Archdiocesan Pastoral Council Meeting – Thursday February 9, 2017

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In attendance: Archbishop Don Bolen, Bill Mann, Estevan Rep., Leah Perrault (Guest Presenter), Merv Polzen, Yorkton/Melville Rep.,Vic Plante, Weyburn Rep., Pat Zatylny, Qu’Appelle Rep, Father James Owolagba, Chancellor, Sister Bernadette Feist, Valley Native Ministry, Allen Ruetz, Swift Current Rep., Don Bernath, Esterhazy Rep, Dale Toni, Moose Jaw/Gravelbourg Rep., Marian Grady, SARA Rep, Michelle Braden (Guest), Bob Kowalchuk, Pastoral Services, Sister ReAnne Letourneau (Guest), Laura O’Reilly (Guest), Lisa Polk (Guest), Marian Zsombor, Regina East Rep, Sharon Bender(Guest Presenter) and  Carol Schimnosky (Chair)

Opening Prayer - Bill Mann

Each person present introduced themselves.  As others joined the meeting, they were welcomed and introduces by Carol.

Approval of Agenda:  N/A

Approval of Minutes: N/A

Bishop Don’s Comments:

Bishop Don thanked all for coming.

Bishop Don stated that as he came into the Archdiocese he felt there was a restlessness for change, that we didn’t have the best structures in place for listening to the people; to be able to discern and prioritize.

One of the first things he did was have individual meetings with all of the active clergy. This gave him a window into the life of the diocese from the priest’s perspective. He will also meet with the retired priests and glean from them some of their wisdom and thoughts on the diocese.

The other area that he felt needed strengthening was the APC, with it becoming a positive/viable body. The consultative body of the APC brings together the voice of the laity, he would like to see this council grow.

Truth & Reconciliation Update – Bishop Don:

The churches have had the opportunity to listen to the deep suffering from the indigenous people from the residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to hear the voices of the suffering and the struggles. We were deeply implicated in the residential issues. The TRC is a process that details the stories of the suffering of children who were removed from their homes, placed into residential schools and punished for speaking their language. This is not to cast harsh judgment on the many people who worked in the residential schools, at the time the wisdom of the day was to make them become more like ‘us’. It is in retrospect that we can see that things could have been handled better. We have a breakdown of families, high incarceration rates and a high level of lesser education. We fund indigenous education much less than for non-indigenous. The TRC has heard from over 6000 witnesses tell their stories. In its summary the TRC calls the church to task. It tells the church that we have a job to do for healing. There are nine tasks which we are called to, one more than the other churches because we are tasked with inviting Pope Francis to visit to issue an apology.

The Bishop is trying to set up a circle of indigenous and non-indigenous with equal representation, including non Catholics, to see how we can begin the process for healing and reconciliation. This should be initiated by Catholics as we ran 60% of the residential schools. We need a long conversation, but we need the indigenous to be involved in the process. This is not to simply bring more indigenous people to church, but how can we, as church, and in our parishes begin a process for healing and reconciliation.

Bishop Don’s Q & A:

Do you have a timeline for the truth and reconciliation?I hope we get a commission up and running in the next couple of months. Hopefully by the next APC meeting he will have an update on its progress.

Where are these names of these people drawn from?Some from the city, some from rural and reserves. Conversations are being held with elders to get a buy in to what we are trying to do here.

How you go about approaching the other 10 non-indigenous people:  My goal is to invite other churches we would be looking at 6 Catholics and we’d like to have diocesan leadership there, APC etc. Having peopleconnected to the school and other key areas so that when we have initiatives at the meeting we are ready to go with implementation.

The general population has a bias view of the indigenous, do you expect any resistance?I expect there will be some pushback but it is mostly going to be under the surface. We are 30% of the population, we have a chance to have a significant influence. We need to gently and consistently challenge our assumptions and listen on a deeper level. The TRC process opens the door to that and our engagement with indigenous. The TRC gives us a way in to begin addressing the questions. It’s a principal entry point to address the indigenous issues.

It will not be an easy task because the variations of so many in the diocese experienced in the residential schools and differ from each other.  There can be a bit of a power struggle among the respective communities. Choosing one and not another alone will have an impact. We have had several Elder reps on APC they can’t speak for each other, as their communities are so different from each others.  I think when the starting point the TRC calls to action gives a certain sense of direction the challenges that are on the ground will still be faced but this is a different entry point. The entry point isn’t how can we minister to, rather we have these calls to action that we need help in response to answer. This will not be easy.

Presentation Parish Transformation:

Bob and Father John Weckend have been working on a process that will help a parish work through to see how they are doing. This is to determine the state of a parish, what is their status. What are their futures? It is about the faith community, rather than getting hung up on closures, how can we sustain parishes rather than having a single mind set.

This is not a linear process, the work we do is a process guided by the Holy Spirit, and living out the mission of the church is our primary focus. The diocese does not drive the process, it relies heavily on solid communication between the pastor, the parish and the diocese and it needs to be fully transparent.

Our experience of church is that to be strong and vibrant they need to stand for life, be in dialogue with other churches and with each other, a church that passes on the faith to future generations.  We are a church that serves.

There is a fear that if they lose their church building they will lose their sacramental life. They associate their faith life with a particular building. We need to understand what it means to be Catholic.

When a parish closes, they are dealing with a grieving process. Sometimes it is the last thing to close in the community. They are deeply hurt. Concerns over where they will worship and distance all factor into this grieving process.

Merger or Vitality: The sacramental life is the main function of the parish, when it is just about the Sunday mass the demographics affect the vitality. Do we see a future? Is there something you can build on in the community?

 

Questions and Answers: Parish Transformation:

Do you have areas of concern already in your mind? Yes, but it is not going to serve us well dwelling on that.

