Pastoral Planning is a process by which a faith community −with a deep appreciation of its past and an understanding of its present strengths and weaknesses − seeks to respond to the spiritual and pastoral needs of people within, and beyond, the community.
In order to resolve particular pastoral issues, effective structures and processes are needed to facilitate communication and co-ordination, create opportunities for people to use their gifts and encourage all the baptised to participate in the life and mission of the local Church.
Since 2013, Bishop Bill Wright has held leadership forums with key advisory personnel to reflect on and discern the future directions of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Representatives of clergy, parish communities, diocesan councils, the diocesan office, Catholic Schools, CatholicCare and other Catholic agencies in the diocese have gathered to engage in discussions to connect with, and learn from, individuals from all areas of the diocese whom they may never have had the opportunity to meet.
Diocesan Pastoral Planning Team
In the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Team acts as the secretariat for the Diocesan Pastoral Council and any sub-committees formed by the Council. It provides resources and support for diocesan, regional and parish pastoral planning and for major diocesan consultations, carries responsibility for the organisation of diocesan assemblies and provides formation sessions for parish pastoral councils and teams.
Context for Pastoral Planning
The Diocese of Maitland was established in 1847. For at least one hundred and twenty of those years, people were confident they understood what it meant to be a Catholic and felt their salvation rested in doing what the Church told them.
Today we are attempting to understand a new way of being Church. The Bishop, his fellow clergy and lay leaders are charged with working together as the People of God to become the face of God as revealed by Jesus Christ in today’s world. Together we strive to show our community what it means to be the Body of Christ and, individually, to make real the presence of God in our everyday encounters in whatever ministry we find ourselves.
In 1988, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle embarked upon a journey to formally embrace the spirit and teachings of Vatican II and to launch a Diocesan Pastoral Planning process that would irrevocably link pastoral planning in the diocese to the theological principles of Vatican II. This was to take place against the background of the Diocesan Synod of 1992-93.
Pastoral Planning is a tool used by the Bishop and the Diocesan Pastoral Council to involve the diocese in a process of evaluation, imagining and planning to help the community stay in touch with the changing circumstances of life and faith. In this way the mission of Christ entrusted to the people is constantly reviewed and re-visioned and its life and faith remain refreshing, enlivening and prophetic. Pastoral Planning is essential for the ongoing life and vitality of the church.
In 2001 Pope John Paul II wrote about the processes of Pastoral Planning:
“Let us have no illusion, unless we follow the spiritual path of a spirituality of communion, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul; “masks” of communion rather than its means of expression and growth. The spirituality of communion supplies institutional reality with a soul” (Novo Millennio Ineunte (43) 2001).
Moving Forward Together is the latest interpretation of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. The 1992/93 Diocesan Synod and subsequent diocesan assemblies have set the mission and structures for pastoral planning across the diocese. This version of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan incorporates a planning framework to assist parishes, the chancery and agencies to plan for both the short and long-term. It is hoped that this tool will support those involved in planning at their local level.
The parishes of the diocese are linked in a system of ten pastoral regions in which the parishes work collaboratively in furthering God’s mission in our Church. Each parish in the region would have a Parish Pastoral Plan and the sharing of these plans at a regional level leads to some collaborative endeavours and a sense of unity across regions and the diocese.