By Barb Arland-Fye
St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove and St. Mary Parish in Oxford have evaluated their strengths and weaknesses in six areas of ministry as part of a diocesan-wide planning process. In both parishes, responses were typed into a computer and projected onto a screen for everyone to see.
“It gave people a chance to look at areas we felt we were strong in and areas we needed to work on,” said Father Ed Dunn, administrator of both parishes.
Parishes in Burlington and LeClaire are placing cards in the pews before Mass this coming weekend that list the six areas of ministry and provide examples of each. Parishioners will be asked to jot down strengths and weaknesses in each ministry area: liturgy, family life, church life, social action, administration and finance and faith formation.
These are just a couple of examples of strategies parishes are employing to get maximum input from parishioners as they begin planning for a future with fewer priests in the Davenport Diocese.
The yearlong, diocesan planning process is taking place in seven phases, beginning at the parish level with a two-part self-evaluation. At the first meeting, parishioners examine strengths and weaknesses; at a second meeting, they explore possibilities for collaboration with neighboring parishes. The two reports from these meetings will be submitted to the Diocesan Planning Commission by Jan. 17.
Jack Ruth, a trustee and longtime member of the Cosgrove parish, said about a quarter of the parish’s 171 families participated in the first of the two brainstorming sessions for Phase I. The Cosgrove and Oxford parishes are about nine miles from each other in Johnson County. They share a pastor and a deacon, Fr. Dunn and Deacon David Montgomery, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process, faith formation for youth, and youth ministry.
Ruth acknowledges that even more collaboration is possible and inevitable. In the Dubuque Archdiocese, he points out, “I’ll wager five or six parishes are involved in a cluster.”
The Cosgrove parish is in close proximity to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, and has discussed the possibility of collaborating with the priest chaplains there. Other collaborative possibilities could involve St. Mary Parish in Williamsburg, but that parish already collaborates with parishes in North English and Marengo, Ruth said.
Strengths and weaknesses that parishioners identified for Cosgrove were along the lines he expected. The Ministry Formation Program (MFP) is looked on as something we should do, but haven’t, he noted. A more formalized program to welcome newcomers also is something parishioners agreed would be good to develop.
Among the parish’s assets are its various groups, such as the Altar & Rosary Society, Catholic Order of Foresters and Knights of Columbus. And the people involved in leadership tend to be younger, which is encouraging, he said. “One of our biggest assets is that we have a fair number of younger people becoming involved and active in the duties of maintaining the two parishes.”