The main goal of the [planning] process is to foster a revitalized and sustainable local Church, one that is responsive to the pastoral needs of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I envision the great Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I want us to Promote and Proclaim a Communion of Faith, Hope, and Love.
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
As a sign of the commitment to increased transparency, intentional collaboration, ongoing evaluation and greater accountability highlighted in the Strategic Plan announced in October 2010, the Archdiocese offers the following highly summarized update of progress regarding the initiatives and structural changes announced in the plan.
The Strategic Plan shapes the vision for the future of the local Church and outlines changes aimed at fostering a more vibrant faith community. It is intended to ensure the Church’s continued vitality for the approximately 825,000 Catholics in the 12 county area it serves. The Strategic Plan was the result of 20 months of study and consultation (pdf) that included the input of thousands of people from across the Archdiocese—pastors and other clergy, parish and Catholic school leaders and staff, parishioners and Catholic school families. Already, the initiatives and changes initiated under the Strategic Plan are helping communities take concrete steps toward more effectively carrying out the mission of the Church in this Archdiocese and be drawn more deeply into a communion of faith, hope and love.
The Strategic Plan outlines initiatives in the areas of inspired pastoral leadership, exceptional Catholic education as well as evangelization and catechesis, and infrastructure for the Church of today and tomorrow. Initiatives launched in 2012 include Rediscover:, an initiative to reengage Catholics toward full life in the Church, as well as GROW, which supports strategic planning at the parish level to help ensure vibrant communities now and in the future. These and other initiatives are ongoing and their progress will be evaluated regularly going forward. The timeline below gives an overview of initiatives announced in the 2010 Strategic Plan.
(A list of parishes with their updated status can be found on the Parish Status List page.)
The final parish mergers called for under the Strategic Plan took place on July 1, 2013. As of this date, 21 parishes have merged with 15 neighboring parishes under changes announced in the Strategic Plan. In addition, several parishes noted as “cluster to potential merger” in the Strategic Plan have merged during the last year: St. Mark, St. Mary and St. Mary of the Purification in Shakopee, as well as St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph in Hopkins. Another merger between Ascension and St. Philip in Minneapolis happened outside the Strategic Plan in 2011.
The mergers of St. Thomas of St. Thomas with St. Anne of LeSueur; St. Andrew with Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, both in Saint Paul; St. Francis de Sales with St. James, both also in Saint Paul; and the merger of St. Benedict, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, and St. Scholastica with St. Wenceslaus, all in the New Prague area, were made official on January 1, 2011. The mergers of St. Augustine with Holy Trinity in South Saint Paul and St. Thomas the Apostle with Blessed Sacrament in Saint Paul took effect on July 1, 2011. On January 1, 2012, the following parishes merged: Most Holy Trinity in Saint Louis Park and Our Lady of Grace in Edina; St. Austin and St. Bridget in Minneapolis; and St. Vincent de Paul and the Cathedral of St. Paul in Saint Paul. On July 1, 2012, the following mergers became official: St. John the Baptist in Hugo and St. Genevieve in Centerville; St. Canice in Kilkenny and Most Holy Redeemer in Montgomery; and Visitation and Annunciation, both in Minneapolis. On July 1, 2013, the follow mergers took effect: St John and St. Pascal Baylon, both in Saint Paul; Holy Trinity, St. Columbkill and St. Mary, all in the Goodhue area; and Holy Cross, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clement and St. Hedwig, all in Minneapolis.
Any decisions regarding the church buildings of a merged parish community are made by local leaders in consultation with the Archbishop and Presbyteral Council, a representative body of priests. The net effect of the parish structural changes, after implementation of all the announced mergers, including the two mergers announced in June 2012 and the one merger which took place outside the Strategic Plan, is a total of 188 parishes in July 2013 compared to 213 parishes in October 2010.
In addition, more than 30 parishes were identified to enter into new cluster relationships under the Strategic Plan. A cluster is when two or more parishes share a pastor. This parish clustering that is underway takes place gradually in coordination with the clergy assignment process. Parishes, however, are encouraged to prepare for clustering by collaborating on programs and ministries prior to clustering.
Furthermore, a little over two dozen parishes are identified for structured collaboration under the plan, which means they are called to examine ways they could better collaborate with neighboring parishes, including more cooperation on programming and staffing. Many of these parishes may eventually move toward a cluster. While many parishes started structured collaboration with the announcement of the Strategic Plan, all of the identified parishes are continually being encouraged to collaborate further as opportunities present themselves.
