1. Take time out to reflect on ourselves and on our parish. Where have we been and where do we need to go. Only with careful preparation and reflection can we hope to answer those two questions. Take time to discern God’s, not our, plan for the parish. This is done in three steps:
A. Faith. Don’t rely on Roberts Rules of Order but rather ask “what does God want?”
B. Prayer. Before the meeting, during the meeting, after the meeting for light and purification. Always begin with mass or evening office. Increase prayer in your personal life and say part of the rosary or office every day. Make a habit of reading the scriptures and reflect on it concerning your own life and the life of the parish.
Discernment rests on the belief that God actually works through us and only through prayer will we be able to determine what it is that He wants done… not us. Ask yourself these questions:
1) What option do I feel most at peace with?
2) How does it free me? How does it constrain me?
3) What do I want to do?
4) What do I think we should do?
5) finally, pray for confirmation of your decision.
C. Interior Freedom. Liberty from the hold of our prejudices and fears.
2. Study the Scriptures and teachings of the Church and not just with the mind but also with the heart. Reflect on them and try to discern from them a vision for the future. Too often we try to study with the mind alone. Only by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit and taking a few minutes to reflect on the reading can we begin to understand the Father’s will.
3. Focus on spirituality and not programs. Deepen your spiritual life. Be willing to look deep into yourself and be willing to challenge yourself to grown beyond “comfortable” thinking and methods. Try to simply family and parish life. Focus on goals for the parish that would deepen individual faith and help build and cement families. Only by deepening our faith can it be determined what we need to do as parish.
4. Build people to together and work toward consensus, collaboration, and reconciliation. To often are parishes are affected by past hurts and injuries, many of which are unintended. Foster a spirit of reconciliation to repair these injuries — even if one does not really exist. Work toward a parish that, in faith, collaborates in its ministries that was built with a process of consensus building. This should include all members of the parish.
5. Create a hopeful attitude. We believe in God’s presence in history and therefore we should live as people of hope and plan for the future under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Too often in our parishes we do not approach our roles with this sense of a positive future. So many times it is what cannot be done, rather than reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and the hopeful spirit that if it is meant in God’s plan to be done, it shall! It is the role of the Council to dispel thinking that does not foster the virtue of hope.
6. Work ecumenically where possible. All Christians are called to action by the same Christ. Search out ways that projects can be undertaken ecumenically through cooperation with other faiths.
Pastoral Planning: Preparing for the Year 2000
Origins, February 6, 1997. Vol. 26: No. 33