Cardinal calls for conversion, holiness, study of archdiocesan structures

To read the Cardinal’s Pastoral Letter Click Here

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – In a new pastoral letter, Cardinal Justin Rigali has outlined a strategic plan to enable the local Church to meet the needs of the 21st century, utilizing as a blueprint his three super priorities for the Archdiocese: celebration of the holy Eucharist, reception of the sacrament of reconciliation and prayers for an increase of priestly vocations.

The Cardinal has also appointed a coordinator of archdiocesan planning initiatives who will assist him and the four active auxiliary bishops in overseeing the planning.

Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, rector of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, was named planning initiatives coordinator in June.

Msgr. Rodgers, 70, was ordained a priest in 1965. Before being named Cathedral rector this past June, he had served as pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County and as the regional vicar for Montgomery County.{{more}}

The pastoral letter, titled “Called to Conversion and Holiness” dated Oct. 19, addresses five areas of assessment: the 267 parishes; the allocation of priest personnel; Catholic education; the archdiocesan office structure; and financial stewardship.

“In our day, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by our people in living out their faith,” the Cardinal writes. “I am also aware of the challenges that face the institution of the Church, challenges which confront our parishes, our Catholic schools, our charitable services and so many other entities of the Church.

“Some of these challenges are perennial and have confronted the Church and her members in every age. Some are unique to our own day.

“We are reminded, however, that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8).”

“Called to Conversion and Holiness” highlights the concept of transformation, Msgr. Rodgers said.

“Hopefully, the faithful of the Archdiocese will look toward the transformation in their relationship to the Eucharist, to the sacrament of confession and to vocations.

“The transformation,” Msgr. Rodgers said, “will call everyone to view in a new and different way – through the prism of stewardship – how well we can use the facilities and personnel that we have, and how well we can bring the Church to be more vibrant and more dynamic in our Archdiocese.”

Parishes and priests
In November, parishes across the Archdiocese are scheduled to publish bulletin announcements about the Cardinal’s pastoral letter.

In January, preliminary work will begin in the parishes, including the outlining of short-range and long-range parish plans.

Parishes are also being asked to form an implementation team to support the work of the parish and to move the agenda along. The team is to be in place by July.

Next September, video presentations on the archdiocesan-wide planning initiative will be made in all parishes of the Archdiocese.

The presentations, open to all parishioners, will address subjects such as: prayer and sacramental life; family and community; evangelization; parish outreach and service for justice; lay involvement with the parish; and parish demographics, facilities, personnel, finances and stewardship.

Catholic education
The Cardinal has asked the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education to begin a comprehensive study of the Catholic elementary and secondary schools and the CCD or parish religious education programs, and to recommend a plan to respond to current challenges confronting Catholic education.

To assist the Catholic education office in developing a plan to realign and strengthen Catholic education across the Archdiocese, the Cardinal said he will soon appoint a blue ribbon commission of various experts. Their recommendations are expected by the fall of 2011.

Archdiocesan office structure
The auxiliary bishops have been directed to collaboratively develop a plan to be implemented in July 2011, to restructure the archdiocesan offices to more effectively serve the parishes and other institutions of the Archdiocese.

The Cardinal hopes to reduce redundancy and bureaucracy within the Archdiocesan Curia, and to ensure that the Archdiocese’s offices are more efficient, effective and responsive in their service.

Financial stewardship
As the archdiocesan capital and endowment campaign, “Heritage of Faith-Vision of Hope,” continues, the Archdiocese pledges careful and responsible stewardship and of the local Church’s financial and material resources.

The Cardinal commended the faithful for their financial generosity and asked them to continue to be good stewards and to continue to support the vital pastoral works of the Archdiocese.

“The call to conversion and holiness is at the core of the history of our great Archdiocese,” the Cardinal said in his letter.

“Throughout our 200-year history as a diocese, the Church of Philadelphia has been blessed by countless people who have daily followed the call to conversion and holiness,” wrote the Cardinal, who began his eighth year as archbishop of Philadelphia this month.

“I encourage each of you to remain open to the call to conversion and holiness in your own life so that the Church herself may be drawn even deeper into the mystery of Christ’s love.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or