This is the first of three columns on the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
You’ve probably seen the poster hanging in churches, parish halls, schools and other Catholic facilities around our diocese. It features a picture of the façade on the front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina depicting bishop, priests, sisters and a wide array of laity as a pilgrim people of faith. The poster announces “We’re all in this together!” and is a reference to our diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
Allow me briefly to review and, with you, to remember. Under the leadership of Bishop Paul Coakley, the Diocese of Salina began implementation of “Stewards of Hope” in 2011 after extended study and discussion by Bishop Coakley, other diocesan leaders and parish leaders from across our diocese.
A special challenge to the plan’s implementation was presented when Bishop Coakley was unexpectedly transferred to Oklahoma City in 2012. Honestly, the implementation of the plan has had its ups and downs since that time but the core of the plan — that we could continue to build on the incredible legacy of faith established by our ancestors — remains intact.
This building process involved a focus of attention and energy for each year. The four phases of the plan’s implementation were: The Spirituality of Parish Life; Formation for Ministry; Life and Family; and To the Whole World.
We are grateful for the investment of time, talent and treasure by many people in constructing and implementing this plan. But on Dec. 31, 2014 — a few days from now — “Stewards of Hope” is scheduled to finish unfolding the four phases of implementation. Now it remains to continue and improve upon those activities and programs. It is my hope that these will continue to be integrated into parish life. We must remember that the pastoral plan was never intended to be an end in itself but a springboard to ongoing ministries in our diocese.
The end of the calendar year naturally brings to mind events of the past year and beyond. It is also a natural time to look forward with anticipation and hope of the great things that God will do in the coming year and into the future.
I am asking the parishes of our diocese to mark this time of transition by incorporating a “Stewards of Hope” Litany of Thanksgiving into Masses on Holy Family Sunday (Dec. 27-28), or Mary Mother of God (Jan. 1) or another Sunday suited to the parish schedule. This litany is designed to be a remembrance of the way God has been present in the implementation of our pastoral plan over the last four years.
One way this litany may be used is after the Communion rite. The time after Communion at Mass is intended to be a brief period in which we are especially aware of our gratitude to God. It is fitting at this time of transition in the pastoral life of our diocese to be grateful and to allow that gratitude to swell within us in such a way as to energize us to look to the future with hope. I will have some additional thoughts to share with you in upcoming issues of The Register about the future of these pastoral ministries.
I am told that Bishop Coakley was keen to remind the people of the diocese that “We are all in this together.” He clearly meant this as a truth not only as it relates to the implementation of the pastoral plan but also as it relates to our lives of faith. I could not say it better! I pray that as we give thanks for what has been, and hope in what is yet to be, we can indeed celebrate that we are, in every way, far better together.