have completed?

    ANSWER: It will depend. The decisions regarding any changes to parishes will not be announced until 2022 and the implementation will be phased.  Depending on the length of your plan, Real Presence, Real Future may not affect the initiatives you seek to complete.  Conversely, there may be an opportunity to begin collaborating with other parishes as part of your strategic plan.

     

    Do you feel a personal mailing should be sent to invite parishioners to the sessions?

    ANSWER: If the parish can accommodate this it is certainly a good strategy. The more communication the better.

     

    Once Bishop Brennan has made his decisions in 2022, can you please comment on the implementation phase of these changes including the timeline? How quickly will the Diocese implement recommendations?

    ANSWER: The recommendations from the Commission to the Bishop will include suggested timing for implementation. To try and provide support for leadership and the people during any transition, any decisions will be implemented in a phased approach.  The timing could be based on readiness, need, or other factors, but there will be no “cookie-cutter” approach. It will be on a case-by-case basis and we anticipate at least a three-to-five-year implementation period.

     

    Throughout the timeline, we see points at which pastors (and admin) are to receive updates and information. Will deacons also be included at the same time as pastors? Are they to be included at the same time as this group?

    ANSWER: As members of the clergy, deacons have been and will continue to receive regular updates and information. We have also been updating and consulting with deacons separately.  There is some information that will be shared with pastors and administrators (who are in a few cases deacons) first as the formal leaders of those communities.

     

    What are the questions we are trying to address when requesting feedback, such as how to improve assistance to Mass, how to make religious services available to more people, or how to expand income/offertory?

    ANSWER: We will welcome all feedback provided. We will be particularly interested in how well and in what ways the draft models address four important criteria: 1) outreach to all the people who live in the area; 2) pastoral care (“religious services available”) to those Catholics currently participating; 3) financial sustainability; and 4) best care and support for our priests and deacons.  The draft models may spark other ideas and strategies which the Real Presence, Real Future Commission would greatly value.

     

    When will we get to see the video presentation that we’ll be showing to the parishioners?

    ANSWER: Key Parish Leaders will be shown the video in the initial planning area consultations held before the parish sessions.

     

    Will all parishes truly be on the same playing field in all decisions that are proposed? (i.e. large flourishing parishes, small non-flourishing parishes)

    ANSWER: Everyone is included in the process. This was an overwhelming opinion shared by the clergy when consulted and a key principle for the Bishop.  These challenges are not all specific to any type of parish and we need to address them globally.

     

    What do you do or how should you handle those who do not want the change or are working against the change?

    ANSWER: This challenge will always be present. Our best response is to (LAER) Listen, Acknowledge, Explore and Respond always while modeling what we believe as a Church.  We should always exemplify hope, possibility, faith and dependence on God, and solidarity with our brothers and sisters.  We will not dismiss those who offer challenges because there is always something to learn.  We will also display courage to move forward as best we can in faith.

     

    We must be obedient and respectful of our priests/pastors. What if we hit roadblocks? Are the priests on board and committed to Real Presence, Real Future?  Are they really committed and open?

    ANSWER: We will hit roadblocks. This project is too important and too complicated to be easy.  The true test of our fruitfulness will how we respond to those roadblocks.  Our timeline is intentionally several years to allow us to respond to how the Spirit works through Real Presence, Real Future and through each of us.  With respect to our priests, from our perspective at CLI, you have one of the finest presbyterates in the country.  They are good, holy, pastoral men who want to serve the people of God.  It’s important to remember that they too are human and individuals with the same concerns and hopes.  These draft models have big implications for their ministry and their daily life.  Overall, they have been excellent to work with and we have been very appreciative for their participation in multiple consultations and gatherings.  By the time the parish consultations begin, we will have done two convocations with the priests, an extensive parish survey of active priests and of active deacons with over 80 percent participation, and interviews and focus groups with many priests.

     

    Can an overview of the various committee structures be made available to share with parishioners?

    ANSWER: Visit realpresencerealfuture.org. Underneath the commission are six steering committees each with membership. 

     

    For planning purposes, are there projected data for five-to-ten years out that will be produced as well? If so, which data elements will be projected?

    ANSWER: We are working on producing financial projections and attendance projections for five years out.  As we continue to work on the models and refine them based on your feedback, we will add other components too. But for now, we are starting there.

