By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 6, 2007
Parish leaders and priests starting this week are to hear the latest findings from the Archdiocesan Planning Committee during a series of meetings focused on the future of the Catholic Church in North Georgia.
During the next weeks, the committee is to feature findings from its yearlong study and its future goals.
“The really good news is that Catholics in the archdiocese are for the most part very happy with the service they receive from their parishes and the archdiocese,” said Lori Clarke, executive director of development and stewardship for the archdiocese.
Clarke said the leaders at the invitation-only meetings will learn about the demographics and the market research of the different constituencies and ethnic groups in the church and how the archdiocese works to satisfy their needs.
The “awareness” meetings are also part of an overall effort to improve communication between the offices in the archdiocese and parishes and schools.
“We want them to feel informed every step of the way in this planning study,” said Clarke in an e-mail.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory formed the planning committee in 2006 to review the pastoral, educational, social service and social justice needs of the archdiocese.
The group is composed of 16 members including the archbishop, vicars general, a Catholic school principal, a deacon, a pastor, and various members of the laity who have served within their parish communities. The committee works with The North Highland Co., a consulting firm, to identify the major needs facing the church and develop a strategic plan for the next 15 years for the archdiocese.
Part of the project included a parishioner survey and one-on-one interview with pastors and parish leaders. The committee has reviewed the demographics of the local church, the ethnic mix, and the growing communities.
The 90-minute meetings, the first of which was to be held Thursday, Sept. 6, at St. Matthew Church, Winder, are the first presentation of the committee’s work. Space requirements limit the number of representatives from each parish to five attendees chosen by the pastor, typically directors of religious education, parish council presidents or others in leadership. Pastors were invited to choose which of the three meetings their parish team wanted to attend. The other two dates and locations are Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City on Sept. 20 and the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta on Oct. 4.
Each meeting will include the approach used by the planning committee during the first year, what they learned, a forecast of their work in the second year, and a time for questions from attendees.
The planning committee has learned there are areas of needed improvement, such as keeping people informed about archdiocesan programs, Clarke said.
As one example, she said, people have questions about the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which raises more than $6 million to fund social programs at Catholic Charities Atlanta, along with offices like campus ministry, Office of Catholic Schools, HIV/AIDS ministry, the Pro-Life Office, Vocations Office, and others.
Clarke said learning about those questions means her office can do a better job letting people know how their donations help.
“We want the people to know what is going on at the archdiocese and why, so that they don’t feel like they are in the dark. We want to listen and be listened to,” she said.