Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Clergy observe the results after voting on recommendations that will best impact one of the key issues of the pastoral plan, Living Our Faith. The sessions took place during the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s biennial convocation of priests at the Lake Lanier Resort, Sept. 8-11.


Priests convene, add their pastoral plan recommendations

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 18, 2014

BUFORD—Priests of the Atlanta Archdiocese paused from their ministries recently as they voted on what may become the pastoral priorities of the Catholic Church here over the next five years.

Some 180 clergymen attended the convocation of priests, held at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier, from Monday, Sept. 8, to Thursday, Sept. 11, to add their voice to crafting the archdiocesan pastoral plan, which is to focus the efforts of Catholic leaders and parishes. They also celebrated daily Mass together, had morning and evening prayer and socialized.

2014 09 18 GB timelineThe archdiocesan pastoral plan will be finalized in early 2015, when Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory consolidates recommendations from the priests with those from upcoming lay meetings in 10 deaneries. The project began in the spring of 2014. The plan is a roadmap that will guide the nearly 100 parishes along with archdiocesan efforts during the next five years to address key issues facing the church.

The priests met in a large conference room, twice a day, for an hour and a half at a time. Each session was dedicated to one of the four themes of the pastoral plan: Knowing Our Faith, Living Our Faith, Spreading/Keeping Our Faith and Evolution of Our Parishes.

During these meetings, groups of five to seven priests, with a mix of age, experience and ethnicities, were assigned to tables. Recommendations addressing each theme were shown on large screens. The recommendations came from parishes, which had solicited their members’ insights earlier this summer. The groups of priests were encouraged to talk among themselves for a few minutes and then vote, using handheld devices.

At the end of each session, the recommendations for each theme were winnowed down by the voting priests from close to 50 to a maximum of five that they judged would have the most impact on the theme.

Peter Faletti, who is the director of research and planning for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said he was pleased so many priests were involved in the process. He said they seemed engaged and energized about the planning and what it could mean for addressing the challenges facing the Catholic community.

The next milestone in forming the pastoral plan is a series of meetings of 10 deaneries, where several neighboring parishes are collected into a regional group, to come up with their own winnowed-down list of three top recommendations for each of the four themes. The 10 deanery meetings will take place now through early November.

The recommendations from both the priests and the parish deaneries will be given to Archbishop Gregory to consider as he writes the pastoral plan.

The following are the recommendations of the priests:

Knowing Our Faith

  • Move to a family formation model to emphasize parents’ role in faith formation.
  • Prioritize adult catechesis in all parishes and missions.
  • Offer more opportunities to participate in parish life as a family–service days, spiritual activities, social events.
  • Improve catechists’ knowledge and teaching skills through deanery or archdiocesan training programs.

Living Our Faith

  • Promote a deeper sacramental life as the basis for living the faith.
  • Build a stronger sense of unity within the parish and increase personal connection to the parish.
  • Promote understanding the “why” behind the church’s social teachings on challenging topics.
  • Prioritize charity and service as the epitome of living out the faith.

Spreading/Keeping Our Faith

  • Promote and provide infrastructure for small faith communities to keep people connected to the church.
  • Evangelize parishioners to help them deepen and live their faith.
  • Focus on welcoming newcomers to church.
  • Provide whole family programs to keep parishioners centered on the parish.

Evolution of Our Parishes

  • Let qualified laity/deacons do more administration so priests can focus on sacraments/catechesis.
  • Create a welcoming and nurturing environment for all cultures within the parish.
  • Develop more formal outreach programs for groups with common challenges (e.g., divorced, homosexuals, single parents, etc.).
  • Empower deaneries to collaborate and share ministries, staff, and clergy resources.