     

    Are we creating the models, or are we just critiquing the models in the Fall?

    ANSWER: We are predominantly providing feedback on models in the Fall. However, if there is another viable model that responds to the criteria, it can be suggested.

     

    How do we handle competing interests and tensions? What is the decision process – who will actually make the final recommendations?

    ANSWER: This is a challenge. We have so many important interests and in most cases, they are good and benevolent. But as the question suggests, they may be in competition or tension.  Ultimately, the Bishop has called us to prayerful discernment so that in the feedback we offer, we can ask God to help prioritize the items we must address for the good of the Church and the people of God.  It is the unenviable responsibility of Bishop Brennan to make the final decisions.

     

    What is the role of the Real Presence, Real Future Commission in the consultation process?

    ANSWER: The role of the Real Presence, Real Future Commission is to listen to the people of God during the consultation process and to discern from the extensive amounts of feedback which can be helpful in refining and improving, or additions to the draft models being developed. As parishioners themselves, they will listen and review all the feedback and make recommendations to Bishop Brennan that they believe will help our community become even more alive.

     

    Does our input help determine what the draft models will look like?

    ANSWER: The draft models are drafts.  They are incomplete until they have the perspective of the people.  While much thought and research are being put in by the Commission, they require the local perspective of the pastor, priests, deacons, and people of God.

     

    How much of Real Presence, Real Future focuses on financial structural/organizational change/reform verses social ministry/formation/catechesis restructuring? Which come first?

    ANSWER: The current situation requires that they need to come together. We cannot expect structures and finances alone to change our culture and provide missionary outreach and evangelization.  However, most of our parishes and schools are not strong enough to provide missionary outreach because they are simply trying to survive.  We need to and are trying to integrate these two needs in our plans and models for the future.

    Broader Church Trends

    How much does the decrease in participation track with general population changes, and how much accounts for people leaving the Church?

    ANSWER: There is a connection, but the decrease in participation is more a factor of people not practicing the faith or leaving. However, the other overall trend is the aging nature of the population with the decline of the Baby Boom generation.  While these general population trends contribute to the decline in Catholic participation, it does not explain most of the decline.   Mass attendance has dropped 18 percent in the past 20 years.  The overall population decrease is not the prime driver.

     

    Elephant in the room!! Things going on in the church- how do we explain or defend the way the Church handles problems in the news, publications? Defend!!

    ANSWER: It’s hard to respond in a general way to this question. One of the values the Real Presence, Real Future process is transparency in trying to share the challenges we face as a Church and the process for planning.  If you have feedback regarding certain problems or the Church’s handling of those in the Diocese of Columbus, please send your feedback to hello@columbuscatholic.org.  

     

    Will deacons be placed to help ease/manage the transitions?

    ANSWER: The majority of models being drafted assume a priest/pastor.

     

    Are there similar efforts in other dioceses, particularly in the past? Did they have success?

    ANSWER: There are other efforts that have been done recently, are in the process of being implemented, or just beginning especially in the Northeast US and the “rustbelt” (New York through Michigan). As examples, the archdioceses of Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and New York are in the process of implementing processes.  From Catholic Leadership Institute’s perspective, the most fruitful efforts are those that do include and plan for evangelization and missionary discipleship as part of the framework.  It will take a generation and more to bring people back, so it is hard to say which efforts have had the greatest success.  From an approach standpoint, we would point to the Archdiocese of Boston as a local Church that is balancing the challenging trends that face us all with a comprehensive approach to planning and evangelization.

     

    Why are so many priests used in administrative roles instead of pastoral service? The Church is the people, people are the Church. Catholic laity are educated and professionally experienced (in things like finance).  So much of Church practice seems rooted in medieval power structures.

    ANSWER: It is important to remember that by priestly ordination, the Church asks priests to fulfill three offices – “teach, sanctify, and govern.” Many priests would tell you they wish they had the resources to support more talented lay people who could help with finance and other things.  As the models envision leadership structures, we are trying to create the financial possibility to allow for this.  However, in their role of “governance” they do still want and need to be involved in and shepherd the temporal affairs of the Church.  Currently of the 90 plus men in active ministry, less than five are in solely administrative roles.  However, all these men also support pastoral ministry as well.  Several are pastors in addition to their administrative roles.  Some of the men have specialized roles to priests such as the Vicar for Clergy or the Rector of the Seminary.

