“Catholics in the Diocese of Burlington universally have a strong set of beliefs in scripture and Church teaching, which provides a foundation for extending their faith journey,” said Terry Poplava, vice president of ministry development and client services at Catholic Leadership Institute.

According to the results of the Disciple Marker Survey which parishioners in the Diocese of Burlington completed last spring, these two categories ranked the highest. Survey questions focused on the three Diocesan Synod priorities — vibrancy, evangelization and communication — and asked participants to rank their parish in categories such as preaching, spiritual growth, discipleship formation, welcoming community and Mass celebration.

While Catholics in Vermont universally have a strong set of beliefs, “this does not translate into a strong missionary impulse,” Poplava said. “Catholics do not feel their parishes are equipping them with the knowledge about the faith to share their faith journey with others or invite others to vocations.”

There is an opportunity for growth in the areas of faith formation and evangelization for all ages.

Catholic Leadership Institute also noted that respondents who strongly recommended their pastor were nine times more likely to strongly recommend their parish, and, overall, most respondents agreed that preaching was good at their parish.

The Diocese partnered with the Catholic Leadership Institute to help parish leaders develop pastoral plans that address the synod priority of building vibrant parishes, which includes evangelization and communication. The Disciple Maker Survey was the first step in accessing the strengths and opportunities of each parish. Parish teams met during the summer to take a deep dive into the survey results and create goals in one or more of the three synod priority areas based on their parish strengths and opportunities. Each parish will share their final plan with parishioners once it is complete.

“The next step will be moving from documenting a plan to the implementation and measurement of progress,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne. “There are several ways we plan to support parishes in this process including utilizing prescheduled clergy meetings throughout the year, such as Presbyteral Days in early September, to check in on the progress and identify areas where we can provide more support.”

The Diocese has already begun to implement synod recommendations to help improve communication in the parishes. More than 30 of our parishes have converted to a new website through eCatholic that uses a template designed to provide easy access to the information parishioners want most and to share diocesan news and updates.  The rest of the parishes are scheduled to transition to the new platform over the next year and a half.

In addition, all the clergy are using a uniform email address, vermontcatholic.org, to make it easier to communicate.

—Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.