Do you have a Timeline for the parish process?  The document will be ready in a week or two, probably start of the spring/summer. They would prefer to be invited out to parishes to talk about this process.

Comments:

There are all kinds of things that can be done if you can sustain the parish life and a local laity. The laity are keeping the parishes alive. Key piece is a leadership team at the parish, you need to build a new culture in the community.

-Encourage them to use other facilities.

-Small healthy parishes are ok.

-Parishes should always be evaluating what is working in their parishes to continue to grow. Where are we at and what do we need to get to the next point?

-A question or two that drives what is a healthy parish could be added to the Annual Report that is completed by parishes each year.

-The process has to be filled out by more members of the parish than just the parish priest. It becomes a process of dialogue that engages the community, an ongoing conversation that helps.

Sharon Bender – Personnel Policy Development:

Employment policies were created to replace the old as they need to be in compliance with current legislation.

The manual was previewed by several priests, a committee of Archdiocesan staff and the Archdiocesan management team.  Bishop Don and the Admin Team has asked that Leona and I meet with each deanery to go through the Employment Policy Manual so everyone understands what the expectations are for parishes. Leona sent an email last week asking for deanery meeting dates. You may choose to call a meeting specific to this topic alone as we have been asked to finish this by mid-March. The orientation to the binder will take about 2 to 2 ½ hours so plan accordingly. You may want to include Pastoral Council Chairs and Finance Council Chairs if there are paid employees in the parish. A question was asked as to who this pertains to and the response from Sharon is anyone that is paid staff at the parish.

Discussion 24-hour reconciliation during Lent:

Last year, for the Year of Mercy, information was sent out to all parish priests about holding a 24-hour reconciliation service. It was suggested it be held around the fourth week of Lent. This would be a day where the church is open for 24 hours for people to stop in for reconciliation, or just to talk/reconnect with the church. Some parishes did implement this, it is hard to evaluate its success. There were people who came for reconciliation, or who came just to sit in silent prayer in the church and some who came and made appointments with the priests. Some of it was formal, some was just people coming into the church to reflect as they may have not been there for a while.                                                            3.

Comments: There is wisdom in offering reconciliation service at different times to allow families and individuals other options. Offering it on a Sunday afternoon, for example, would allow families as well as others who don’t like to drive at night the opportunity to go to reconciliation. If an event like this was held it would be very beneficial to have a very good promotion of it, some places have had billboards etc. An initiative of this nature would be better at the deanery level, it is too much for one priest to do at the parish level. The deanery could set up a day and strategic locations throughout the deanery. Deanery reps were asked to take this back to their deanery meetings to plan to do in their respective deaneries.

Question: Can we still offer general absolution? Bishop Don:Only in special circumstances. There was something beautiful and powerful in the general absolutions but it is out of our hands.

Discussion – the future APC – Facilitated by Leah Perrault:

Bishop Don:  We want to work on our consultative structures, to be doing them in as healthy a way as possible. Leah has been working with Bob and Deacon Barry to look at our overall consultative structures and to make a proposal, which they did and we have made some modifications. Leah will unfold what we’ve got so far. This will keep you up to speed and get feedback as we are still in the process of revising.

-Goal is to make a start, an effort at increasing the consultative value of the APC.

-How do we build/renew the APC that will make their voice in this structure more effective.

-This process will be used when a big decisions needs to be made, this consultative process will be helpful.

-This allows us to be intentional about our conversations.

-Hope is that we use this to make decisions in the diocese.

Reflection Questions: With Bishop Don wanting an expanded APC for increased consultation in the Archdiocese, which groups of people should be represented on the APC?

Through discussion over 37 types of people came out of the ‘who needs to be heard’ discussion. Some of the individuals may have more than one of the ‘labels’. A consensus was that we would be looking at an APC of about 35 people.

How can we make participation in the APC attractive and possible for people of different ages, experiences, and working situations?

How can we increase the chances of hearing their voices? What do we need to have?

Meeting dates and times could vary to allow for people who work during the day to be able to attend. We need people with the time and energy to devote to the committee. Possibly set the meetings one year ahead if feasible. A representative could be sent in a Deanery Reps place if they were unable to make it (try to make sure they are someone who is current on information).  Some discussion was held on whether we are on the same page as the Council of Priests, could we see their minutes. The APC minutes are posted on the web site.  We need to have unity between the two councils.

Guidelines:

-Task for the APC is to work together to create guidelines for the committee.

 

Bishop Don posed a question:  If part of what your signing up for will be that sometimes you will get a task to go back to your deanery in consultation to lead a process, are you equipped as one person to go into consultation with the priest who is a dean, or is it helpful to have a couple of people to A. lead a process and B. to bring the feedback back?

Replies: Teleconferencing is held with other members, we have taken the topics to focus groups4.

in the deanery membership and bring that feedback to the APC.

-2 people who work at the deanery level, the chair consults with parishes in the deanery via email, they are asked to discuss at their next parish council meeting. The feedback is compiled and the Deanery Rep brings it back to the APC meeting.

Some challenges occur when working with the priests/deans. How do we support and listen to our parishes and not burden them by throwing them off track of their current parish mission initiatives. We need a buy in from the priests/deans if we are to get the initiatives off the ground. Bishop Don and Father James will take the concerns of these particular challenges back to the Council of Priests.

The Bishop will take the list of the ‘types’ of people that were discussed as potential APC members and discuss with Bob, Carol and a few other persons. The idea is to come up with a list of about 35. They would be asked for a one-year appointment and that would be re-visited in the spring of next year.

Mass times: Moved to next APC Agenda

Next APC Meeting: Thursday, April 27, 2017, 10am-2pm

Prayer and Adjournment: Bishop Don led us in prayer and offered a blessing.