     

    Why does it take so long for a man to be a priest when you see non-Catholic pastors enter their ministry in four years?

    ANSWER: The formation for a man who has completed a bachelor’s degree is four to five years. Some seminarians choose to do their college studies through seminary and that doubles the amount of time in formation.  The Catholic Church has thousands of years behind its traditions and teachings and the role of a Catholic priest and pastor has a deep and beautiful theology behind it that requires a lot of preparation.

     

    When a priest or deacon chooses to leave their role, are they invited to reevaluate their decision after a healing period and perhaps re-enter?

    ANSWER: It depends on the circumstances that led to their departure.

     

    Elaborate on the “unevenness” of ministry and services to parishes and community?

    ANSWER: There are several examples of unevenness.  Currently, we have many parishes grouped in clusters or other configurations that have similarly challenging financial situations.  These parishes don’t have the ability to hire staff or provide any outreach.  Conversely, there are parishes with abundant resources in proximity of each other.

     

    Based on historical data, there is a negative revenue impact when churches are merged, and I would like to know if this negative revenue impact will be reflected in the models?

    ANSWER: Yes, it will. The financial modeling for all draft models makes assumptions for potential negative impact as well as the potential upside for growth.

     

    Why are the young people/families not engaged in the faith and how do we change it?

    ANSWER: There are young people and families engaged in the faith but not nearly enough. There is no single reason for a lack of participation.  Some of the reasons may include 1) the growing secularization in the world, fewer people are religious in general, and the fastest growing religious denomination are those who do not affiliate with any religion.  2) The current parents of young families were raised by the Baby Boom generation.  This is the first generation to see a significant decline in practicing Catholics and therefore fewer current parents having had the benefit of a robust model of faith at home.   

     

    Is the Real Presence, Real Future going to look at or discuss what the underlying causes are for why the people have and are still leaving the Church? Why there are not vocations to the religious life or priesthood? Are there models that have been put together by the Diocese?

    ANSWER: Yes! As part of the Real Presence, Real Future Commission, there are steering committees on evangelization charged with not only looking at causes but trying to find and suggest effective strategies for turning these trends around.  One of the most effective strategies is personal, one-on-one invitation.  It sounds rather simple, but in many cases, someone’s first decision whether to take the first step back will rely on a positive experience with a person associated with the Church – not just a priest, but more likely a parishioner or volunteer.   Training and support to help us all extend personal invitations are just one example of the efforts being studied.  

     

    Is there a detailed report as to which parishes have deficits and does that impact this plan?

    ANSWER: This will be shared in the parish workbooks.

     

    How accurate is the census data?

    ANSWER: We believe it is fairly accurate though not perfect. We hope to have the perspective from parishioners as to how they understand their communities vis-à-vis the census data.

     

    What is the role of the deacons?

    ANSWER: According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – “All ordained ministers in the Church are called to functions of Word, Sacrament, and Charity, but bishops, presbyters and deacons exercise these functions in various ways. As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshalling the Church’s resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. But no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does, but WHO a deacon is, that is important.” http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/diaconate/faqs.cfm

     

    Has the team considered changing the job description of the diocesan priest – removing some of the administrative/financial accountabilities – to make it a more attractive life choice?

    ANSWER: The Church gives priests three main responsibilities: teach, sanctify, govern. While we cannot separate these responsibilities from the priesthood, we can generate some strategies and recruit the necessary lay leadership to help support more effective delegation of certain administrative responsibilities.  Hopefully this will help priests be more joyful in ministry and attract others to discern the vocation.

     

    Why are some deacons paid while some are not?

    ANSWER: All deacons are given a ministry assignment by their diocesan bishop. These are not paid positions.  Some deacons are both assigned to a parish/ministry AND employed by the parish (for example – a Director of Religious Education).  In those cases, the deacon is paid.

     

    Regarding chaplaincy visitations (nursing homes, hospitals, prisons), what services could a deacon do or not do to lessen priests’ responsibilities.

