By Maureen Smith
CANTON – Priests, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers and lay leaders from parishes across the diocese gathered at the Duncan Gray Center for a convocation to introduce the new diocesan pastoral priorities.
The gathering was the first of many meant to implement the new priorities throughout the church in the Diocese of Jackson The convocation gave the bishop and his team a chance to share the priorities and spend some time talking about how to integrate them into parish life.
Trainers from Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) presented some workshops on goal setting and then the attendees divided into groups to work on sample goals and plans they can take back to their parishes.
The next step will be meetings similar to the listening sessions hosted last year. At the new meetings, the bishop and his team will introduce a new vision, mission and set of three priorities for the diocese. The meeting schedule is on page 11 of this edition.
After those meetings, parishes will begin their work to align their work with the new priorities. The bishop has recruited a team of resource people for this part of the process. These people will be assigned to specific parishes. They will collaborate with the pastors to offer help when needed and keep track of progress on the goals each community sets for itself.
“What we like about this approach is that each community can look at it’s challenges and it’s members and see how they can support the overall mission. The mission remains the same for the whole diocese, but each community can adapt as it needs to help bring the vision to reality,” said Bishop Kopacz.
The priorities are the work of Bishop Joseph Kopacz and an Envisioning Team made up of people from every deanery of the diocese. This group took the input from last year’s listening sessions, data about the state, diocese and church in America and received training from Catholic Leadership Institute on strategic planning to craft the new statement.
“Writing the new priorities was just the start of this process,” said Father Kevin Slattery, vicar general for the Diocese of Jackson. “We did not want to write a document that would get put on a shelf. We wanted to create a living plan that the parishes, schools and communities could keep using to move us forward and give us a sense of unity. We hope that using the resource people to support implementation will do just that –keep us headed in the right direction,” Father Slattery added.
Dennis van Auken, one of the trainers from CLI, said he has never seen a diocese plan out implementation in this way.
In addition to the meetings and resource team, the diocese will launch a whole new section of the website dedicated to the new priorities. These pages will have downloadable reflections and graphics parishes and individuals can use as they look at how to align their work with the work of the diocese.
The department of communications has prepared workbooks with the plan and prayer cards to encourage support. Mississippi Catholic will feature the new priorities in March along with coverage of success stories from different communities and continued support for implementation.