Facing Reality, Facing Grief

This is just going to be messy.

How can pastors be helpful with the pastoral planning process? Nothing beats transparent communication.

Many of our parishioners heard in the most recent issue of the Catholic Voice, perhaps for the very first time, that dramatic changes are coming our way as we finally feel the effects of fewer priests serving in our archdiocese. This will be hard for many folks and we will surely witness, and perhaps even experience ourselves, all the classic stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

So what do we do? Communicate the reality, accompany those who are grieving, and don’t take the anger personally. Some of the anger you hear may be directed towards others. Some of it may be justified, but a lot of it is grief. In order to help the grieving process and not prolong the planning that has to happen, please don’t hold back on sharing at least the basics with your parish either in the bulletin, a homily, or in an announcement.

What could you say, at the very least? Try this.

You may have read in the Catholic Voice about the pastoral planning that is going on the rural parts of our archdiocese. The reality is we’ll have 24 fewer priests in 5 years and perhaps 34 fewer in 10 years. Every parish of the archdiocese is impacted by these losses. Every parish will eventually have to make adjustments to this new reality. This will be hard and may feel like grieving the loss of a loved one. We can expect that the pastoral planning process will not be perfect. No one ever enjoys planning for loss. So first, let’s pray for more vocations and secondly, let’s pray for the grace to be cooperative and patient with one another as we go through these adjustments together as a diocese.”

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