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Pastoral plan

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is convening a Diocesan Synod to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont.
 
Work was done on the last pastoral plan for the statewide Diocese from 2003 through 2006. It was promulgated by then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano “as a way of trying to address the reduction of the number of priests available to minister to the people of Vermont,” explained Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
In addition, it attempted to address the demographic changes that had occurred and are occurring in Vermont, among them aging population, reduction in births and population shifts.
 
“An element of the synodal process will be to examine the present and future ministerial needs in Vermont,” Msgr. McDermott said. “It may be that the Diocese will need to make more pastoral changes to parishes in order to best serve the people of God.  At this time, there is no way of projecting what these changes might be. We will have to see how the synod process proceeds.”
 
Dioceses throughout the United States are engaged in pastoral planning processes to deal with similar issues as those facing the Diocese of Burlington.
 
For example, in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Mont., the three major priorities that surfaced at the Leadership Summit for pastoral planning were parish life and liturgy, evangelization and discipleship and vocations to the priesthood. In the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc., areas of pastoral concern were identified as evangelization; youth, young adult  and family; leadership; education; Eucharist; and the dignity of human life.
 
In the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., pastoral concerns include liturgy and sacraments, catechesis, New Evangelization/youth, family life and vocations and stewardship. The pastoral plan concerns for the Archdiocese of Atlanta fall into four broad categories: Knowing Our Faith, Living Our Faith, Sharing Our Faith and Evolution of Our Parishes.
 
As the Diocese of Burlington prepares its pastoral plan, Msgr. McDermott said, “Our hope is to engage parishioners in the conversation to determine how best to strengthen Church life in Vermont.”

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This story was original published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Father Mattison reflects on synod

By Father Thomas Mattison, pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne has convoked a diocesan synod. What? Why? And why care?
 
A diocesan synod is a legislative action by which a diocesan bishop, after broad consultation, establishes the laws that will govern his diocese. But, we thought the pope made the laws! Well, he does – for the universal Church. But it is obvious that the situation of the Church in Vermont is different from that of the Church in Africa. So, the Church in Vermont will need to have rules and procedures that it will use in applying the universal law.
 
Moreover, Vermont may well have unique needs, unforeseen by the universal law, that require unique approaches and treatment.
 
Let me list a few:
‐ Vermont is divided in two by the Green Mountains; east-west travel takes a disproportionate amount of time.
‐ Burlington is a long way from the whole of southern Vermont. (Bennington is closer to the sees of Albany, N.Y; Springfield, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; and Manchester, N.H., than it is to Burlington.)
‐ The population of Vermont is concentrated in Burlington, as is the wealth and everything else but the scenery.
‐ The rest of the population is scattered in small towns and villages.
‐ There is little industry in Vermont and, so, few jobs for our youth.
‐ Thus, the population of Vermont is weighted to the gray end.
‐ More Vermonters describe themselves as “church-less” than in any other state.
‐ Of these, 60 percent call themselves “ex-Catholics.”
 
The Catholic Church in Vermont, since it is made up of Vermonters, reflects all of these issues. Obviously, then, the Catholic Church in Vermont faces challenges and has opportunities that must be met and seized that the universal law of the Church could not have imagined.
 
One might just decide to leave each scattered little population center to work things out for itself. The ensuing chaos is not hard to imagine, but it is very hard to imagine that this would create a meaningful Catholic presence in the state as a whole. Besides, such “congregationalism” is absolutely antithetical to the very meaning of “catholic.”
 
So a synod is necessary:
‐ to assure that every section of this “scattered” diocese is heard
‐ that the religious needs of every section are met
‐ that the pastoral priorities of the diocese as a whole are clearly laid out
‐ that lines of communication and responsibility are well defined
‐ to draw up fair and uniform policies for the allocation of assets – money, personnel, buildings
‐ to define criteria for the creation, modification or closure of any Church ministries.
 
A synod is big business. Its work will touch every single one of us. We should watch its work, support its outcome and pray for universal wisdom and charity.
 
For more information on Father Mattison’s parish, go to christoursaviorvt.com.
 
 

Bishop to convene diocesan synod

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has announced plans to convene the first diocesan synod in Vermont since 1962.

Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington serves a population of 118,000 Catholics.

There are 65 active priests (45 diocesan and 20 religious order or ex tern) and 43 permanent deacons ministering in 73 parishes and 23 missions. The diocese includes 14 Catholic schools (including St. Therese Digital Academy) and a catechetical system with an estimated 4,700 students. Through Vermont Catholic Charities’ social services and homes for the aged, the Diocese of Burlington assisted more than 6,000 Vermonters last year.

The bishop will serve as the convener and presider of the synod, and membership will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.

Before the sessions of the synod are convened – the bishop hopes that will be next spring -- all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery (regional) level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.

After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 

Chrism Mass

The April 11 Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington was rich in tradition as priests and parishioners from the statewide Diocese of Burlington gathered to celebrate the priesthood of Jesus Christ and watch Bishop Christopher J. Coyne bless oils that will be used throughout the year in the sacramental life of the diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, the bishop blessed the oils that symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry. The Mass was a sign of the unity of the local Church in Vermont.
 
The oils blessed were the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil. To prepare the Chrism Oil, Bishop Coyne mixed in balsam, the perfume that gives it a rich aroma.
 
Scores of priests from every region of the diocese attended the special morning Mass, after which they or their representatives received oils to bring to their churches.
 
The Mass also was an opportunity for the bishop to announce major news: the convening of a Diocesan Pastoral Synod, the first since 1962. Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
The bishop will serve as the convener and presider, and membership of the synod will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.
 
Before the sessions of the synod are convened all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.
 
After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 
After the Chrism Mass, Jack Lyons, a senior at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, commented on its meaningfulness: “It’s always cool to come together as a diocese, but it’s also cool to know…the oils will be used to do good all over the state” as they are used “to serve the people of God through the sacraments.”
 
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