    ANSWER: The deacon can bring Holy Communion to the sick and certainly pray and comfort them. The deacon is not permitted to anoint the sick or hear confessions.

     

    What is data really saying regarding the health/happiness of parishes, as the facts cannot infer directly how happy parishioners may be?

    ANSWER: The data does not speak to the happiness of parishes. With respect to health, if a parish is not growing or even maintaining sacramental participation or financial viability, one could infer that continual decline in either or both categories would lead to an unhealthy situation for the community.

     

    What if this effort drives people away from Catholicism?

    ANSWER: We hope this is not the case, but we cannot control people’s choices. We know by doing nothing and not proactively responding to our future, we will continue to see the precipitous decline of people practicing Catholicism that we have experienced over the past 30 years.  Our opportunity now is to be bold and to try a different plan.  It may seem like more of a risk, but we would suggest that the absence of a bold plan and vision provides a guaranteed future of continued decline.

     

    Why can’t the Diocese hire more priests or pastors?

    ANSWER: Priests are ordained for life; they are not hired for temporary service. The discernment and preparation process for a priest is four to five years for a lifetime commitment on the part of the individual man and the Church.  It’s important that both engage in proper formation and discernment to ensure it is truly God’s call.

     

    How did we get to this point?

    ANSWER: We believe there are a lot of reasons we are where we are. It isn’t any one person or group’s fault, but it will require everyone to change the trends.  We can only begin that journey from where we are today and take one step at a time toward a better future.  We are a part of the history and future of the Church.  This has always been the story of the Church, determining in the time and place where she finds herself, how best to carry out the Gospel message.  This is not the worst of times nor the best of times in our Church.  It is our time. 

     

    Are we making use of social networks to the extent we should – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn?

    ANSWER: Not to the extent we should. This is major area of potential opportunity growth for the Diocese and the individual parishes.  In some of the draft staffing models, there is the opportunity to start to recruit and deploy the necessary talent to leverage these platforms.

     

    When will the Church consider married priests? Will the Church consider female deacons?

    ANSWER: We don’t know. These are questions for the Universal Church to discuss and it is not within Bishop Brennan or the Diocese’s ability to tackle these issues during the Real Presence, Real Future process.

     

    Why are non-denominational churches growing?

    ANSWER: Not many of them are growing. In fact, according to a recent study by the Pew Center, the fastest growing “denomination” in the United States are the “nones,” those who do not affiliate with any denomination.  Check out the research at: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

     

    Can priests in religious orders be required to spend some time in the parishes helping the pastors and parish priests, since there seems to be an abundance of priests joining religious orders?

    ANSWER: The research we see would not suggest there is an abundance of priests joining religious orders. In fact, most of the major orders in the US are experiencing the same or worst decline in their numbers as the diocesan priesthood.  That said, the Diocese of Columbus is blessed to have many religious communities serving in parishes.  The diocesan bishop, however, does not have the authority to require them to serve in any particular ministry.  It must be decided between the Bishop and the leaders of the religious order.

     

    Although we have a serious problem with the numbers of priests available, isn’t this process more driven by the increasing difficulty to maintain our aging buildings?

    ANSWER: It is not only those two factors, but also the very important factor that fewer Catholics are actively practicing their faith. That is the main foundational challenge we face as a Church.  The number of vocations, building, and financial situation are symptoms of that foundational problem we need to combat.

     

    How has the tarnished reputation of the Church through abuse by certain priests affected the congregation?

    ANSWER: There is no doubt that the sexual abuse scandal has had a negative effect on the Catholic community. The magnitude of the effect is difficult to assess and is compounded by other factors such as increasing secularization in society, an increase in mobility among communities, and an increasing lack of commitment to structures and institutions by younger generations.

     

    Why do we only look at Mass counts in October and not year-round?

    ANSWER: According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) “The month of October is the period many dioceses use to conduct Mass attendance head counts. This time of year is selected because it is in Ordinary Time and not affected by higher Mass attendance rates, such as in Lent or Advent, or lower than typical attendance rates, which occur in many parishes in summer months.”

     

    Is giving related to the age of parishioners? This could explain the debt in some parishes

    ANSWER: Universally in the Church and in philanthropy in general, giving tends to skew toward those age 50 and older. When you consider an overall aging population in the Diocese and an increasing average age of active parishioners, this would contribute to effects on giving. 

