Journey of Faith responds to decades of changes in the world around us. Just as Catholics have navigated major life changes over the last fifty years, the archdiocese must do the same.
It’s time to work together to find more sustainable ways to share our faith in thriving parish communities. Over the next eighteen months, every parish will participate in listening and learning sessions to understand where we are and what’s possible.
- •Fewer available priests
•Dropping numbers of active parishioners
•Major statewide population shifts
•Growing multi-cultural communities
Our hope is that every Catholic will see this journey as an opportunity and participate, starting with prayer.
- We understand this could be a concern, but nothing will be decided without much thought and discussion. In the months ahead, we’ll work together to understand our current realities and build a sustainable plan. The Journey of Faith timeline for all 134 parishes in the archdiocese includes:
- • Learning and planning sessions for every parish this spring and fall
- • Parish townhalls (optional)
- • Open feedback from all parts of the archdiocese for nearly 3 weeks this fall
Many of our institutional structures are no longer suited for the times we live in. That’s why most parishes and schools can expect changes, including Families of Parishes. These connected parishes function like an extended family. It’s a powerful way to strengthen parish life while gaining some efficiencies. Each Family of Parishes submits their plans, including schools, to Archbishop Lucas in November. Decisions will be part of Journey of Faith announcements sometime in December. You can find the latest information under parish news and announcements.
Uniting a group of parishes into one family of faith is a modern-day approach. By sharing our resources, we can focus on our vision to become missional communities. Across the country, Families of Parishes are a way of life in dioceses of all sizes. Here in the Archdiocese of Omaha, we have the advantage of learning from their experiences. Going forward, we can adapt the best features for our own families of parishes and attract others to experience faith in new and meaningful ways.
Research and data analysis of our current realities started several years ago. Over the last five months, our planning has been more refined and focused on solutions. Families of Parishes came together after closely consulting with pastors and careful considering parish participation, priest workloads, staffing resources, location, population and demographic trends.
The Archdiocese of Omaha is committed to the Families of Parishes approach. For the sake of our young people and generations to come, it is essential that we move in new directions for stronger parishes and schools. Our structures and ways of organizing parish life for decades no longer work for the majority of Catholics. In each family, parish members will choose a model of governance most suited to their unique identities.
We hope the Families of Parishes structure promotes the growth of our parishes as missional communities. Simply put, that means reaching out to actively share faith with others – those who are part of the community, as well as those who are not. While there are many different ways of going about it, missional communities share a sense of purpose. As a community touched by Jesus, they intentionally welcome others to experience life-changing mercy, love and friendship.
Guidelines for Families of Parishes include limits on the number of weekday and Sunday masses celebrated by individual priests. That means mass schedules and locations may change for some parishes but there are many months of work ahead before that’s known. If and when families decide on changes to Mass schedules, some parishioners may have a longer drive to attend Mass. In that case, it would not be more than 20 miles.
We understand the pastoral planning process can feel overwhelming at times. It is a real possibility that some parishes will close, but the focus now is to develop plans for each Family of Parishes. If there are questions about the future viability of a parish, decisions would require much prayerful thought and discussion.
The archbishop has asked us to see this Journey of Faith as an opportunity to trust God and experience our faith in new ways. You can be sure your pastor and parish leaders will be talking to you about future possibilities. Each family submits a plan for approval to Archbishop Lucas in November.
The majority of parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha will experience some changes, but not right away. The first step is to listen to one another, learn about today’s reality and explore possible ways to move forward. Here’s what you can do to stay informed and share your thoughts.
- Sign up for The Journey, an email newsletter to keep you informed.
- Get in touch with the pastor of your church. Every parish has a team that will participate in listening and planning sessions.
- Visit the Journey of Faith website often for regular news updates and opportunities to share your views.
The challenge of attracting new vocations is nationwide.
A Longterm Challenge
Many people don’t realize study for the priesthood can take five or more years. While we are encouraged by new vocational outreach, it will take many years to address.
Sharing Our Faith
The smaller number of available priests is only part of our current reality. In this Journey of Faith, we’re searching out new ways to share and become more outgoing communities of faith.
Moving Faith Forward
We all want healthy priests who can lead parish communities where faith is active and outgoing. Currently, however, they are weighed down by insitutional structures and buildings that interfere with modern day ministries.
Journey of Faith is a time for us to come together as one church and take stock of the faith experience offered in our parishes.
Fulfilling Our Mission
It’s about asking important questions to assure that we too pass our faith on to future generations. How can we strengthen parish life and share the gift of faith with more people?
Reaching Beyond Parish Walls
While finances are a factor in developing a sustainable vision, there are more important considerations including mass attendance, parish involvement and active outreach in the surrounding community.
Active parish members can make a positive difference in this Journey of Faith, but not all will participate in regional planning sessions. Because there are multiple parishes at the first eight Journey of Faith meetings, pastors will identify leadership representatives for each parish. Every parish will have at least one representative.
These volunteer ambassadors will participate in the spring meetings and work with pastors to keep everyone informed. What can you do if you’re not a parish representative?
- Be involved in your parish discussions
- Be informed. Signup for The Journey newsletter with the latest information.
- Pray often
Our work together is rooted in prayer. We encourage everyone to pray for the guidance of the holy spirit to help us meet this challenge with open hearts.