Archdiocesan staff members are working with pastors, lay leaders and parishioners during this time of transition. The Office of Parish Services has provided ongoing information and assistance to pastors and other parish leaders involved in mergers, clusters and structured collaboration. The Office of Parish Services has also facilitated discussions among parishioners at merged parishes to foster community. In addition, the Archdiocese has provided communications, legal, worship and other support to help promote successful transitions.
School strategic planning continues on two tracks: one broad and strategic and the other school/region-specific. At the strategic level, the Catholic Schools Commission reviewed information from stakeholders from across the Archdiocese, data gathered by the Strategic Planning Task Force, recommendations from consultants from the University of Notre Dame and successful initiatives in dioceses across the country to make recommendations to the Archbishop in four areas aimed at strengthening Catholic schools. In August 2011, the Archbishop announced a comprehensive slate of initiatives in the areas of educational excellence, school governance, marketing and enrollment management and funding and finance to strengthen the presence of Catholic school education in our community for this generation of families and those to come. In September 2011, the Archbishop established the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council to provide counsel and guidance in the implementation of the initiatives.
In the area of academic excellence, strong assessments help students grow and learn. The Office of Catholic Schools continues to support and develop academic excellence through professional development and authentic assessments. Eighth graders in the Archdiocese took the SAT10 this past spring. Cumulatively, the test scores are well above the national average. In urban Catholic schools, not only are the scores above the national average, but they are higher than last year at the same schools. For instance, the urban Catholic schools test scores in science went up by 10%, and overall test scores went up 6%.
In 2012-2013 parish elementary schools moved to a uniform governance model to promote best practice and consistency. Of the 74 parish elementary schools, 58 schools had migrated to the new uniform governance model as of June 2013. Under the uniform model, school advisory councils are advisory to pastor and principal, and there is a clearly defined election process for council members.
Progress related to finance and funding models is also being made. One of the initiatives called for under the strategic plan is a structure to make certain the responsible financial management of every school in the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is partnering with Catholic Finance Corporation to ensure that schools and sponsoring parishes have prepared and approved thoughtful and attainable yearly budgets. Training has been conducted throughout the year to assist with the transition to a comparable financial accounting and reporting process. When fully operational, this collaborative effort will yield data in a dashboard format that schools can use to prepare a sound budget.
At the school and regional level, many school leaders began engaging in a structured sustainability review process during the 2010-2011 school year. Staff members from the Office of Catholic Schools, along with other archdiocesan staff, have worked with local school leaders to help ensure the Strategic Plan’s vision of ongoing evaluation, greater accountability, increased transparency and improved collaboration is lived out. To achieve this vision, the Archdiocese has provided direction and guidance by facilitating sustainability review processes at individual schools and helping connect neighboring schools in discussions around best sharing resources and otherwise collaborating to strengthen Catholic schools in specific geographic areas. Shared resources discussions between neighboring schools in several regions began in early 2011. A shared resources discussion involving parish and school communities in West Saint Paul, South Saint Paul and Saint Paul’s West Side resulted in the formation of the vibrant new Community of Saints Regional Catholic School which surpassed enrollment goals in its inaugural year in 2012-2013. A second regional Catholic school, Notre Dame Academy in Minnetonka, began classes in the fall 2013. A third regional Catholic school, Frassati Catholic Academy in White Bear Lake, begins classes in fall 2014.
The changes at individual schools resulting from these review and collaboration processes, while ultimately local decisions, are part of an overarching strategy for strengthening Catholic schools in our area, so that all families who desire a Catholic school education for their children may access such an education. The Archdiocese has worked with and will continue to work with parish and school leaders to connect them with experts who can provide financial, demographic and other analysis to ensure the best possible decisions are made regarding future school sustainability.
The Archdiocese will continue to provide periodic updates on the implementation of the Strategic Plan during the coming months and years.
The strategic planning process which led up to this plan involved participation by thousands of people, including clergy, parish and school leaders and parishioners and Catholic school families. This same spirit of consultation and collaboration will continue as we move forward in fulfilling our mission to make the name of Jesus Christ known and loved.
We all play a role in the realization of the vision set forth in the Strategic Plan. Please pray for the success of our efforts!