ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (CNS) — Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki is preparing the archdiocese for 2020, particularly as to how the spiritual needs of the Catholic community will best be served.

Parishes and Pastoral Leadership 2020,” approved and issued by Archbishop Listecki Aug. 8, notes “three principal factors” that will have an impact on parishes during the next decade:

From 2010 to 2020, the number of priest retirements will exceed ordinations, resulting in a projected 40 percent reduction in the number of priests serving in parish ministry.

The costs of operating parishes and funding ministries are escalating rapidly and parishes can gain economies of scale by collaborating with other parishes.

The one mission of the church, shared by all parishes, can be carried out more effectively by combining efforts and sharing resources.

There are 203 parishes in the archdiocese. By 2020, there will be 100 parishes and clusters.

“Of these, 28 are free-standing parishes and the remaining parishes will create 72 clusters,” the plan states. “The 72 clusters will be formed by bringing together approximately 175 parishes and establishing collaborative staffing, structures and ministries.”

In an Aug. 3 interview with the Catholic Herald, the publication serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin, the archbishop said the plan “depends on us embracing our Catholicity.”

“The aspect of Catholicity is the true spirit that guides us. It was that Catholicity and that commitment that produced so many priests that we were able to have individual priests in a parish,” he said. “Now, maybe what we need to do is regroup, grab our Catholicity so it helps us to inspire those individuals to serve in various communities and that we might have more ordained personnel to serve in the future.”

In a letter that accompanied the plan, the archbishop noted the need for collaboration.

“Now that a long-term strategy has been determined for the archdiocese, it is extremely important for each parish and cluster to become actively involved in planning for the future,” he wrote. “Each pastor or parish director in consultation with the parish pastoral council is charged with the responsibility for these planning efforts. The full implementation of the plan will require the collaborative efforts of everyone in the archdiocese.”

Significant to Catholic life in 2020 is that there will be 100 archdiocesan priests “available for full-time parish ministry,” according to the plan. It also assumes that there will be fewer religious order priests but that they will serve approximately 20 percent of the parishes in the archdiocese — the same percentage they currently serve.

Considerable attention is devoted to the diaconate. As the plan states, “Permanent deacons will play an important role in parishes and clusters in the future as well as with specific cultural groups in the archdiocese.”

The archdiocese is served by 121 deacons, and the plan anticipates that ordinations to the diaconate will continue at a steady rate.

Two areas that receive mention in the plan are Hispanic and cultural ministries and campus ministry. Regarding the former, it notes that 29 parishes provide ministry for Spanish-speaking Catholics while 12 serve other cultural groups.

“Priests who are able to minister in multiple languages and with multiple cultures will continue to be essential,” the plan states.

Stating the value that Catholic high schools, colleges and universities have in helping Catholics develop “lifelong practice of the Catholic faith,” the plan states, “These institutions have also become the best sources for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

Archbishop Listecki anticipates clergy, religious and laity will do all that is necessary to meet the needs of the faith communities.

“Many of our parishes already have been blessed by lay ministers, by individuals who have been serving as DREs (directors of religious education), parish directors, in various roles. There’s a ministry in finance with our business managers, the growth and influence of pastoral councils,” he said. “In that instance, we’ve seen this blooming responsibility being embraced by the laity.”

He added, “I don’t see this in any way, shape or form as an abandonment of priestly ministry or an abandonment of the religious, but rather as a call for all of us to step up and to serve.”

Archbishop Listecki said one of the aspects to the process that resulted in the plan, as well as the plan itself, that he liked was that it isn’t based on crisis management.

“I’m excited that we have a plan that gives a confidence to those who will be serving, a handle on an approach, so that we are not governed by the crisis, but that we anticipate the problems and we have a plan for them,” he said, while noting “there could be factors that come into play that we’re just not aware of.”

In his letter, Archbishop Listecki noted that what had been developed was a working plan.

“The plan is meant to be a living document, able to adapt over time, and provide guidance in making decisions with long-range implications,” he wrote.


Olszewski is executive editor and general manager of the Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.