Pastoral planning commission for Calcutta Archdiocese

April 9, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Archdiocese of CalcuttaHis Grace Thomas D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta recently formed a ten-member Apex Body called the “Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission” headed by a Coordinator (Fr. Dominic Gomes, VG).  It would be responsible for the entire process of Pastoral Planning, Implementation and Evaluation at the Parish, Deanery and Diocese levels. Similar ten-member Coordinating bodies comprising two priests – one Diocesan and one Religious; two Religious nuns; two men from Parish Pastoral Council (PPC); two women (from Women’s Association) and two youth – one boy and one girl, are to be formed by 15th April 2013 at each Deanery and Parish.

The exercise to produce a relevant Parish Pastoral Plan would take nine to twelve months and the entire process two years. The idea is to make a comprehensive and realistic plan which is mission-oriented and life-giving. In other words, it would be built on the pastoral needs of every parishioner.

The meaning of Pastoral is “of shepherds”, “take care of my sheep, feed my lambs” as Jesus said to Peter. It means shepherding the flock which entails tending to needs, strengthening the weak, shielding, encouragement, feeding the flock, making provision, refreshing, guiding and leading by example to move people on in their pursuit of holiness.  Therefore, to build a plan based the pastoral needs, basic needs (food, inability to pay ever-increasing school fees in elite missionary schools, inability to afford higher education, inability to pay doctors’ fees and medical bills, sanitation, housing – Ref. article of Archbishop in the Herald March 22-28) must be identified first.  This can be done through a structured database which will generate various needs of each parish besides other attributes like hobbies and blood group. Without a uniform database, approved by Archbishop and a select Laity Group for all parishes, the foundation of the Pastoral Plan would be weak due to unsystematic data collection. This database has to be jointly verified and vouched by Parish Priest /Assistant Parish Priest, PPC and PFC to make it fool-proof and transferred to a master database at diocese / archdiocese level with different access rights. It is to be updated and uploaded annually. The timespan of one to two years to finalise the Pastoral Plan is too long and might lose steam halfway.

At the Core Team Meeting of the Archdiocesan Commissions held on 7th March, 2013, the Archbishop categorically mentioned that in a parish set up everything goes well if the parish priest is interested. It was decided that the entire process of planning should be from the grass–roots involving maximum participation of parishioners.

From 01.06.2013 – 31.10.2013 discussions with different groups (PPCs, Action Groups, Priests & religious, school teachers, youth and children) would take place. It is heartening to know even children would be interviewed. However, there are many parishes which do not have transparently elected PPCs and PFCs. Before launching the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, first these basic structures, checks and balances should be installed at each parish. Otherwise it would be like building a ten-storey house with adulterated foundation. It would also be an insult to the Holy See.  In several parishes all the Action Groups are controlled by Parish Priests in violation of Canons 212 and 215.  How does the Core Committee guarantee free and fair interaction?  To ensure neutrality goings-on of one parish should be surveyed by Parish Coordinating Team of another parish and the findings submitted directly to the Core Committee.  These interactions should be video-recorded and archived for reference by the Deanery and Diocesan Level authorities or any other empowered group.

As mentioned, all Parish level plans should identify the human issues first.  Admitting that “man does not live by bread alone”, without addressing the above needs even the best pastoral plans will fail to bring one closer to God either in spiritual formation, teaching, counselling, or in liturgy.

– isaac harold gomes

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