Frequently Asked Questions About the Planning Process

How many parishes are affected by changes announced in the plan?

The Strategic Plan called for 21 parishes to be merged into 14 receiving parishes.  (Following revisions to merger decrees in response to parishioner petitions which were announced on November 19, 2010, 21 parishes were identified to merge into 15 receiving parishes.) The net effect of the changes, after implementation of all the announced mergers, which will take place over the coming months and years, is a total of 192 remaining parishes compared to the current number of 213 parishes.

In addition, 33 parishes will join together in new cluster configurations, in which one pastor leads two or more parishes. (25% of parishes within the Archdiocese already share a pastor.)

Finally, 25 parishes are identified for structured collaboration, meaning that they will have focused discussions about how to improve collaboration on programming and staffing.

How are Catholic schools affected by the Strategic Plan?

Catholic schools within the Archdiocese were a major area of study and evaluation by the Strategic Planning Task Force. This evaluation continued under the Strategic Plan with the assistance of a national consulting group, the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) consultants from the University of Notre Dame. The ACE consultants  evaluated the information gathered by the task force in light of best practices and solutions which have achieved success nationally. A Catholic Schools Commission was named in January 2011 to build upon the work of the Strategic Planning Task Force and the Ace Consultants, and to lay the groundwork for the establishment of an Archdiocesan Schools Advisory Board in the summer of 2011. On August 11, 2011 the work of the Catholic Schools Commission culminated in initiatives aimed at reinvesting in schools throughout this local Church. These initiatives will strengthen schools for this generation and generations to come.

A core outcome of the Commission was the establishment of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council, which serves as an advisory body to the Archbishop and provides guidance and support to the Office of Catholic Schools.

Under the Strategic Plan, all Catholic Schools will engage in ongoing evaluation of sustainability. Those schools determined to have questionable sustainability potential will be given a period of time to develop a realistic improvement plan. Ultimately, pastors, principals, and other local leaders will decide whether a given school is sustainable and make a recommendation to the Archbishop regarding the school’s future. The Archdiocese will continue to provide special support to certain schools because they are in a key geographic area or because they provide a Catholic education for the poor. The Archdiocese’s historic commitment to disadvantaged children will continue.

When do changes in parishes start to happen?

The first parish mergers took effect on January 1, 2011. Changes will not happen at all sites at the same time. Timelines are communicated with individual parish communities.

What happens to a church building and other property after a parish merges with another parish?

The assets and liabilities of a merging parish will be incorporated into the receiving parish. This means, among other things, that the receiving parish will acquire the church building(s) of any merging parish in the merger. Masses will continue to be celebrated at the church building of the merging parish until a decision which contradicts such use is made by the parish pastoral and finance councils of the combined parish community, in consultation with the Archbishop and the Presbyteral Council.

Is there an appeal process for a parish merger?

In order to respond to the needs of parishioners adversely affected by a parish merger, an appeal process has been clearly communicated. You can find out more about the appeal process in Appendix A (pdf) of the Plan Document. Information about the appeal of a parish merger is also included on page 9 of the Strategic Plan Summary booklets distributed at all parishes on October 16 and 17, 2010. There are set deadlines for this process.

I have a wedding (or other event) planned in my church next year, but my parish is merging with another parish, should I be worried?

Reasonable accommodations will be made to accommodate scheduled events. Please speak with the person with whom you scheduled the event or another appropriate representative at the parish. Please also note that not all decisions will be implemented at once and it could be some time before any change is implemented at your parish.

Who will make staffing decisions if there will be staff reductions as the result of a merger/cluster arrangement?

When changes are implemented, the pastor will make any decisions regarding staffing changes, with advice from parish councils.

What will happen to our cemetery if our church building closes?

Cemeteries at merging parishes with buildings that close will be administered by the receiving parish or potentially through the archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries office.

How was the existence of the planning process communicated?

General information about the strategic planning process was published beginning in February 2009  in articles in The Catholic Spirit, the Star Tribune, and Pioneer Press newspapers, as well as covered in other community papers and on TV and radio. Strategic planning information has been regularly posted on the archdiocesan website during this time, as well.

Information about consultative opportunities in the planning process was communicated in various ways beginning in the spring of 2009. In detail: regional parishioner meetings and other opportunities for providing input (web form in 5 languages, voicemail hotline in 2 languages, and mailing address) were publicized regularly in bulletin inserts emailed to pastors, business administrators and parish secretaries at all parishes; the regional parishioner meeting schedule and other input opportunities were also published in the Catholic Spirit newspaper, in the Espíritu Católico newspaper, in the Star Tribune newspaper and featured on WCCO TV and linked on the WCCO TV website;  the regional parishioner meeting schedule and other input opportunities were also posted on the planning pages and on the Latino Ministry pages on the archdiocesan website at www.archspm.org.

What motivated the need for a Strategic Plan?

It is the responsibility of the Church to respond to the signs of the times. You are likely familiar with at least some of the factors prompting the need for change now. A disproportionate number of parish and school buildings are located in areas where the population is no longer growing. Demographic shifts and economic pressures have exacerbated these challenges. Another set of factors is the number of priests available for ministry and the challenges of providing sufficient ordained and lay pastoral leaders throughout the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is adapting to changing conditions so that the message of Christ may be more effectively carried to all areas of the Archdiocese.

What were the guidelines for the planning process?

There are seven principles which Archbishop Nienstedt laid out when he launched the planning process, to ensure the process aligns with the mission of the Church:

  1. Full sacramental ministry must be available to every Catholic in each geographical area of the Archdiocese.
  2. All areas of the Archdiocese must have qualified pastoral leaders, which means competent and compassionate clergy, religious and lay leaders.
  3. Special concern must be given to the poor, the marginalized and the immigrant.
  4. Catholic schools must be included in the planning process. We want to continue our support for Catholic schools to the best of our ability, as they are so very important for our future as a Church.
  5. Every parish is involved in the planning process. Every parish will be impacted, to one degree or another. We are all members of this same local Church.
  6. Every parish is expected to evaluate its spiritual, sacramental, financial and faith formation resources. Every parish will need to make adjustments based on that evaluation.
  7. The discussions surrounding this planning process should be ones of mutual respect, patience and honesty and marked by an ability to listen to all points of view.

What is the timeline for the planning process?

The archdiocesan strategic planning task force was appointed in February 2009. There were a series of public, ministry group, and leadership meetings during the spring, summer, and fall of 2009. The task force submitted its recommendations to the Archbishop in the summer of 2010. The Archbishop announced decisions on October 16 and 17, 2010. Implementation of changes in parishes began in early 2011. Implementation will be cascading: changes will be implemented over the coming months and years, not all at once.