     

    I have heard that there is an overabundance of priests in Africa who do not have a parish to serve. Has the Diocese of Columbus looked elsewhere for priests to help with the shortage of priests?

    ANSWER: It is true that priestly vocations are strong in Africa. Often, it is challenging for missionary priests as well as parishioners to navigate some of the cultural differences and expectations in parish life.  Bishop Brennan has shared that he does not think this is the best option to serve the people of God in Columbus.

    Outreach and Evangelization

    Are the ways we reach our PSR students being reviewed? We spend a phenomenal amount of money to educate Catholic school kids as a parish. However, we spend next to nothing in educating our kids.

    ANSWER:   The Evangelization Subcommittee for Catholic Education is researching this issue and the best practices or new ideas to support the religious education and formation of our children and our adults.

     

    Where are the people going who leave the Catholic Church? Why are they leaving? We have a better chance of bringing them back if we have ideas or know why they are leaving in such great numbers.

    ANSWER: According to a recent study by the Pew Center on Religious Landscape (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/) the fastest growing religious group in the United States is the “nones” or people who do not affiliate with any religion. All Christian faiths are challenged by similar declines and issues and the growing secularization of the culture is contributing to people leaving and not choosing another church.  If this is in fact the case, personal invitation and witness on the part of practicing Catholics to their family and their friends is the best strategy.

     

    Do you think the lack of education or understanding of the Mass or Holy Days and their special meanings are what makes people leave the Church and not find it relevant? Do you think we need more adult refresher courses and retreats to keep us come alive in our religious education?

    ANSWER: Our research shows that Holy Days, novenas, and other traditions can be important access points for people to come back to the Church. However, we would suggest that while adult refresher courses and retreats are great, we first need to figure out ways to make people curious enough to participate.  One of the most effective ways to do this is by talking about our faith openly with family and friends in a non-threatening and accessible way.  Talking about why we pray, why go to Mass, the important role the Church plays in our lives, especially to people who know us, trust us, and respect us, is the best way to prompt the curiosity that might lead to someone coming back to Mass or going to a retreat.

     

    Why can’t we have a Mass on any day of the week count as our obligation the same as Saturday/Sunday?

    ANSWER: The second commandment from God is to “Keep Holy the Sabbath” and the most important belief is our faith is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. For these two reasons, the Church has deemed that celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday is one of the most essential and important responsibilities and obligations of our faith.

     

    How do we address the secular issues that are keeping young people from the Church? (i.e.- gay rights, birth control, etc.?)

    ANSWER: We think we address these issues by first and foremost helping young people to understand what a relationship with God means and can be.  Until we help fortify and strengthen their relationship with God, it will be difficult to engage them in a conversation around Church teaching on any of those issues. 

     

    How do we impress upon people that Church is more than attendance at Sunday Mass?

    ANSWER: We think the best way is to show what Church can be. With Real Presence, Real Future we want to configure our parishes to be communities that are active on Sunday and every other day of the week.  We must always remember that as individuals we may be in different places in our faith journeys.  Our parishes and communities need to allow people at every place to take the next step toward deepening their relationship with God regardless of where they might be.

     

    How do we increase vocations?

    ANSWER: We can increase vocations by encouraging two specific audiences to personally invite young men and women to consider the priesthood and religious life – priests and families. Research shows that personalized encouragement and invitation from these two groups are very successful in helping young men and women take the next step in discernment.

     

    Why is Mass attendance declining?

    ANSWER: There is not just one reason but some of the contributing factors include an increasing business of life, especially on Sunday. Twenty or 30 years ago, all businesses and activities would be closed on Sunday.  Now sports, activities, and other demands tend to make Mass something that gets scheduled in, as opposed to schedule around.  Additionally, with a lot of Mass times and not as many people going, Masses can feel empty, and parishes may not have the resources to offer quality music.

     

    How do we throw open the doors to let in the air?

    ANSWER: According to our research, there are a couple key strategies that will contribute greatly. Hospitality, quality worship, opportunities for small faith sharing groups for adults, and effective preaching seem to be the main drivers in maintaining and growing a vibrant parish.

     

    What can we do to engage women in leadership roles in the Church?

