The Diocese of Burlington’s partnership with the Philadelphia-based Catholic Leadership Institute continues as parishes analyze where they are, where they are going and how to get there.

The project is a result of the 2018 Diocesan Synod in Vermont and will help parishes implement the synod’s three priorities: evangelization, vibrant parishes and communication.

The first task of Catholic Leadership Institute’s work in Vermont included the distribution of The Disciple Maker Index Survey. Parishioners throughout the state were asked to complete this questionnaire on paper or online between Feb. 23 and March 31. Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne said the goal of the survey was to provide a “snapshot” of each parish as it exists today.

While Catholic Leadership Institute is analyzing the Disciple Maker Index Survey results, each parish has formed an Action Plan Writing Team made up of the pastor or administrator and four or five parishioners that were appointed by the pastor.

Members of Action Plan Writing Teams are using their love of Christ, love for their parishes and openness to guidance from the Holy Spirit to prayerfully discern and create local pastoral plans that align with the Diocese of Burlington 2018 Synod priorities and goals.  They support “the pastor in coming up with priorities for the parish with one to two goals each that are personalized to the parish community but also align with the synod,” explained Eileen O’Dea-Latini, senior client services coordinator for Catholic Leadership Institute.

In March, Action Plan Writing Teams attended one of three Parish Leadership Team Training days: March 15 at St. Monica Parish in Barre; March 16 at Holy Cross Parish in Colchester; or March 30 at Christ the King Parish in Rutland.

At these training days, members of the Action Plan Writing Teams pondered and discussed their responses to questions such as: What does evangelization mean to me? Where am I proclaiming, inviting and encountering Jesus in my family, workplace and neighborhood? How does my parish form me and my fellow parishioners to proclaim, invite and encounter Jesus? How would you describe a vibrant parish? What effective methods of communication exist within your parish? What does your parish do well? What could be done differently?

They also reviewed the 17 recommendations made in “Christ our Hope,” the Declaration of the 2018 Synod of the Diocese of Burlington.

The desired outcomes of the Parish Leadership Team Training were:

+ to deepen a shared understanding of the synod priorities and goals so each parish and its ministries can plan and be fruitfully aligned with them;

+ to understand the purpose of the Action Plan Writing Team;

+ to learn four steps for fruitful planning and implementation; and

+ to begin using the planning process.

After the March Parish Leadership Team Trainings, teams are spending several months planning.

In June, they will meet for a two-day session at which they will receive the results of the Disciple Maker Index Survey to aid in the creation of their local parish action plans.

While the desired outcome of this session will be a draft action plan, “the teams may need to further explore a few things given the priorities they determine from the Disciple Maker Index,” O’Dea-Latini said. Some teams will meet several times after the June gathering to complete their action plans.

Implementation of the plans is expected to take place over a three-year period.

“It is my sincere hope and prayer that our efforts will strengthen our parish communities, foster an evangelizing culture in the Diocese of Burlington and further the joyful proclamation of the Good News of salvation,” Bishop Coyne said.

—Originally printed in the Summer 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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