I believe every Catholic in our diocese deserves to belong to a thriving parish — and we are beginning a new effort to make that possible.
On Oct. 18, leaders from across the Diocese of Jefferson City came together to begin a process called Shaping Our Future Together. This process is part of our ongoing effort to build a stronger foundation for the future of our diocese as we work to enhance the parish experience in our diocese.
Parish life is at the heart of Catholic life.
A parish is where Catholics encounter the grace of the sacraments and communion with their fellow believers — where we experience our belonging to the Church of Christ.
But today, the experience of living as a Catholic in our diocese can vary greatly.
We have parishes in our diocese that are doing very well. Others, however, are struggling.
As we embark upon Shaping our Future Together, I am setting a high standard for what our parishes will look like in the future. Again, I want every Catholic to belong to a thriving parish.
So, what does a thriving parish look like? Let me try to paint you a picture.
A thriving Catholic parish is one where the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish and in which Mass and the sacraments are accessible to everyone. The liturgy and music reflect the beautiful timelessness of our faith. The sacraments are celebrated in such a way that they draw everyone closer to God — that God’s closeness to His people is made known.
A thriving parish is one that, like Christ, welcomes all. It is known for its warmth and hospitality, both as a center of charity and sanctuary of mercy.
A thriving parish safeguards the well-being of its clergy. It also obeys canon law, while celebrating and defending the teachings of our Church in an ever more secular society.
It is a community that is actively working to nourish the faith of its members — throughout their lives — so that they may experience the saving love of their heavenly father.
A thriving parish has the necessary resources, both human and financial, to support these efforts while ensuring all employees are provided just compensation for their professional work.
A thriving parish is also built on a foundation of Catholic stewardship, where everyone recognizes that their abilities and resources are gifts from God. It’s a place where the laity are empowered to live out their co-responsibility for their parish, with charity and mercy as guiding values.
With all these elements working together, a thriving Catholic parish, above all, serves as a powerful beacon in its community, calling souls to Christ and leading people to salvation — fulfilling our mission as the Church of Christ.
That is what a thriving Catholic parish looks like, and I hope this vision inspires you. This is what we are working to create for the more than 75,000 Catholics across our diocese as we shape our future together.
Right now, we are in the early stages. You might be aware that the 38 counties of our diocese are subdivided into five deaneries — each led by a priest who serves as dean.
With Shaping Our Future Together, our deans are assembling teams that will be discerning strategies for creating thriving parishes for the Catholics living in their deaneries.
Because of the diversity of our diocese, each deanery will develop its own unique plan to accomplish this goal.
That’s what makes Shaping Our Future Together quite different from the traditional model other dioceses have used, where the bishop and leaders at the diocesan level craft a plan and the parishes implement it.
That’s not what we are doing in the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Our process is being led by the parishes and orchestrated at the deanery level, so that everyone will have a chance to have a voice and share their knowledge.
As we discern our path forward in the coming months and years, I urge you to watch for communications from your deans and parish leadership. As you are called, please engage in the process and share your ideas.
Our success in this effort will require bold ideas as we develop new forms of collaboration between parishes.
We are living in a historic time for our diocese as we begin this process of Shaping Our Future Together — alongside our continued efforts to grow in the stewardship way of life and the ongoing renovation and renewal of our spiritual home, our Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Let us all pray that through these efforts we may thrive together as a Catholic community, living in the image of Christ.