    ANSWER: Women play many important roles of leadership in our Church today. Most Lay Ecclesial Ministers are women, not to mention the many women serving as administrators and teachers in our Catholic schools.  Almost a quarter of US dioceses have women in senior lay roles of leadership at the diocesan level.  We need to continue to cultivate this great gift in our Church and ensure that men and women have access to training and formation that help them understand how to share their God-given gifts and talents with the world.

     

    Part of the reason for attrition over the past 50 years is that our Church has rules which have not made people feel welcome in the formal parish setting. What can we do to explain our rules, while welcoming back, and asking people to return?

    ANSWER: We think the best thing we can do first is tell people about our relationship with God – what it means to us and how its central to our lives. The “rules” are often barriers for many people, but the rules really don’t make sense without a relationship with God.  We are not a logical people, we are a “theo-logical” people, a people of faith.  We must start there.

     

    How do you respond to a person with a negative vision of the Church? (i.e. “I don’t get anything from going to Mass”)

    ANSWER: We think the best thing you can do is to ask some follow-up questions. “What are you looking to get out of Mass?  What church have you tried?  When was the last time you went?”  It’s more about understanding where they are coming from as opposed to convincing them otherwise.  Research from Sherry Weddell (author of Forming Intentional Disciples) that builds off of prior research in the Protestant traditions, shows that people first need a positive connection with someone associated with the Church whom they can trust before they will seek to go deeper.  You can be that bridge by taking an active interest in their life, their experience with the Church to-date, and being a friend first.

     

    Is there information available that outlines some of the basic tenets of Canon Law? (i.e.- number of masses, priest/administrator roles, etc.)

    ANSWER: The criteria that is being assembled for Real Presence, Real Future is in accordance with the basic canonical requirements of the Church. You can check out all the Canons direct from the Vatican at https://www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonici/eng/documents/cic_lib2-cann368-430_en.html#SECTION_II._PARTICULAR_CHURCHES_AND_THEIR_GROUPINGS

    Implementation Topics

    How do we prepare for changes?

    ANSWER: We keep the focus on what is most important and try to help others to do the same. We need to ensure that despite the difficulty that comes with change, we are using this as opportunity to strengthen our relationships with each other.  If we emphasize and model hospitality and openness to newcomers, intentionality, and quality worship, we can help facilitate the birth of new parish communities.

     

    How will the mass schedule be determined?

    ANSWER: This will be a decision left to the pastor and leadership of all parishes. There will be recommendations regarding the number of masses and what timeframes might best suit the pastoral and outreach needs of that part of the Church.

     

    Will all the priests be living at the same site, or will they be spread between the sites?

    ANSWER: It will depend on the parish. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but generally we are looking to use the best locations and conditions to provide priests with a comfortable and appropriate residence.  In some cases, this will enable priests to live together.  In some cases, they may be live independently. 

     

    Will the Diocese have the courage to implement true long-term change? Is the Diocese ready to empower lay people beyond an advisory role?

    ANSWER: At Catholic Leadership Institute, we believe yes. The commitment to undergo a process this way – with this level of consultation – shows a courage that is inspiring. Your diocese is working on assembling resources under the direction of the new COO to ensure this support is in place. 

     

    What happens if this plan does not work?

    ANSWER: There will be lots of aspects that do work and lots of aspects that don’t work. God does not call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful.  The Church must always determine the best way to be can be present to the people of God in her midst. This is an important time of discernment for the Church of Columbus.  It won’t be the last time, and God-willing because of the fruitfulness of Real Presence, Real Future, we will have growth-oriented challenges that come years from now.

     

    Will our priests be trained in a new culture of allowing/encouraging lay participation in roles with big responsibilities?

    ANSWER: We can undergo ongoing support and formation in how we exercise our leadership. Our hope is to provide more targeted support to help transitions once we begin implementation.

     

    What happens if more priests become ill or retire during the process? Will parishes merge or close before this process is completed? Could there be changes in mass schedules, etc.?

    ANSWER: The desire is not to make any parish changes until the process is complete. There may be a few situations in which planning was required prior to the Real Presence, Real Future process beginning.  Otherwise, it is the preference to make no other decisions before Real Presence, Real Future consultation is completed.